CSIS officers allege sexual harassment, toxic workplace culture with employer

One woman claims she was raped by a senior officer nine times in CSIS surveillance vehicles

CSIS officers allege sexual harassment, toxic workplace culture with employer

Four female officers with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in British Columbia are alleging a toxic workplace culture at the service, where sexual harassment and more are rampant, according to a report from The Canadian Press.

One of these workers claimed that in the summer of 2019, she – who was then a rookie surveillance officer – and one senior officer were tracking a person in British Columbia and they lost track of their target.

The senior officer later blamed a communications failure due to a radio dead zone, but the woman said the real reason was her colleague was raping her, according to the report. She said her colleague broke off surveillance to drive to a parkade and sexually attacked her in their CSIS vehicle.

The victim claimed the same colleague raped her nine times while at work in CSIS surveillance vehicles between July 2019 and February 2020.

Another female officer also said she was sexually assaulted as a rookie by the same officer in surveillance vehicles during covert missions, reported The Canadian Press. And that happened despite warnings from the first woman to their bosses that he should not be partnered with young women, according to the report.

They said supervisors told them other women had complained about not feeling safe around the man in the past.

“Nothing was done, and I started hearing these stories that there was this history of all these women (who) used to be working at our region. They used to be there, and they all had the same thing to say, and they all just ended up leaving,” the second officer said in The Canadian Press report.

The two women described their experience in separate anonymized lawsuits against the federal government filed in B.C., according to the report.

Two other women from the B.C. CSIS physical surveillance unit also say it was a toxic workplace where bullying and harassment are commonplace, and young female officers were victimized.

In 2022, two women who worked at global software giant SAP claimed that they were raped by their colleagues while attending after-work events on business trips, and that the HR department mishandled the situation, according to a Bloomberg report.

Obligation to secrecy

These women’s claims are “devastating,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, according to the report.

"These allegations are absolutely unacceptable. We need to make sure that everyone in every workplace, no matter how delicate or sensitive or secret the work is that they are doing, is protected, particularly for people who serve their country," he said in Ajax, Ont.

He added that "the minister and our entire government is following up very directly on these issues."

The two women who complained of sexual harassment felt unable to go to police.

This is in part because of an obligation to secrecy, including a law against identifying themselves or others as CSIS officers, and a belief “the organization would cover things up,” according to The Canadian Press’s report.

Also, there’s a flawed internal complaint process, the women said, and this left victims vulnerable to retaliation and without access to external recourse.

Both are still employed by CSIS but are on leave.

Recently, management of a Smitty’s Family Restaurant in PEI was found guilty of creating a toxic work environment for one employee who was subject to a range of sexual harassment offences from multiple male co-workers, including management.

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