(This column was published in the North Shore News on Oct. 25, 2000)


Election buries SIRC report

By Leo Knight

LOST in the final days of the 36th Parliament was the quiet release by SIRC, the civilian watchdog committee of CSIS, of its report on the demise of the joint CSIS/RCMP Project Sidewinder and the alleged interference by the Prime Minister's Office in the process.  


The report was buried in the Annual Report to Parliament of SIRC and tabled by the Solicitor General to the House on Friday, the last day before an election call by the prime minister.  


Jean Chrétien's premature political ejaculation has effectively buried a week of incredibly bad news, in the feeding frenzy of an election. With the election call he has stifled the criticism of his government in the wake of the damning Auditor General's report. He deflected the public's attention on the equally damning Information Commissioner's report and polished off the criticism on Project Sidewinder by having the report tabled in the final hours of a now defunct parliament.  


And now he goes to you, cap in hand, saying "please give me another mandate. You can trust me." He's got some kind of brass neck, this prime minister of ours.  


Not that it matters much, I suppose, in the matter of the SIRC report. I have already explained to you how the report had been compromised, as evidenced by Liberal Solicitor General Parliamentary Secretary Lynn Myers, in his response in Question Period to Alliance MP Jim Abbott. Myers, you'll recall, said the report cleared the prime minister, ostensibly before the report was even done and shortly after the committee chairwoman, Paule (sic) Gauthier, had stated publicly that the report was not yet complete.  


Indeed, reading the relevant sections of the SIRC annual report one can't help but see a smear campaign. SIRC even complained about the grammar and the syntax used by its author.  


So let's get this straight. Project Sidewinder was a joint CSIS/RCMP investigation into inordinate influences exerted on Canada by the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It also examined the ability of elements of Asian Organized Crime to act in concert with the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the PRC to take control of sensitive Canadian industries and corrupt our politicians through direct and indirect donations.  


The investigators were examining the planned and deliberate attempts to exert significant influence on the sovereignty of this nation and the SIRC committee says there was no political interference and by the way, the grammar, syntax and spelling were bad.  


SIRC also claims in its report that project was never terminated as claimed in "media reports." According to the report, "The project was not terminated; it was delayed when its initial product proved to be inadequate." Huh?  


Oh, and what about all the documents and material ordered shredded by the brass at CSIS?  


No problem, according to SIRC. "CSIS disposed of what is regarded as "transitory" documents related to Sidewinder's first draft in accordance with what it regards as standard practice. The service is unable to locate other related documents the committee regards as non-transitory in nature. The committee does not believe this lapse had a material impact on the events surrounding Project Sidewinder.  


So CSIS destroyed "transitory" documents in what CSIS claims is "standard practise." CSIS is "unable to locate other related documents" and the committee "does not believe this lapse had a material impact." SIRC just accepts this and then makes an absolute conclusion that there was no interference. And on top of that, SIRC claims the project was never terminated, but was only "delayed"! For almost three years, it's "delayed"?  


The SIRC report also reiterated several times the claim that the Sidewinder report was little more than "innuendo" and "provides a loose, disordered compendium of "facts" connected by insinuations and unfounded assertions. Overall, the document is rich with the language of scare-mongering and conspiracy theory."  


Oh really? I have read the Sidewinder report. It examines specific companies and the individuals who control them. It also examines the history, which led up to the series of events it investigated. It even documents a meeting on May 23, 1982 between Deng Xiao Ping, Li Ka Shing and Henry Fok.  


The author of the Sidewinder report almost seems to have anticipated the criticisms. Consider this sentence from paragraph 2 of the forward.  


"This document does not present theories but indicators of a multi-faceted threat to Canada's national security based on concrete facts drawn from the databanks of the two agencies involved, classified reports from allied agencies and various open sources."  


Later in the next paragraph, it says, "It should be reiterated that this report presents concrete facts, not just ideas or speculation."  


Let there be no doubt in your mind that the SIRC report does nothing to dispel the fundamental criticism and allegations made by the people who worked on Sidewinder.  


In a previous column, I explained the presence on the SIRC committee of Bob Rae, former Premier of Ontario and brother of Jean Chrétien's campaign manager, John Rae. But there is another member of that committee whom we need to have a peek at.  


James Grant is a lawyer with the law firm Stikeman, Elliott. That law firm is the fourth largest in Canada and has extensive links to Li Ka Shing, mentioned predominantly in the Sidewinder report. Several former partners of the firm now work directly for Li and are on the boards of several of Li's companies including Concord Pacific and Husky Oil.


Their Hong Kong offices are literally two floors above Li's in the China building. He is their landlord for their offices in Vancouver. Part of the Sidewinder report dealt with Li's extensive shareholdings in the CIBC. Grant is a director on the board of the CIBC. Given all of this, how is it possible that Grant was part of the review for SIRC? At the very least, he should have recused himself to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest.  


And Chrétien, in calling the election, has effectively dissolved this parliament, the only legal forum which could have examined all of this and demanded answers.  


I hope you remember all of this as you consider where to place your "X" on election day.  




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