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Two men are suing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for allegedly issuing false reports they say resulted in them losing security clearances vital to their careers.

Peter Merrifield, an RCMP officer and vice-president of the force’s police union, and Paul McNamara, a retired Vancouver Police detective who works in private security, accuse the spy agency in a lawsuit of being “sloppy, cavalier and irresponsible.”

They allege CSIS issued the false reports in the course of trying to demonstrate it was taking a tough approach to Chinese foreign interference. Their lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in early April.

In December, 2021, Mr. McNamara was informed he had lost his security clearance “as a result of a CSIS report” and that his employment was terminated, the lawsuit said. He has not regained this clearance.

In July, 2022, Mr. Merrifield was informed by the RCMP his security clearance was suspended “‘for cause,’ based on allegations put forward by CSIS,” the suit said.

The RCMP officer said he learned during a subsequent review that the allegations were related to Mr. Merrifield’s relationship with another former Mountie, a person the lawsuit refers to only by the pseudonym Alan Smith.

“CSIS alleged that Smith was engaged in espionage on behalf of China, among other things,” the suit said.

During the process of dealing with the “false allegations” from CSIS, the suit said, Mr. Merrifield learned that Mr. McNamara had suffered a “similar fate.”

Mr. Merrifield said for almost a year he was without a security clearance, “which impaired his ability to represent members in his duties” for the National Police Federation, the RCMP union. In April, 2023, he said he received notice he would be given a “restricted and limited security clearance,” according to the lawsuit – a reinstatement that came after he shared with the RCMP information about all his dealings with Mr. Smith.

Both men say they came under unwarranted suspicion for their relationships with Mr. Smith.

The lawsuit said Mr. Smith is under investigation by the RCMP and has already been charged. Further, it alleges Mr. Smith is well known to CSIS because he worked abroad for the spy agency in the past, establishing a covert business for it. The lawsuit alleges he engaged CSIS agents to work in his business and trained them on undercover operations, using encrypted communication equipment to report to CSIS and procuring firearms for “foreign CSIS operations.”

Nevertheless, the lawsuit said, Mr. Smith became the subject of a CSIS investigation after he reported to them he had been engaged by a Beijing-based think tank to provide a report on Canada’s extradition processes. This was after Canada detained a senior Huawei executive on a U.S. extradition request.

The lawsuit alleges that CSIS’s pursuit of Mr. Smith was opportunistic and politically driven, aimed at showing results on Canada’s “increasingly visible and challenging relationship” with China.

“CSIS pursued a politically motivated agenda designed to show that it was taking a hard line on foreign interference from China, and cast a wide net, pulling in multiple people with some form of connection to individuals with business in that country,” the lawsuit alleges. “Rather than examining and verifying actual information, CSIS simply made incomplete, inaccurate, misleading and false assertions about the plaintiffs, and provided them to the plaintiffs’ employers, knowing full well the harm that would follow.”

Mr. Merrifield and Mr. McNamara are seeking at least $5.5-million in damages, according to the lawsuit. Their claims have not been proven in court.

CSIS would not comment on the lawsuit on Thursday. “It would be inappropriate for CSIS to comment on matters currently before the courts,” spokesman Eric Balsam said in an e-mailed statement.

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