Lawsuit from CSIS agent tossed by B.C. court after it rules FPSLRA grievance process is proper forum

The headquarters of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in Ottawa. Photo: Google Streetview

A lawsuit brought forward by a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) employee, Jane Doe, alleging sexual assault and workplace harassment by a colleague referred to as “Individual E,” has been dismissed by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The court highlighted the provisions of the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act (FPSLRA), which provides federal employees a broad right to grievance processes for workplace disputes. The defendant, the Attorney General of Canada, relied on this framework, asserting that the FPSLRA provides a comprehensive method for addressing employment disputes, effectively rendering a civil lawsuit inappropriate.

The judge concluded that while the allegations against CSIS were “problematic and deeply troubling,” there wasn’t sufficient evidence provided to suggest that the internal grievance processes were corrupt, as Doe alleged.

“It is not sufficient for Ms. Doe to establish that she reasonably believed that the internal grievance processes are corrupt,” the court said. “There must be actual evidence that the process itself is corrupt.”

What happened

Doe had claimed her complaints were largely ignored by supervisors and others within the agency.

From September 2018 until her departure on Dec. 10, 2021, Doe was employed by CSIS. She alleges that her employment ended due to constructive dismissal stemming from complaints she made regarding misconduct by Individual E. These complaints included serious allegations of sexual assault and workplace harassment.

In response to her claims, the Attorney General of Canada, the named defendant, had denied all allegations and sought dismissal of the lawsuit. A primary point of contention was the applicability of the FPSLRA, which it argued provided an all-encompassing mechanism for resolving such labour disputes, making the courts an inappropriate venue.

At the onset of her employment, Doe alleged that she was sexually assaulted by one of the course instructors. She further claimed that, during her two-year probationary period at CSIS, Individual E sexually harassed and assaulted her multiple times during their shared ten-hour work shifts. She also stated that some of these incidents were witnessed by other CSIS employees, including those in supervisory roles, who took no action.

Formal complaint

In November 2021, Doe filed a formal complaint with CSIS based on its internal harassment and violence in the workplace policy. Following this complaint, Doe said she faced treatment from CSIS personnel that made continued employment unbearable, leading to her departure in December. However, CSIS countered, saying Doe remains an employee on official leave.

“The complaint process, including the initial investigation, may not be proceeding as swiftly as Ms. Doe would like, and she may have sound reasons for her subjective belief that the process is unsatisfactory,” it said. “However, that is a far cry from actual evidence that the process is not working or is incapable of providing an appropriate remedy.” 

Costs of the proceeding have been awarded to the defendant, with the trial previously scheduled for January 2024 now rendered moot by the lawsuit’s dismissal.

For more information, see Doe v Canada (Attorney General), 2023 BCSC 1701 (CanLII)

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