Canadian spy chief stands by claim of 'foreign interference'

Canada's spy chief appeared yesterday to have saved his job even after stirring up a firestorm of protest for suggesting that Canadian politicians in at least two provinces and in several cities in British Columbia had fallen under the unfriendly influence of unnamed foreign governments.

Richard Fadden, who has headed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) since June last year, said he had "lost track" of the fact that CBC, the national broadcaster, had him on camera when he made the remarks on the country's nightly national news bulletin.

But at hearings convened to investigate the affair at the Canadian parliament in Ottawa, he said the substance of what he said about "foreign interference" was correct. "I regret any distress I might have caused and would not provide such detail again," he said. "Having said this, I stand by my general message on foreign interference."

Mr Fadden did not identify which countries were trying to insinuate themselves in Canadian affairs – though in the past he has accused China of infiltrating university campuses – or which political figures may have succumbed to their approaches. "Without naming anyone or any province, you are targeting all ministers and all provinces," said Maria Mourani, a Bloc Quebecois MP.

Speaking at the Royal Canadian Military Institute in March, Mr Fadden warned that a "by-product of Canada's strong involvement in the world and its very cosmopolitan population is the growing presence of interference by foreign governments".

He told the hearing that the CSIS began monitoring two individuals two years ago in a case of "foreign interference" where a foreign government sought to influence policy decisions in Canada.