CSIS officer fired for complaining publicly about agency’s lack of COVID-19 masking


A Canadian intelligence officer has been fired for speaking publicly about what he felt were inadequate COVID-19 policies at CSIS headquarters during the height of the pandemic. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service dismissed Gary Vos Smith for giving an interview to Global News about the lack of mandatory masking at the agency’s building in Ottawa.A disciplinary committee found that Vos Smith had acted “in an inappropriate manner,” according to a termination letter he received from CSIS director David Vigneault on Nov. 16, 2022.The letter, obtained by Global News, also said he should have known his actions “could pose a notable risk to the organization as a whole and from an identity management perspective.” Story continues below advertisement “The committee has recommended the termination of your employment, which I support given the seriousness of your actions,” read Vigneault’s letter.CSIS declined to comment on the incident, citing privacy, but said employees were expected to adhere to a code of conduct, and breaches were “taken very seriously.”“By maintaining the highest standards of professionalism in the performance of our duties and functions, CSIS employees contribute to building trust among colleagues and maintaining Canadians’ trust in our organization,” said spokesperson Brandon Champagne. Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, appears before a special committee in Ottawa, Feb. 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby. SC In an email to CSIS last week, Vos Smith’s lawyer said her client was motivated by concern for employees worried about lax COVID-19 measures. Trending Now A report by Employment and Social Development Canada also later “condemned the Service for the very same thing,” Kim Patenaude wrote. Story continues below advertisement Vos Smith told CSIS in an email that the failure to require masking was “bizarre,” and he had faced reprisals and attempts to discredit him for expressing concerns about the policies.COVID-19 fuelled national security challenges for CSIS, as extremists and authoritarian anti-western regimes — notably China, Russia and Iran — tried to capitalize on the pandemic by spreading conspiracy theories.At the same time, it was a challenging time for CSIS employees, many of whom were unable to work remotely because of the secretive nature of their jobs.Some complained about inadequate health and safety protocols, and hundreds signed a mass grievance in February 2021, complaining about the lack of physical distancing at headquarters and weak policies on workplace masking.Vos Smith was the only one to do so openly. CSIS officer Gary Vos Smith giving an interview to Global News about his agency’s workplace COVID-19 protocols. Global News A CSIS officer since 1991, Vos Smith advocated for mandatory masking, but his superiors ruled against it on the grounds the building was not open to the public and staff could distance themselves instead. Story continues below advertisement CSIS did not impose mandatory masking until after a series of outbreaks at headquarters in March 2021. Vos Smith was later told a disciplinary committee was looking into his interview with Global News on the subject.In the interview, Vos Smith said he was speaking for hundreds of intelligence service staff frustrated about CSIS pandemic policies when he raised the issue, first internally and then with Global News.While he said it went against his instincts as an intelligence officer to speak out, he felt compelled to talk about employee health and safety concerns that in his view were not being properly addressed.On Nov. 15, 2022, CSIS sent him an email telling him to report to headquarters the next day to receive a termination letter, according to correspondence viewed by Global News.He filed a grievance over his dismissal on Dec. 16.Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca &copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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