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Former CSIS director general feted 0

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Retired Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director general Bob Duff, pictured in his Orillia home Sunday afternoon, was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contribution to the country's security domestically and internationally during a ceremony in Ottawa last week. ROBERTA BELL The Packet & Times

Retired Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director general Bob Duff, pictured in his Orillia home Sunday afternoon, was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contribution to the country's security domestically and internationally during a ceremony in Ottawa last week. ROBERTA BELL The Packet & Times

When the Mounties caught 13 Soviet diplomats in a spy ring in the late '70s and expelled them from Canada, given the tumultuous state of world affairs, it wasn't a shock then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau hoped to keep it quiet.

Once the media got wind of it, there was no chance.

"Security intelligence officers operate in the background, in the shadows," said Bob Duff, responsible for domestic counterintelligence at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) security service headquarters in Ottawa at the time. "They don't seek out publicity."

When the Packet & Times called Duff — who has since retired in Orillia with his wife Susan — after learning he had been awarded with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contribution to Canadian security domestically and internationally at a service in Ottawa last week, he was hesitant about being in the paper.

"Legally and morally, I can't say much about it," he explained of his career.

That doesn't make it any less interesting.

Duff joined the RCMP in the late '50s. After three years in the field, he was posted to special branch in Toronto, which went on to become the security service.

After obtaining his degree from Carleton University, he spent most of the early '70s posted in London, England, where he headed up Canadian police and security dealings with Britain's MI5 and MI6 — the MI stands for military intelligence — across western Europe and north Africa.

Following an investigation into the RCMP by the McDonald Royal Commission in 1979, the decision was made to separate security and intelligence function from the others and in 1984, the non-police civilian Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was formed to look after counterespionage, counter-subversion and counterterrorism.

"Counterterrorism coming on was an exciting time," said Duff, who was named CSIS's director general for the Toronto region.

"It started with Armenian terrorism. They threatened to blow up the subway in Toronto at one time," he said, thinking back to the early '80s.

Although he retired from CSIS in 1986, he didn't stay away long.

Duff took a job with Imperial Oil as the director of security shortly after and was instrumental in the formation of the Pillar Society — an organization made up of retired RCMP security service and CSIS employees — in the mid '90s.

"I've been really lucky. I really have," he said humbly "I've had some of the most interesting jobs you can imagine."

roberta.bell@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @roberta__bell

 

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