'Violation': CSIS had officer investigated after she reported a superior raped her

VANCOUVER — A CSIS officer’s allegations that she was raped repeatedly by a superior in agency vehicles set off a harassment inquiry, but also triggered an investigation into her that concluded the alleged attacks were a “misuse” of agency vehicles by the woman.

She is the same officer whose sexual assault allegations in a story published by The Canadian Press prompted public pledges of reform last year from David Vigneault, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

The officer said she was never told she was the subject of an investigation, or that it concluded she committed misconduct by using "service equipment" to conduct what the investigator’s report said was a "romantic relationship with a colleague."

The woman said she believed the investigation was reprisal for her rape complaint, and she only found out about the probe this year, 10 months after its conclusion, when she made an access−to−information request for her personal information held by the service.

She said she "absolutely was not" in a consenting relationship with the other officer.

The five−page "management report" by an outside party, which the officer provided to The Canadian Press, says they were retained by CSIS on Nov. 18, 2021, to investigate "allegations of misconduct against" the woman.

That was eight days after she had formally complained to CSIS that she was raped nine times by an officer decades older than her, who had been assigned to mentor her on surveillance missions as her "road coach."

The woman cannot be named because of a law banning identification of covert officers, but she is called "Jane Doe" in a previous lawsuit against the government.

The Canadian Press first outlined her allegations last November.

She and another surveillance officer in the CSIS British Columbia office said they were both sexually assaulted in service vehicles by the same senior officer while on missions between July 2019 to spring 2021. Jane Doe said that on one occasion, a mission failed because her coach broke off surveillance of a target to drive to a parking garage to rape her.

"This report is such an incredible violation," Jane Doe said of the investigation into her.

She called the management report "the exact definition of a reprisal," which she told an investigator in 2022 was her fear when she delayed reporting the allegations. At the time, she said she believed she was being interviewed as part of an investigation into her alleged attacker, not herself.

Jane Doe said her complaint was the only reason CSIS became aware of her own alleged misconduct.

"What would I have to gain from making up a fake complaint to draw attention to myself and all of the code−of−conduct things that I apparently breached?" she asked.

"It doesn’t make any sense, so the fact that that report is allowed to even exist shows that I didn’t have a fighting chance in hell," she said of her attempts to get justice for her complaint.

Jane Doe said she was told by a federal labour relations officer that she was not informed about the report because she was on leave when it was handed down and CSIS believed she should be focused on her well−being.

An email from the labour officer on Tuesday, which Jane Doe shared with The Canadian Press, says the report was not "intentionally hidden."

Jane Doe is currently on long−term disability leave, due to being diagnosed with post−traumatic stress disorder.

Asked about the investigation into the woman, CSIS spokesman Eric Balsam issued a statement saying: "Immediately upon learning of the allegations of inappropriate workplace behaviour, CSIS launched a third−party investigation without delay."

He said that in situations where "harassment, discrimination or misconduct" had been found to have occurred, disciplinary action "up to the termination of employment" would be decided by a discipline committee.

When asked to confirm that the rape complainant had herself been investigated, Balsam said "the situation is complex and sensitive" and "it would be inappropriate for CSIS to comment further on specific labour relations issues."

Matt Malone, an assistant law professor at Thomson Rivers University who has handled hundreds of complaints as a workplace investigator, said Jane Doe’s treatment was "mind−boggling."

Making a workplace harassment complaint is a "protected activity," Malone said, and complainants who become targets of investigations without their knowledge are in "a very vulnerable position."

"They are not aware that their conduct might undermine the integrity of the investigation," he said. "It raises so many difficult questions."

Both Jane Doe and the other officer who said she was assaulted have previously said they did not feel they could go to police because the CSIS Act banned identifying themselves or their alleged attacker as covert officers, punishable by up to five years in prison. The women, who are both still employed by CSIS, said a flawed internal complaint process left victims vulnerable to retaliation.

When the women’s claims initially came to light last November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called them "devastating," and said his government was following up "very directly."

