While the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces are routinely criticized for allegedly being controlled by too many white men, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has not had to defend its workplace values — until now.
Five former CSIS employees are suing the spy agency for alleged homophobia and discrimination against Muslims. The statement of claim was filed on Thursday and claims CSIS operates like an “old boys club” replete with accusations of racist remarks and career advancement being dependent upon getting along well with superiors and not based on merit.
The allegations caught up to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while he was in Providence, Rhode Island on Friday listening to Vice President Mike Pence speak to the NAFTA renegotions. Trudeau cited the accusations of “harassment, discrimination and a toxic work environment” and said the CSIS director was “working very hard to ensure that we get to the bottom of this issue.”
The five complainants have all left CSIS and are not identified in the court documents. They describe a spy agency obsessed with Muslims and homosexuals; one witness in the court document suggests “the public would be shocked” to learn the facts about working at CSIS. “We keep our own secrets.”
In one alleged incident, a homosexual employee indentified as “Alex” says he received a an email from a fellow employee that read, “careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo,” supposedly citing the man’s Muslim partner.
In another anecdote, a CSIS supervisor is alleged to have tried to convince the staff that then-president Barack Obama was working for the Muslim Brotherhood. While at a social event in Toronto, a senior member of management was said to have shouted “all Muslims are terrorists.”
The five all contend that they reported these episodes to management but were ignored. All are now apparently no longer working at CSIS because of depression, anxiety and undislosed medical conditions that supposedly resulted from their “harassment.”
One of the complainants, identified in the court documents as “Bahira,” says after she began wearing a hijab to work, management began asking questions about her personal life and religious involvement.
In a statement, CSIS director David Vigneault disputed the claim that allegations of inappropriate behavior would have been ignored or dismissed by senior management and said the security service has zero tolerance for harassment, discriminatin and bullying that is contained in the employee code of conduct.