During the year that preceded the attacks in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa, the section of the federal ministry of public Security in charge of counter-terrorism was completely dysfunctional as a result of a work climate that awful, reveals a level of investigation “top secret” conducted by a former commissioner of the RCMP at the request of the government.
A Culture of fear, remarks insulting, withholding of information, infighting, inability to hear differing opinions, favoritism, reports “sanitized”: this is the content of some 900 pages of documents from the Ministry on the subject, widely heavily censored, obtained by The Press under the Law on access to information.
The conclusion is damning: “something is broken”, has found a senior level manager at a meeting on the working environment.
The alarm was first sounded on 17 April 2014, six months before the attacks in Saint-Jean and Ottawa. The deputy minister of public Security, François Guimont, has received an anonymous letter at his office of Laurier avenue, Ottawa. The letter denounced a series of problems within the security Sector and of the national cybersecurity division of the nerve, which looks after the government’s strategy to counter terrorism and the prevention of hacking. Some of the facts raised have been hidden in the letter obtained by The Press but they all seem to denote a toxic climate.
The signatories did not identify, saying fear the reaction of some managers around them. “The future of the Industry is in your hands”, concluded the letter.
A special investigator
The deputy minister has taken the thing very seriously, demonstrates the internal correspondence of the Department. He was ordered not to launch a witch hunt to unmask whistleblowers, but rather shed light on the allegations raised.
The Department was in need of a special investigator for this task. “Due to the mandate of the Sector, the issues raised are likely to have implications for national security,” noted a manager of the Department.
The choice has stopped on Norman Inkster, former head of the RCMP. The Ministry has granted him a security clearance of “top secret” so that it has access to all the information necessary to its mission.
It wasn’t long before they sink below the testimonials and assess the seriousness of the situation. “The current situation is, at best, unhealthy,” he said.
The comments he received during interviews of employees were almost all negative. “The vast majority of the people interviewed have expressed the opinion that the work of the Section was and remains a work experience particularly unpleasant,” he wrote in his report, classified “confidential”, which has been heavily censored before being released to The Press, including the portions where the employees point the finger at managers.
The fear of retaliation for protesting or even to have expressed a professional opinion that is different from that of a boss seemed to be widespread.
“The Section is not, as in a environment where people are comfortable saying what they think,” writes Mr. Inkster.
A generalized climate of favoritism and internal strife, marked by an attitude of “us against them” detrimental to the work, in the opinion of the employees.
Air of mystery
The people who are entrusted to Mr. Inkster were almost unanimous in denouncing a share deficient information and a work in silos where people kept jealously for them of the factual data important. Employees have denounced an “air of mystery” so marked by the cult of secrecy that some were to do more to understand the nature of the mission of the Sector.
Another finding of concern, some employees would be asked to soften their language in the drafting of the report to give a positive image: “It has been said that the documents were sanitized. The interviewees believe that it is an attempt to give the impression that all is well when it is not necessarily the case,” he wrote.
Documents obtained by The Press show that the leadership of the Ministry has referred to the observations of Mr. Inkster of “troubling” and put in place a plan of action to change the ways of doing things.
But yesterday, the leadership of the Ministry has refused to discuss the fixes that have been made, or of the impacts that the situation could have on public safety. “We respectfully refuse your request for an interview,” replied the spokesman Jean Paul Duval, pointing out that a plan has been implemented to “improve the culture of the workplace and fostering a healthy work environment”.
The minister of public Safety Steven Blaney has not wanted to comment.