POLITICS

Hamilton man to get hearing with CSIS on 'intimidation' case

01/23/2015 11:57 EST | Updated 03/25/2015 05:59 EDT
A Hamilton activist finally has a hearing date for a complaint lodged against the country’s security watchdog after CSIS agents visited his home – but neither he nor his lawyer will ever get to hear the evidence in the case.

Ken Stone alleges agents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) visited his house to “intimidate” him in 2013.  Stone has long been a vocal labour and anti-racism advocate, and says the agents asked him about an op-ed he wrote in the Hamilton Spectator titled “Harper is wrong in demonizing Iran.”

After the visit, Stone made a formal complaint to the The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), a board of political appointees that examines CSIS’s operations.

Hearing dates for March 26 and 27 were set during a Thursday morning conference call between lawyers on both sides and officials. But Stone also found out that SIRC has requested what’s called an “ex-party hearing,” which means that they get to present evidence in camera – so no one in the public (like Stone and his lawyer) gets to see or hear it. The government’s argument for doing this is because the testimony deals with national security matters.

“We will never see it delivered by persons we will never get to cross examine,” Stone said. “All we’ll get is a summary of that ex-party hearing.”

Private portion of hearing fairly common: SIRC

Lindsay Jackson, SIRC’s assistant director of research, told CBC Hamilton that she could not speak to any individual cases. She wouldn’t even confirm that the hearing was taking place.

She did say, however, that ex-party hearings are fairly common in these kinds of investigations. “SIRC’s legal team will cross-examine the witness to ensure the evidence is properly cross-examined and reliable,” she said. Once the hearing is done, SIRC will examine what’s been said to see if it can be disclosed to Stone and his lawyer.

She could not say how often that happens. According to SIRC’s 2013/2014 annual report, the organization carried over 24 complaints from the previous year while adding nine new complaints. Thirteen of those cases were closed.

This isn’t the first time Stone has questioned the oversight process. Last year, he learned that then-SIRC chair and one-time Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl had been assigned to the file. However, before hearings were set to begin, Strahl stepped down from the role amid concerns over his lobbying ties to Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

'An attempt to chill the dissent in Canada'

Stone has long protested the expansion of the oil and gas sector in this country for its environmental impacts.

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

Stone says CSIS agents visited him in “an attempt to chill the dissent in Canada.”

"The outcome I would like to see is that SIRC reveals the policy to me under which they visited me and they have been visiting the homes and workplaces of thousands of political and social and environmental activists in the country under the guise of security investigations."

adam.carter@cbc.ca