Skip to main content

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, chats with Dr. Arthur Porter, left, at the Montreal General hospital in Montreal Nov. 24, 2006.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Stephen Harper is coming under pressure to strip a distinguished title from the man he once appointed to head the watchdog group that oversees Canada's spy agency.

Arthur Porter was selected by the Conservatives in 2008 to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee which reviews the activities of Canada's spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. He resigned the post in 2011.

Today, Mr. Porter is imprisoned in Panama and is expected to be extradited back to Canada to face fraud-related charges in connection with an alleged bribery scandal tied to a Montreal hospital project.

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, deputy ethics critic for the Official Opposition, says it's wrong that Mr. Porter is still a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. He was appointed a privy councillor in 2008 at the same time as he was tapped to head the CSIS watchdog.

Privy councillors include cabinet ministers, former cabinet ministers and other prominent Canadians who are in theory supposed to be on hand to provide advice to the Queen if required though in practice they rarely gather. They are entitled to use the word "Honourable" in front of their name. They hold the title for life unless it's withdrawn.

The NDP MP has written the Prime Minister demanding Mr. Porter's honour be taken away.

"Only the Prime Minster has the power to strip Mr. Porter of his Honourable title, but nothing has been done to date. It is clear that appointing Mr. Porter to the Privy Council was a mistake," Mr. Boulerice wrote.

"This dishonours our democratic institutions and the other members on this prestigious list."

The NDP said it believes there is precedent for this. "Conrad Black was removed from the Privy Council list on your recommendation, after he was found guilty of fraudulent use of corporate property and obstruction of justice in the American courts," Mr. Boulerice said.

The NDP MP called on Mr. Harper to act promptly.

"Mr. Porter's case is no more acceptable. I urge you to take swift action and strip Mr. Porter of his title."

In January, a deal was announced between Canadian authorities and Panama on Mr. Porter's extradition back to Canada. No date was set.

Former SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa, who formally convicted of bribery, corruption and laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in connection with SNC projects in Libya, also faces criminal charges in separate allegations of having co-ordinated – with Mr. Porter – a $22.5-million kickback scheme to win the $1.3-billion contract to build a new super-hospital in Montreal.