The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) says it did nothing wrong when it visited a Hamilton activist shortly after he published an article critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s policies toward Iran.

But it took the agency 11 months to inform him of its verdict.

Hamilton activist Ken Stone says it’s “outrageous” that it took the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) nearly a year to respond to his complaint about two agents’ January 2013 visit to his home.

A longtime labour and anti-racism advocate, Stone sent the spy agency a letter last April regarding an encounter he had with CSIS operatives earlier in the year. On Jan. 25, 2013, two people knocked on the door of his Hamilton Mountain home, he says, identified themselves as CSIS agents and said they were aware of an October 2011 trip he made to Iran to attend a conference on Palestinian human rights.

The visit came only two weeks after the Hamilton Spectator published an op-ed he had written titled “Harper is wrong in demonizing Iran.” And in his April 24, 2013 letter to CSIS, Stone condemned the visit and alleged its purpose was to “was to intimidate me and members of my family from lawfully exercising our Charter rights to freedom of expression.”

Ken Stone

Hamilton activist Ken Stone said CSIS agents paid him a visit at his home on Jan. 25, 2013, two weeks after an op-ed he wrote criticizing the prime minister's approach on Iran was published in the Hamilton Spectator. (Courtesy of Ken Stone)

But it wasn’t until late last month that Stone received a formal reply. In a letter dated March 24, Tom Venner, CSIS’s assistant director, policy and strategic partnerships, said he had investigated the Hamilton man’s claim and determined that “CSIS officials acted professionally and entirely within the mandate of the service.”

In addition, Venner apologized for the “significant delay in responding.” He attributed the holdup to “an administrative shortcoming,” but did not elaborate.

Stone called the delay “outrageous” and said he’s unsatisfied with the content of the response.

“It doesn’t say anything,” he said of Venner’s response, which doesn’t outline any specifics of the complaint.

“They’re satisfied what they did, but it doesn’t answer the questions I raised in the original letter that relates to the difference between legitimate protest and actions that threaten the security of Canada.”

CBC Hamilton reached a CSIS representative on Monday to supply the agency with a series of questions regarding Venner's response to Stone's complaint. However, no one from the agency had provided comment by the end of the day. 

Watchdog review

Despite CSIS’s decision, Stone is taking another route to get his complaint addressed. Last year, he applied to the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), a panel of federal government appointees that serves as the country’s spy watchdog, to look into his case.

In the fall, Stone learned that then-SIRC chair and one-time Conservative cabinet Chuck Strahl had been assigned to the file. However, before hearings were set to begin, Strahl stepped down from the role amid uproar over his lobbying ties to Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

SIRC’s newest board member, security consultant and former Mountie Gene McLean, has been assigned to the case.

A date for the first hearing has not been set.