Days after the story was published, Vigneault called a town−hall meeting for all 3,000−plus CSIS staff about the women’s allegations that he said left him "deeply troubled." He told staff the alleged rapist had left the service the day before the meeting, and that he was ordering the “urgent” creation of an ombudsperson’s office to handle workplace problems “without fear of reprisal.”

Vigneault also said the agency would release annual public reports on harassment and wrongdoing in the agency.

There was no mention that Jane Doe had been put under investigation.

INVESTIGATION MADE OFFICER ’NAUSEOUS’

The outside investigator’s "final report" into Jane Doe is dated April 12, 2023, but she said she only found out about it this February.

She said discovering the investigation made her "nauseous." When she initially read that the investigators had been retained to look into her conduct eight days after her rape complaint, she thought it was a typo.

"I don’t know if they have been investigating me basically since I submitted the complaint or if this was a reaction to the investigation," she said. "Regardless, I didn’t know that they were doing it, even though it claims that I did."

The misconduct report is heavily redacted. But it concludes Jane Doe breached the service’s code of conduct due to "inappropriate use of service equipment while on duty," and withholding "information from management regarding a romantic relationship with a colleague."

It quotes her alleged attacker as saying he is "sorry that a consensual relationship resulted in improper use of government (redacted) and time."

The report says Jane Doe did not report the "relationship" over "fear of reprisals," quoting her as indicating that she "was afraid of how it would affect my employment in the service, how it (would) affect my reputation and my ability to continue working there, and I was not mentally and emotionally in a position to accept what had happened."

The report says her alleged breaches of CSIS’ conduct policy "surfaced in the context of a harassment investigation."

She told The Canadian Press that during her 2022 interview, the investigator didn’t ask her any specifics about the alleged sexual assaults, which she had documented in her complaint with dates, times and locations.

At the time she thought the investigator was being considerate.

"I even thanked him at the end of it for not asking because it was still a very new thing for me to talk about and I was so nervous and so uncomfortable," she said.

Now, understanding that she was being investigated, it felt like she was put in "a trap."

The lack of specifics in that interview was "weird" because "there were so many things that he didn’t want to know."

"It was like he wasn’t asking so that he didn’t have to have the answer, so that he wouldn’t have to include that in any of his findings, so the less he knows the better," she said.

She said the "evidence" the report relied upon to conclude that the relationship was consensual, including the other officer’s claims and pictures of the two together outside work, were "lies."

"So, him and I were in a photograph, a group photograph, together. Did that prove I wanted to have sex with him at work?" she said.

Malone said that whether an employer’s actions against a person who lodged a complaint could be considered "retaliatory" depended on many factors, including the time between the two actions, or "temporal proximity."

"Adverse actions following an employee complaint that come within a short time frame might suggest that there’s retaliatory motive on the part of the employer," he said. "In this case, temporal proximity is a major factor, because it’s mere days."

Malone said it was standard practice to inform an employee if they were under investigation to let them respond. Jane Doe said she believed the service breached its own policy by failing to inform her.

Malone, who reviewed the CSIS "Breaches of Conduct" policy, said he was "shocked" by what he called a "clear deviation from their own policy."

"But beyond that, it’s a deviation from due process and fair procedure," he said.

The service’s policy says employees under investigation must be notified about the nature of the allegations against them, be given a chance to respond, be notified if they’re found in breach and be given a copy of the report. Jane Doe said none of that happened.

"I can’t defend myself against something that I don’t know anything about," Jane Doe said.

The B.C. Supreme Court dismissed Jane Doe’s lawsuit against the federal government, claiming constructive dismissal and seeking damages, in September 2023. It did not rule on her allegations but found she hadn’t exhausted CSIS internal complaint mechanisms.

She said she has now abandoned plans to appeal and is exploring CSIS’ formal grievance procedures.

"It’s already been my life for over two years and the damage that it’s done to my mental health, and my career, obviously, is now non−existent, and I don’t see myself being able to get that back on track with this hanging over my head," she said.

"They just wear you down until you can’t take it anymore. I’m sure I’m not the first and I’m sure I won’t be the last."

The lawsuit by the second officer who says she was sexually assaulted has not received a response from CSIS.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 26, 2024.

Darryl Greer, The Canadian Press

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