On Thursday, WikiLeaks released three CIA tasking orders detailing their plan to closely monitor 2012 French presidential candidates, including current President Francois Hollande and current first-round frontrunner Marine Le Pen.
Canada is listed along with New Zealand, Great Britain, the United States and Australia in a section indicating which countries are assisting with the “HUMINT” or human intelligence aspects of the operation. Those countries make up the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance.
Within hours, the NDP was calling on the government to explain the document: “Canadians don’t expect their government to spy on our closest allies, especially when it involves their own domestic elections. There’s nothing more sensitive than that, as we’re observing right now with the allegations in the U.S. election.”
This was a remarkable escalation of events.
The actual documents are here. Like most leaked documents, they lack context, even if they are genuine. More than that, they are also sprinkled with agency nomenclature that requires parsing.
The single reference to Canada reads:
Apparently on this basis of this single reference, the news reports concluded Canada was asked to "assist" the CIA. (As the story eventually notes: "The documents contain only a single reference to Canada, making it unclear what parts of the CIA efforts Canada may have been involved in.")
But this whole allegation of Canadian participation seems (very) doubtful. First, none of Canada's actual intelligence agencies has the legal competency to conduct covert, overseas HUMINT foreign intelligence gathering. CSIS is confined to security intelligence in its overseas activities (and this France activity would not be security intelligence, as defined in s.2 of the CSIS Act). CSIS's broader foreign intelligence collection must be conducted "within Canada" under s.16 of the CSIS Act.
CSE is a signals intelligence agency and would clearly be acting outside of its statutory mandate in doing HUMINT.
Military intelligence operates pursuant to the royal prerogative of defence -- and it is hard to see how that fits.
Global Affairs Canada has a broader remit -- including under the general language of the DFAIT Act and also a conceivable remit under the royal prerogative relating to foreign affairs. It has no express statutory intelligence function, but its legal authorities are broad enough to allow it to collect information in its diplomatic/foreign relations function. Whether it runs covert HUMINT is another matter -- it has confidential contacts, but I'd be surprised to learn it runs more complex HUMINT sources. (Sadly, because Global Affairs is subject to no external independent review, there is little on the public record on its activities, but see this statement made to Parliament. There, then-DFAIT specified "Canadian diplomats do not work under cover or collect intelligence covertly from human sources").
All of this is to say that there is only a narrow range of options if Canada were to participate in a (let us assume covert) CIA HUMINT foreign intelligence (as opposed to security intelligence) activity: either it is a Global Affairs program of greater breadth than what has been reported in the past, or it is a Canadian intelligence service acting illegally.
But we don't need to go down this rabbit hole for one reason above all else: the document does not seem to say what the news stories inferred. "S//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL" is a classification tag (governing intelligence sharing). It translates into Secret//Release to USA, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, New Zealand" (or, in other words, the Five Eyes). See this guide to US classification nomenclature.
It does not, in other words, mean (in any respect that I can discern) that Canada is "assisting with the 'HUMINT' or human intelligence aspects of the operation" (whatever those might be -- and the document is actually very unclear on what, if anything, was being done in terms of HUMINT).
Put another way, unless you want to believe that Canada must be complicit just because you don't trust intelligence agencies, there appears to be no evidence supporting the conclusion on a Canadian role reported in the news stories.