Late last week, in its familiar stealth-like fashion, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government shuttered the office of the Inspector General (IG) over Canada’s spy service, CSIS.Read more here.
The IG acted as the public safety minister’s eyes and ears, monitoring whether or not our powerfully intrusive domestic intelligence service was abiding by its policies and, more important, the law as it went about its key counter-espionage and counter-terrorism responsibilities.
I say “stealth-like” because the Conservative government buried its decision to shut down the IG’s office deep inside a budget bill it tabled last week. If not for the industrious work of Canadian Press reporter Bruce Cheadle, Canadians would have been kept in the dark about this astonishingly wrong-headed decision to pull the plug on the only independent agency that provided some measure of oversight over CSIS’s day-to-day operations.
The IG’s office didn’t have much money or staff to do its important job. Indeed, last year it “enjoyed” a paltry budget of $1 million dollars to go about its work. (A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews heralded the closure of the IG’s office as a cost-saving measure. The million dollar savings will, I’m sure, put a large dent in the federal deficit.)
Historically, despite its laughable lack of resources, the IG’s office has done a more than adequate, if occasionally admirable job, keeping watch over CSIS. The ever-circumspect Eva Plunkett, the last IG, proved to be up to the job, producing incisive annual reports that were sometimes bluntly critical of CSIS.
last shred of oversight removed from csis
Andrew Mitrovica, author of Covert Entry: Spies, Lies and Crimes Inside Canada’s Secret Service: