A CSIS officer who is among a group of whistleblowers raising allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the spy agency's British Columbia office says she hopes their actions have "lit a match" to change what she calls a "dark and disturbing place."
She says she and her colleagues want to "force change" at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, where they say they suffered abuse and ill-treatment at the hands of senior colleagues in the agency's physical surveillance unit in B.C.
Her comments come after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called their allegations "devastating," and said everyone should feel protected at work no matter how secretive their duties.
Trudeau said Thursday the "entire government" was following up "very directly" on the issues raised by the whistleblowers, who can't be named because of a law against identifying covert officers.
He was responding to an investigation published by The Canadian Press, including allegations by one CSIS officer that she was raped nine times by a senior colleague, and a second officer who says she was sexually assaulted by the same man despite warnings he shouldn't work with young women.
An officer who is a colleague of both women and supports their allegations that it was a toxic workplace says she hopes others who were victimized will now "feel like they can come forward with their stories and be heard."
"We had zero support from the internal powers," she said. "I speak for all of us when I say I'm very glad we have lit a match and been the whistleblowers on such a dark and disturbing place."
The woman says she and her colleagues hope Trudeau's words aren't "lip service" and lead to change at CSIS.
The officers who say they were assaulted said they felt they couldn't go to police, in part because they were constrained by the CSIS Act, which makes it illegal to identify covert employees, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
They say they were failed by the internal complaints mechanism at CSIS, and senior officers bullied and harassed younger surveillance officers in B.C. with impunity.