B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell says allegations by the head of CSIS that some B.C. politicians and municipal officials are under the influence of foreign governments are shocking and irresponsible.
Campbell says Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden's statements are unprofessional and call into question the inner workings of Canada's spy agency.
"To cast aspersions and doubt on people in public office — we don't know which cabinet ministers and which provinces he's talking about — but to say that kind of thing at a public function and then release it to the media without talking to people directly involved is to me … I'm frankly incredulous by it," he said.
The B.C. government has never been approached by CSIS about politicians or officials being under the control of foreign governments, said Campbell.
Canada is an open and multicultural country and Canadians deserve a thorough explanation of Fadden's comments, Campbell said.
He gave Fadden one day to explain himself and provide evidence to justify his statements.
"I expect a full, detailed and substantial explanation," said Campbell.
Broad allegations create confusion
UBC professor and international security expert Allen Sens said Fadden's comments appear to be only broad allegations and it is not clear what they mean for the country.
"Canadian government officials cultivate relationships with officials in other countries. It's just part of the day-to-day business of government and international politics," he said.
"But where do you draw the line between that and cultivating networks that are designed to actually compromise the national security of a country or gain economic or security secrets?"
Sens said Fadden did not make that line clear and he thinks that will leave many politicians and officials wondering what they can and cannot do.
CSIS head retreats
Meanwhile, Fadden appears to be backing away from his controversial comments.
He said in a press release Wednesday he realizes "the context of a special report by the CBC on CSIS have given rise to some concerns about foreign interference in Canada."
"The service has been investigating and reporting on such threats for many years. Foreign interference is a common occurrence in many countries around the world and has been for decades," he said.
"At this point, CSIS has not deemed the cases to be of sufficient concern to bring them to the attention of provincial authorities."
Allegations made in CBC interview
Fadden made the comments in an exclusive interview with CBC News earlier this week, saying Canada's spy agency suspects that some municipal politicians and cabinet ministers in two provinces are swayed by their connections to foreign governments.
Fadden did not identify the cabinet ministers or the two provinces, but he said some public servants in British Columbia are also under suspicion.
In the interview, he described how a few foreign governments are seeking out Canadian politicians among immigrants from those countries and are offering free trips to their homelands or access to business contacts.
He suggested that as the relationship gets cozier, a politician in that situation starts making decisions that favour his or her homeland over Canada.
Fadden did not say which countries are suspected of being involved in the practice, but in his interview with CBC he pointed to a statement by former CSIS boss Jim Judd that the intelligence agency spends half its counter-espionage budget dealing with China.