CSIS settles $35 million “Islamophobia, racism and homophobia” lawsuit

On December 14, 2017, the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) released the following statement regarding a settlement reached relating to the allegations of harassment and discrimination brought forward by five CSIS employees:

“I am announcing today that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), with the help of a mediator, negotiated a settlement to the civil litigation introduced by Service employees in Federal Court in July 2017. The settlement is in the best interest of all those concerned. As the terms of the settlement are confidential, no further comment will be provided on this matter.

As I have stated previously, CSIS does not tolerate harassment, discrimination, or bullying under any circumstances. The complexity of the ever-evolving threat environment requires that all CSIS employees are equipped to give their best. As such, I strongly believe in leading an organization where each employee promotes a workplace which is free from harassment and conducive to the equitable treatment of all individuals.

Moving forward, the Service will be working to ensure that the behaviour of all employees reflects the CSIS Employee Code of Conduct principles of respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship, and professional excellence.

CSIS’ ability to fulfill its mandate is dependent on maintaining the trust of Canadians. We are steadfastly committed at every level of the organization to ensure that we perform with the highest ethical standards in place, and I remain committed to keeping Canadians informed as we progress.”

The $35-million lawsuit filed in July 2017 by five CSIS employees, alleged a toxic workplace “rife with discrimination”, including managers who openly espouse homophobic, racist and anti-Muslim views.

Following the filing of the lawsuit, Prime Minister Trudeau said that “harassment, discrimination and toxic work environments are things this government finds absolutely unacceptable”, and added that he is confident director of CSIS David Vigneault “will get to the bottom of this issue”.

One of the five plaintiffs, identified as “Alex”, is an openly gay Toronto intelligence officer with a Muslim partner. In the statement of claim, Alex alleged that several members of management made multiple homophobic and Islamophobic comments, including one from his manager “Simon”, which read: “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo”.

An analyst who was born in Morocco alleged that his manager told him to “complain to Allah”, and a female Muslim intelligence officer claimed that one of her colleagues displayed a cartoon that read “Prophet Mohammed is a dog and Jerusalem is ours.”

In a July 14 statement, the National Council of Canadian Muslims wrote: “These allegations are of particular concern in light of the recent debate on the intrusive security powers given to CSIS under new national security legislation. It is unacceptable for discriminatory attitudes to be left unchecked in any context, but especially in the context of intelligence gathering when Canadian Muslims already face disproportionate scrutiny.”

The lawsuit, negotiated through a mediator, was settled for an undisclosed amount.

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