The Heritage Front
A report to the Solicitor General of Canada
December 9th, 1995
XII. SPYING ON THE CBC
We examined the allegation that CSIS spied on the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation (CBC). The story was first published by the "Toronto
Star". The newspaper wrote:
"The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has been spying on the
CBC, according to a highly-classified document obtained by The Star."
The Review Committee obtained a copy of the document leaked to the newspaper.
The document, classified "Secret", is a House of Commons
Briefing Card CSIS prepared for the Solicitor General. These cards are used
widely, and are intended to help Ministers answer questions in Parliament.
The Briefing Card stated that CSIS learned from a reliable source that the
CBC's "Fifth Estate" was to air a story on racism in the
Canadian military. The Briefing Card reads:
"The Service has also learned from a reliable source that Howard
Goldenthal, a 'Fifth Estate' researcher, recently contacted Heritage Front
leader Wolfgang Droege, in an effort to determine whether the Canadian soldiers
involved in the recent deaths of Somalis were linked to any racist group
in Canada. Droege stated that none of the military people he knew were in
The Review Committee carefully investigated the "Toronto Star"
allegations. Our inquiries sought to answer the following questions:
Goldenthal was persistent in his attempts to obtain from Droege the names
of individuals involved in the white supremacist movement and to determine
the existence of a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) cell in the Petawawa area. Our source
stated that Droege reluctantly identified [one individual] as the leader
of a small Klan cell near Petawawa. He also stated that the individual was
affiliated with a QuÈbec group linked to the 'Invisible Empire Knights
of the KKK', in North Carolina, led by James Farrands.
The source also stated that Droege agreed to be interviewed by Goldenthal
for the CBC television but told source he would be vague about the involvement
of military personnel in the Heritage Front as he could not damage careers
by exposing individuals to the media. Although Droege has claimed privately
to colleagues that there are members of the military in the Heritage Front,
the Service has no information to corroborate this. The Service has no date
for the airing of the interview."
Did CSIS spy on the CBC? How did CSIS learn about the Fifth Estate story?
Can CSIS collect and provide the Minister with this kind of information?
12.1 Did CSIS Spy on the CBC?
We reviewed CSIS material and found that the Service did not investigate
the CBC, "The Fifth Estate", its journalists or other employees.
CSIS learned about "The Fifth Estate" story in the course
of the lawful investigation of a white supremacist target.
12.2 Did CSIS Lawfully Obtain the Information about the Possible CBC
CSIS incidentally learned about the CBC's story through a lawful authorized
investigation of white supremacists. The information was not obtained from
a human source. We concluded that the information was lawfully obtained.
12.3 What Did CSIS Know Prior to Reporting the Information?
CSIS compiled a chronology of events for the period 1989 - 1993.
The chronology indicates that CSIS was aware of the probable presence of
white supremacists in the Canadian Armed Forces as early as July 1989. The
Service was in contact a number of times with the Department of National
Defence in relation to information on the issue which the two agencies had
collected. Some discussions took place in Alberta in March 1992 and at Canadian
Forces Base, Downsview in June 1992, and involved one case of a soldier
who was sent to Somalia. He was not charged in relation to the death of
a Somali teenager. None of those charged or convicted in the death were
linked to the Heritage Front.
The Committee learned that, circa September 1992 Eric Fischer, a member
of both the Heritage Front and the Church of the Creator, was actively recruiting
within the military for the COTC. The Service's investigations against the
white supremacist leadership in Canada revealed "that leading racists
believe that the military is a good recruiting ground." The Service's
investigations have uncovered "general information pertaining to racists
in the military. Most of this information relates to individuals in contact
with CSIS targets who claim to be past or present members of the military.
12.4 Can CSIS Collect Such Information?
Section 12 of the CSIS Act defines CSIS' primary mandate - its authority
to collect, retain and report security intelligence information:
s. 12 "The Service shall collect, by
investigation or otherwise, to the extent that it is strictly necessary,
and analyze and retain information and intelligence respecting activities
that may on reasonable grounds be suspected of constituting threats to the
security of Canada and, in relation thereto, shall report to and advise
the Government of Canada."
The key question is: can CSIS collect and retain such information? In other
words: was that information "strictly necessary" to the
successful prosecution of the investigation against a lawful target? If
the information was "strictly necessary" to the investigation,
then it is clearly legal to pass that information to the Minister.
s.12 "... shall report to and advise
the Government of Canada."
The Review Committee does not believe that CSIS should be able to collect
and retain information absolutely legally, but then decide that pertinent
information should be kept from the Government. Such a practice could lead
to a lack of accountability and would be contrary to the major thrust of
the McDonald Commission: political control and accountability.
On the other hand, if it was not "strictly necessary" to
collect the information, it should have been destroyed and could not, therefore,
have been passed to the Minister.
Clearly, when technical and human sources are directed at a lawful target,
a great deal of information is collected. Much of it would not normally
meet the "strictly necessary" test, but the Review Committee
does not believe that it would be practical to try to ensure that every
single piece of information passed the test. However, when information is
received which touches upon "sensitive institutions": solicitor/client,
the universities, political parties, or the media, for example, the "strictly
necessary" test should be met.
12.5 CSIS and the Minister
The Service said that the former Solicitor General
"stated a preference that when CSIS had material in its possession
related to its mandate that affected the topical issues of the day that
he wished to be briefed on this material through the Housebook Card system."
As a Minister, the Service pointed out, the Solicitor General "adopted
the system noted above. The Service, however, was careful to limit its briefings
to its legitimately mandated activities."
The purpose of this Housebook Card, said CSIS, "was to brief the
Minister on any possible relationship that may exist between members of
the Heritage Front and the Canadian Armed Forces."
CSIS pointed out that the second page of the briefing note deals "almost
exclusively with information that the Service had on the subject of racism
and relationships that the Heritage Front membership had with the Canadian
12.6 Strictly Necessary
In this case, the only "security intelligence" information
obtained from the CBC's contacts with Wolfgang Droege was about the presence
of white supremacists in the military. At the time, the Government and CSIS
were already aware of the problem, and so the information was not new. The
Service believes that it bore the onus to put the information in a proper
The Review Committee believes that the portion of the information that related
directly to the possible television program did not meet the "strictly
necessary" test and, therefore, it should not have been retained.
As a consequence, the Committee believes that CSIS should not have been
in a position to report this aspect of the information it had collected
to the Minister.
CSIS did not spy on the CBC, its journalists or any other employees. The
information referred to in the Briefing Card came from a lawful CSIS investigation.
However, the Review Committee considers that CSIS should not have retained
that portion of the information concerning the possible television program
because it was not "strictly necessary" to do so. Had the
information been destroyed, it could not have been passed to the Minister.
1 Toronto Star, August 19, 1994.
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