Canada's new 'spy palace' damaged by weekend fire

A fire damaged the new headquarters of a federal agency in east Ottawa that monitors foreign communications, including those coming into Canada.

Billion-dollar headquarters of CSEC still under construction, set to open in Ottawa next year

The new billion-dollar “spy palace” in Ottawa’s east end suffered an unknown amount of damage after a fire began in a storage shed on the building’s roof.

Ottawa firefighters responded just before midnight Saturday to the highrise commercial building at 1929 Ogilvie Rd., which will soon house roughly 2,000 employees of the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC.

The building, which remains under construction, is expected to open next year right next to CSIS headquarters.

Fire officials believe the fire began in the storage shed, which holds about 95 litres of tar that is heated by an electrical heater.

The fire was under control in less than 30 minutes and nobody was hurt, officials added. The cost of the damage has not been reported and security officials have taken control of the scene.

Exact cost still unclear

The CBC’s Greg Weston received an exclusive tour of the new CSEC building last month. CSEC is a federal agency that spies mainly on foreigners by hacking into their computers, reading their emails and intercepting their phone calls.

A photo shows one of the common concourse areas in the CSEC building during construction. (Plenary Group Canada)

CSEC officially estimates the complex will cost $880 million. But sources close to the project say it will be closer to $1.2 billion by the time all the associated costs are tallied.

The new headquarters will have more floor space than the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and its cost would build several big city hospitals, CBC News has reported.

The developer has also been contracted to maintain the building and provide other services for another roughly $3 billion over the next 30 years.

Experts said the security features of the CSEC project are a major reason the price tag is so high.


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