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CSIS Memo on Beijing Targeting of MPs Was Sent to Wrong Office, Says Blair

Former public safety minister Bill Blair says that a secret memo prepared by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to inform the federal government of Beijing’s targeting of Conservative MP Michael Chong never reached him at the time because it was sent to the wrong office.

“Just to be very clear, CSIS did not brief me on that document,” Blair told reporters in Ottawa on June 14, adding, “I’m advised that they sent it to another office with the intent that I would somehow get to see it, but quite frankly if their intent was that I would actually have that information, my expectation would be that they would come brief me on it.”

Blair, who is now the minister of emergency preparedness, added that it “might’ve been helpful” if CSIS had phoned him or sent “an email or a text” alerting him they had a briefing that he was meant to see, but the minister said he was never contacted in any such manner.

Blair did say that CSIS would regularly brief him on matters of foreign interference while he was public safety minister from 2019 to 2021.

He said CSIS would either brief him in a secure room at his office in Ottawa, ask him to go to the spy agency’s headquarters in Toronto, or send a CSIS member to brief him at his home.

While appearing before a House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on June 1, Blair blamed CSIS for not briefing him on Beijing’s threats to MPs in 2021. He also previously said he was unaware of the issue until The Globe and Mail published a report on May 1 based on a leaked CSIS assessment.

Blair told the committee that CSIS Director David Vigneault previously determined that the information about Beijing’s threats to MPs was not necessary for him to know.

“So I was never notified of the existence of that intelligence, nor was it ever shared with me,” he said.

However, Vigneault told the same committee on June 13 that CSIS followed the proper protocol at the time to pass information to the public safety minister about Beijing’s threat.

“My understanding of how the information flows from an agency to the minister is that this is sent to the department—in this case, the Department of Public Safety,” Vigneault said.

Responding to this, Blair told reporters on the same day that Vigneault and CSIS produced the relevant briefing “with the intent” that Blair read it—but maintained that he never received it.

“Unfortunately his intent did not actually take effect,” Blair said.

Noé Chartier contributed to this report. 

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