Skip to main content

Veteran Conservative MP Chuck Strahl, shown during his tenure as transport minister in September of 2010, left politics after the May 2011 election.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl is the new head of the watchdog that keeps an eye on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Mr. Strahl's immediate appointment as head of the Security Intelligence Review Committee comes seven months after the sudden resignation of his predecessor and smack in the middle of a current controversy about spy agency oversight.

Mr. Strahl, 55, was first elected to the House of Commons in 1993 and went on to hold several cabinet portfolios in Stephen Harper's cabinet, most recently serving as transport minister.

Story continues below advertisement

He announced in 2005 that he was suffering from lung cancer brought on by exposure to asbestos years before. Mr. Strahl stayed active in government, although he did not run for re-election last year.

The review committee's last chairman, medical doctor Arthur Porter, resigned in November amid questions about his private business dealings.

Composed of appointees – including many former politicians over the years – the committee carries out studies of various CSIS activities, reporting to Parliament annually.

It is the lone watchdog over the spy agency following the Conservative government's decision to abolish the inspector-general's office, which reported to the minister, in order to save money. The inspector-general issued an annual certificate stating whether CSIS had complied with the law and ministerial direction.

The government says the review committee will take over the inspector general's duties, but has not explained how it will do so. The committee generally examines past actions of the spy service, whereas the inspector general was considered the minister's "eyes and ears" on CSIS.

The review committee's latest planning report, tabled in Parliament, indicates that its staff and budget will not increase.

Dr. Porter resigned after the National Post newspaper reported that the Montreal cancer specialist had forged a business arrangement with a notorious international lobbyist.

Story continues below advertisement

The article revealed Dr. Porter, a native of Sierra Leone, once struck a deal with middleman Ari Ben-Menashe on a $120-million aid-for-development initiative from Russia. It would have given African Infrastructure Group, a firm owned by Dr. Porter and his family, the chance to manage infrastructure projects in his homeland.

Mr. Ben-Menashe is a controversial figure who claims involvement with Israel's spy service. His Montreal consultancy has done work for notorious Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.

Dr. Porter said the devastating aftermath of civil war in Sierra Leone motivated him to explore options to help the country rebuild its infrastructure, adding he did not let his business interests interfere with review committee responsibilities.

But Dr. Porter said he was aware "that the media portrayal has the potential to tarnish" the review committee's credibility, prompting him to quit.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter