Five CSIS Employees Accuse Agency of Islamophobia, Racism, Homophobia

Canadian Law

The Toronto Star is reporting that five employees of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) have filed a $35 million lawsuit against CSIS alleging that it is a toxic workplace and that their managers made Islamophobic, racist and homophobic comments and discriminated against Muslim, Black and gay employees.

In a 54-page statement of claim filed in Federal Court and acquired by the Toronto Star, the complainants allege a bevy of bigoted and discriminatory comments including:

  • An intelligence officer, who is gay and has a Muslim partner, says he was told by his manager to be “[c]areful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo”
  • An analyst who is Muslim says he was told that he should “complain to Allah”
  • Another analyst who is Muslim says he was referred to as a “sand monkey” by his boss
  • An analyst who is Muslim says she faced suspicion after deciding to wear a veil
  • An intelligence officer who is black says she was told “it’s people like you the Service likes to promote”

The Toronto Start article contains numerous other allegations of prejudiced and abusive comments and behaviour, including:

  • The denial of access to source files to a complainant because of her involvement in a Muslim organization
  • The malevolent posting of unflattering photos of one of the complainants in an elevator
  • Repeated disparaging comments about Muslims in general by managers and other employees
  • The statement by one manager that then-President of the United States Barack Obama was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

None of the allegations made in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

The Toronto Star also states that each of the five complainants attempted to report the behaviour that prompted the lawsuit, both formally and informally, but that their complaints failed to prompt any action and led only to a worsening of their own personal circumstances within CSIS.

In a statement, CSIS’ director, David Vigneault, stated that the agency “takes any allegation of inappropriate behaviour very seriously” and “does not tolerate harassment, discrimination or bullying under any circumstances”. Vigneault further stated that “[t]he Service’s values and ethics must be reflected in all of our behaviours and decision-making, and reflect the CSIS Employee Code of Conduct principles of respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship, and professional excellence.”

This blog post was written by a CCLA summer law student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA.