After visit from CSIS, Hamilton man criticizes 'intimidation'
Activist writes newspaper piece about Iran, then agents come to his house
Hamiltonian Ken Stone is speaking out against what he says is a campaign by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to put a "chill" on activists.
An outspoken labour and anti-racism advocate, Stone said he got an unexpected visit at home from two CSIS agents after an editorial he wrote for the Jan. 11 issue of the Hamilton Spectator, headlined "Harper is Wrong in Demonizing Iran."
"Two people appeared at my door, and I thought they were Jehovah's Witnesses," he said of the Jan. 25 encounter. "They identified themselves as being CSIS agents."
The visitors, Stone said, told him that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was aware of the editorial and its mention of his October 2011 visit to Iran to attend a conference on Palestinian human rights.
Stone made the trip at the invitation of Iranian parliament. It took place less than a year before Canada suspended diplomatic relations with Iran. In Sept., Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Iran "is among the world's worst violators of human rights" and represents "the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."
Stone told CBC Hamilton "they wanted to know what my relationship was with the government of Iran. They also said that they wanted to hear from me especially because they thought my views on Iran might be favourable."
'"It had nothing to with national security or espionage. It was, in my opinion, intimidation."
Stunned, Stone told the visitors his opinions on the topic were already public and asked the investigators to leave. He recommends that anyone who finds themselves in the same position do the same.
Moreover, the former postal worker and teacher said he's going public to raise the alarm about what he believes is a campaign to silence vocal critics of the Canadian government.
"It had nothing to with national security or espionage. It was, in my opinion, intimidation."
After the visit, Stone contacted his member of Parliament, Hamilton New Democrat Chris Charlton, who in turn put him in touch with the party's public safety critic, British Columbia MP Randell Garrison.
"I think whenever people don't feel safe and sound in their country, there is cause for concern," said Charlton. "Frankly, if it is true that CSIS is out there intimidating law-abiding Canadians, they need to cease and desist."
In an email to CBC Hamilton, CSIS spokesperson Anam Alvi said the agency doesn't comment on specific cases, but denied the organization aims to stifle Canadians' rights to free speech.
"Lawful advocacy, protest or dissent cannot be investigated unless such activities are carried out in conjunction with specific threats to national security as defined in the CSIS Act."
He confirmed that CSIS agents "talk to many Canadians, every day, in a variety of settings" — conversations he characterized as "generally very cordial and frankly benign."
- This article originally stated that Stone visited Iran in October 2012. In fact, he had gone to Iran in October 2011, less than a year before Canada cut off diplomatic relations with the Middle Eastern state.Sep 12, 2013 7:06 PM ET