Government asks RCMP to investigate Citizenship leak to media
RCMP called in to investigate another high-profile leak during the election campaign, this one at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
OTTAWA—The government is calling in the RCMP to investigate another highly sensitive leak to the media, this time at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, according to media reports.
The CBC reported late Friday afternoon that the Citizenship ministry has requested the RCMP investigate the release of “sensitive information” to journalists this week.
“Leaks such as these are unethical and are against the law,” a memo obtained by the broadcaster read. “As such, we have contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who have now launched an investigation. The trust that the public, our partners and elected officials have in us is the cornerstone of our democratic functions.”
Citizenship and Immigration spokespeople would not confirm the investigation Friday evening, except to say the department would take action.
“In instances where an unauthorized disclosure of information is suspected, standard investigative measures are followed,” wrote Rémi Larivière in an email to the Star.
It’s not clear what law, if any, could have been broken.
But two separate leaks this week — one to the Globe and Mail, the other to CTV News — detail an audit reportedly ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office into the background of Syrian refugees.
Unnamed sources told CTV that PMO staff discouraged the acceptance of Sunni and Shia Muslims fleeing the war-torn country, and went through files to ensure persecuted religious minorities were given preference.
The Star has not been able to independently verify the report.
Stephen Harper faced a second straight day of questions about the audit and PMO’s involvement at a campaign stop in British Columbia on Friday.
Harper strenuously denied that the government’s focus on religious minorities was to exclude any identifiable group. Instead, the prime minister said Canada’s efforts have been focused on the most vulnerable.
“The minority religious and ethnic groups in the Syria and Iraq area are, in fact, being targeted by ISIS and its allies for extermination,” Harper said.
“That is why we put a higher priority (on them). It’s not exclusionary, but obviously (that’s) why that is an important factor in making refugee decisions.”
The Conservatives have long said their focus was on minority groups fleeing civil war and ISIS in Syria. The party reiterated that commitment in their campaign platform, released Friday morning.
But their political opponents seized on the leak Friday, suggesting it constitutes further evidence of the government’s mishandling of the Syrian refugee crisis.
“To know that somewhere in the Prime Minister’s Office staffers were pouring through personal files to try and see whether these families, or find out which families would be suitable for a photo-op for the prime minister’s re-election campaign? That’s disgusting,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair accused Harper of playing “the race card” to divide Canadians.
“What we’ve learned in the last couple of days is that, despite his emoting when we saw the lifeless body of that child Alan Kurdi on a Turkish beach, Mr. Harper and his Prime Minister’s Office were in fact intervening to ensure the neediest on earth — those Syrian refugees — would not make it to Canada,” Mulcair said.
A Mountie investigation at Citizenship and Immigration would be the second called by a government department in as many weeks.
A spokesman from the Department of Foreign Affairs said the RCMP had been notified about a series of leaks to the press. The department notified the police after a memo about the dangers of leaking journalists information was itself leaked to journalists.