What Fadden said to Peter Mansbridge about foreign influence: (from the CBC News website)
“We just don’t keep information to ourselves. In the case of the couple of cabinet ministers we are in process of discussing with the centre how are going to inform those provinces.
“Question: The centre being?
“Answer: Sorry, the Privy Council Office. The prime minister’s department. We are trying to get a sense of how we would best let them know that there may be a problem. I am making this comment because I think it’s a real danger that people are, be totally oblivious to this kind of issue.”
Richard Fadden’s appearance on CBC’s The National this week has caused a huge uproar. That’s as it should be. The director of CSIS cannot and should not declare that certain unnamed politicians and bureaucrats are under foreign influence unless he is prepared to name names. It doesn’t take a sage to understand that pointing fingers at anonymous politicians with ties to foreign powers taints all of the ethnic elected officials in Canada. Depending on which side of the political spectrum you come from the tactic smells an awful lot like McCarthyism or Soviet era pronouncements in Russia. What Fadden did on television this week does not have a place in what we consider a free and democratic society. The fact that he blurted out his comments before informing his bosses at the Privy Council and Parliament makes the whole affair more than questionable, it crosses the line into a dirty smear campaign.
Of course the timing, on the eve of the G-8 and G-20 summits, just after the Air India Terrorism Report and in the middle of the federal government doing all it can to hide its complicity in torture in Afghanistan is fodder for every cynic and conspiracy theorist. I have read that Harper put Fadden up to it to relieve the pressure on him, to change the subject of Canadian discourse. I have also read that Fadden and the CBC conspired to make Harper look bad with the Chinese and other foreign leaders arriving on Canadian soil. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I believe it was self aggrandizement and incompetence that led Richard Fadden down this poorly thought out path. He was trying to impress Peter Mansbridge and the people of Canada with his work and his knowledge.
As far as Richard Fadden is concerned there is only one course of action that is acceptable: fire the man. Get him out of CSIS and the government as soon as possible. I would have done it before the summit meetings, but just after will have to do.
So far the media have done an excellent job of going after Richard Fadden and his unsubstantiated statements. But they have missed another important story that should have come out of this affair: the CBC’s complicity in allowing Fadden to do his dirty work.
As any regular reader of this blog knows, I have been a fan of Brian Stewart. I have been impressed with his journalism for decades. Not this time Brian.
Brian’s second documentary on CSIS this week gave an unhindered platform and left unquestioned the tarring of every ethnic politician and bureaucrat in Canada with the brush of serving foreign masters. It’s not good enough to ask the questions. A journalist must hear the responses and react to them. Stewart had to respond to Fadden by asking him to name the provincial cabinet ministers and municipal politicians who are serving foreign powers. He had to tell Fadden, on air, that he is tainting all without regard for the reputations of the innocent. He had to get Fadden to name the “5 or 6” countries recruiting Canadians. Without doing so China, Iran, India and Israel become obvious targets. Some of these countries may be guilty, but some may not. General statements pointing fingers at unnamed countries does sound like CBC is taking on the role of Pravda.
Peter Mansbridge followed up with his interview with Richard Fadden and sort of asked the questions. He did it with a big smile on his face and never pressed the issue. Peter then allowed Fadden to report that CSIS has actually monitored the politicians in question. Fadden said he has seen a shift in policy from these people. Yet Peter never asked why he didn’t report this to his superiors and why the Provincial Premiers involved had never been informed. Finally Peter went along with Fadden’s charge that foreign governments were using their diasporas to recruit and to affect changes in Canadian policy. Again, allowing Fadden to cast suspicion on every Canadian who was not born in this country. In places like Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver that is more than half the population.
I believe that Stewart and Mansbridge were so caught up in the scoop, the fact that they got the CSIS director to commit to an interview and they were given access to CSIS that they forgot their role as journalists who must try to answer the question why have we got access? Why is Fadden saying this stuff to us? What is the CBC’s role in publishing damaging and unsubstantiated charges leveled at unnamed people and groups? A little more work. A little more digging. Maybe waiting until they could come up with some answers to these questions was necessary before rushing this content to air.
Here’s what a couple of CBC viewers had to say on CBC’s own website:
Bard29 wrote: What makes me laugh about the stupidity of this episode is that there are about 43,000 students from the People’s Republic of China in Canada, and all 43,000 of these are potential friends of Canada within China in the future. Instead of recognizing the benefit of this to Canada, paranoid idiots within this country (notably the supporters of Fadden) are throwing away the golden goose for fear that one of its eggs might be rotten.
Wake up and smell the coffee. I know many Chinese students and I haven’t met a rotten one yet.
Ouroboros wrote: What sort of disingenuous crap is this?? I can’t believe that someone of Brian Stewart’s stature is offering a half-assed excuse for why and how the interview aired.
Very clearly, both CSIS and the CBC knew the content of the interview. If they didn’t know they were playing with political dynamite – especially during the G conventions – they should all be fired.
Please, Brian, don’t be a dupe for whomever put you up to writing such fatuous drivel.
I find myself agreeing with Bard29 and Ourboros. This was not The National’s finest moment. The scoop has turned into what should be an embarrassment for all concerned.