CSIS officer fired for complaining publicly about agency’s lack of COVID-19 masking

A Canadian intelligence officer has been fired for publicly speaking out about what he felt was an inadequate COVID-19 policy at CSIS headquarters during the pandemic.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Agency has fired Gary Voss-Smith, who interviewed Global News about not being required to wear masks at the agency’s building in Ottawa.

The disciplinary committee found that Vos Smith acted in an “improper manner,” according to the dismissal letter received from CSIS Director David Vigneault on November 16, 2022.

The letter, obtained by Global News, also said he should have known his actions “could pose a significant risk to the organization as a whole and in terms of identity management.”

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“The committee recommended your dismissal. Given the seriousness of your actions, I support it,” read Bigneaux’s letter.

CSIS declined to comment on the incident, citing privacy reasons, but said employees were expected to abide by its code of conduct and that violations were “taken very seriously.”

CSIS spokesperson Brandon Champagne said:

David Bigno, Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), attends the Task Force in Ottawa, February 6, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby.


In an email to CSIS last week, lawyers for Vos Smith said her client was concerned that employees were concerned about lax COVID-19 measures.

A report from the Canadian Agency for Employment and Social Development later “accused the service of exactly the same thing,” writes Kim Pattenaud.

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Voss-Smith told CSIS in an email that it was “strange” not to request masking and that he faced retaliation and discrediting attempts for raising concerns about the policy.

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COVID-19 furthered the CSIS national security agenda as extremist and authoritarian anti-Western regimes, particularly China, Russia and Iran, sought to capitalize on the pandemic by spreading conspiracy theories.

At the same time, it was a difficult time for CSIS employees. Many of them were unable to work remotely due to the sensitivity of their work.

Some complained about inadequate health and safety procedures, while hundreds signed a mass complaint in February 2021, citing a lack of physical distancing at headquarters and vulnerabilities around masking in the workplace. I complained about the policy.

Voss Smith was the only person to do so openly.

CSIS executive Gary Vos Smith interviews Global News about his agency’s workplace COVID-19 protocols.

global news

Voss Smith, a CSIS employee since 1991, advocated for mandatory mask-wearing, but his superiors argued that the building was not open to the public and instead allowed staff to keep their distance. I objected.

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CSIS did not impose mandatory masking until after a series of outbreaks at its headquarters in March 2021. Vos Smith was later told that a disciplinary committee was investigating his interview with Global News on the matter.

In an interview, Voss-Smith speaks for the hundreds of intelligence agency staff who are dissatisfied with CSIS’ pandemic policies when they raise the issue first internally and then on global news.

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He said it would go against his instincts as an intelligence officer to speak out, but he felt compelled to speak out about employee health and safety concerns that, in his view, had not been adequately addressed.

On November 15, 2022, CSIS sent him an email telling him to report to headquarters the next day to receive a termination notice, according to communications seen by Global News.

He filed a complaint against his dismissal on December 16.

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© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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