CSIS LOGOThe Heritage Front Affair
A report to the Solicitor General of Canada

December 9th, 1995


We examined the allegation that CSIS spied on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The story was first published by the "Toronto Star". The newspaper wrote:

"The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has been spying on the CBC, according to a highly-classified document obtained by The Star."[1]

The Review Committee obtained a copy of the document leaked to the newspaper. The document, classified "Secret", is a House of Commons Briefing Card CSIS prepared for the Solicitor General. These cards are used widely, and are intended to help Ministers answer questions in Parliament.

The Briefing Card stated that CSIS learned from a reliable source that the CBC's "Fifth Estate" was to air a story on racism in the Canadian military. The Briefing Card reads:

The Review Committee carefully investigated the "Toronto Star" allegations. Our inquiries sought to answer the following questions:

Did CSIS spy on the CBC? How did CSIS learn about the Fifth Estate story? Can CSIS collect and provide the Minister with this kind of information?

12.1 Did CSIS Spy on the CBC?

We reviewed CSIS material and found that the Service did not investigate the CBC, "The Fifth Estate", its journalists or other employees. CSIS learned about "The Fifth Estate" story in the course of the lawful investigation of a white supremacist target.

12.2 Did CSIS Lawfully Obtain the Information about the Possible CBC Program?

CSIS incidentally learned about the CBC's story through a lawful authorized investigation of white supremacists. The information was not obtained from a human source. We concluded that the information was lawfully obtained.

12.3 What Did CSIS Know Prior to Reporting the Information?

Eric FischerCSIS compiled a chronology of events for the period 1989 - 1993. The chronology indicates that CSIS was aware of the probable presence of white supremacists in the Canadian Armed Forces as early as July 1989. The Service was in contact a number of times with the Department of National Defence in relation to information on the issue which the two agencies had collected. Some discussions took place in Alberta in March 1992 and at Canadian Forces Base, Downsview in June 1992, and involved one case of a soldier who was sent to Somalia. He was not charged in relation to the death of a Somali teenager. None of those charged or convicted in the death were linked to the Heritage Front.

The Committee learned that, circa September 1992 Eric Fischer, a member of both the Heritage Front and the Church of the Creator, was actively recruiting within the military for the COTC. The Service's investigations against the white supremacist leadership in Canada revealed "that leading racists believe that the military is a good recruiting ground." The Service's investigations have uncovered "general information pertaining to racists in the military. Most of this information relates to individuals in contact with CSIS targets who claim to be past or present members of the military.

12.4 Can CSIS Collect Such Information?

Section 12 of the CSIS Act defines CSIS' primary mandate - its authority to collect, retain and report security intelligence information:

The key question is: can CSIS collect and retain such information? In other words: was that information "strictly necessary" to the successful prosecution of the investigation against a lawful target? If the information was "strictly necessary" to the investigation, then it is clearly legal to pass that information to the Minister.

The Review Committee does not believe that CSIS should be able to collect and retain information absolutely legally, but then decide that pertinent information should be kept from the Government. Such a practice could lead to a lack of accountability and would be contrary to the major thrust of the McDonald Commission: political control and accountability.

On the other hand, if it was not "strictly necessary" to collect the information, it should have been destroyed and could not, therefore, have been passed to the Minister.

Clearly, when technical and human sources are directed at a lawful target, a great deal of information is collected. Much of it would not normally meet the "strictly necessary" test, but the Review Committee does not believe that it would be practical to try to ensure that every single piece of information passed the test. However, when information is received which touches upon "sensitive institutions": solicitor/client, the universities, political parties, or the media, for example, the "strictly necessary" test should be met.

12.5 CSIS and the Minister

The Service said that the former Solicitor General

As a Minister, the Service pointed out, the Solicitor General "adopted the system noted above. The Service, however, was careful to limit its briefings to its legitimately mandated activities."

The purpose of this Housebook Card, said CSIS, "was to brief the Minister on any possible relationship that may exist between members of the Heritage Front and the Canadian Armed Forces."

CSIS pointed out that the second page of the briefing note deals "almost exclusively with information that the Service had on the subject of racism and relationships that the Heritage Front membership had with the Canadian Armed Forces."

12.6 Strictly Necessary

In this case, the only "security intelligence" information obtained from the CBC's contacts with Wolfgang Droege was about the presence of white supremacists in the military. At the time, the Government and CSIS were already aware of the problem, and so the information was not new. The Service believes that it bore the onus to put the information in a proper context.

The Review Committee believes that the portion of the information that related directly to the possible television program did not meet the "strictly necessary" test and, therefore, it should not have been retained.

As a consequence, the Committee believes that CSIS should not have been in a position to report this aspect of the information it had collected to the Minister.

12.7 Conclusion

CSIS did not spy on the CBC, its journalists or any other employees. The information referred to in the Briefing Card came from a lawful CSIS investigation.

However, the Review Committee considers that CSIS should not have retained that portion of the information concerning the possible television program because it was not "strictly necessary" to do so. Had the information been destroyed, it could not have been passed to the Minister.


1 Toronto Star, August 19, 1994.

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