Hamilton

Lemire on leave as 2 companies investigate his city computer, cellphone

Marc Lemire is on leave, and the city is drilling down how much, if any, personal information he's accessed as a network analyst.

Lemire, the former head of a white supremacist group, works in IT with the city

Marc Lemire, former leader of the Heritage Front, is on leave from his job as a network analyst at the City of Hamilton. (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)

Marc Lemire is on leave, and the city is drilling down into his workplace computer and cell phone use for any evidence of inappropriate accessing of city or personal information.

Lemire, the former head of a white supremacist organization, has been on leave since May 8. That's when city council, along with new city manager Janette Smith, discussed Lemire's employment in a closed-door session.

Smith says Lemire will remain on leave until two outside agencies investigate what information he's accessed at the city and whether he's still involved in white supremacist activities, among other details.

When that's finished, Smith said, "as much as I can share, I will."

Lemire has been working in the city's IT department since about 2005. He had ties with the white supremacist movement dating back to the early 90s, and at one point, worked full-time for Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, a 2005 court document shows. He was working "to develop websites to disseminate messages of racial hatred and to incite violence," it says. 

Lemire was also head of the Heritage Front until the organization's demise, which happened around the same time the city hired him.

"This is a priority for me," says new city manager Janette Smith, pictured on the night her hiring was announced. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Lemire's social media accounts appear to have been dormant for years. Lemire said in an email earlier this month that he's not involved "politically" anymore. His website, The Freedom Site, exists simply as an archive of his free speech battle, he said. (It does appear, however, that some pages have been removed.) That battle was one of the reasons the government repealed section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

"My website simply contains an archive (2015 and back) of history related to Internet censorship in Canada and the successful battle against civil prohibitions of speech in Canada," he said in an email. 

"The Heritage Front stuff dates back to when I was a teenager.  I reject the Heritage Front for what it was; as I have stated consistently for over 11 years."

As for Smith, she started as city manager the same week the Lemire issue came to light. One company is already on contract to do technical work, she said, going beyond a typical Google search to look at "deep web databases." That company will also do forensic imaging of Lemire's work computer and cellphone.

"There are concerns that there is current activity," she said, although "we certainly in our search didn't find that."

Smith said Lemire's job didn't appear to involve accessing council emails or sensitive personal information, but that will be part of the investigation. She said there's also no evidence that the city tried to hide his employment.

As for how long the investigations will take, "we're looking at weeks," she said. "I don't want this to drag on."

"This is a priority for me. The reports will come directly to me."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca