Canada’s Intelligence Watchdog Issues Report Critical of Polygraph Screening

CSIS has long relied on the pseudoscience of polygraphy to screen applicants and employees.

On Friday, 11 December 2020, Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA), which provides oversight for the country’s intelligence agencies, issued its annual report for 2019. Among other things, the report is highly critical of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS’s) reliance on polygraphy to screen applicants and employees, noting that the Security Intelligence Review Committee (NSIRA’s predecessor agency), “recommended in 1985 that CSIS should cease using the polygraph.”

The NSIRA report notes that “future reviews will examine the polygraph’s use outside of CSIS, and based on the information assessed, NSIRA will make a definitive determination about the legality and utility of this instrument.”

In its future assessments, NSIRA should be mindful of the late University of Toronto professor of psychology John J. Furedy’s work on lie detection. Furedy astutely likened polygraphy to the ancient Roman divination ritual of haruspicy (entrails reading).

NSIRA should also take note of former RCMP polygraph unit chief Charles Momy’s criticism of polygraph screening.

It is also worth noting, as documented in a recent post to the message board, that CSIS discourages applicants from researching polygraphy. A recent CSIS applicant was told:

We do conduct a polygraph exam. We advise that you do not do any research. If you’ve done some research in the past that’s ok, but if you are going to continue with the process we advise that you don’t do any research, because that could have an impact on your candidacy.

NSIRA should demand that CSIS explain the rationale for such an instruction.

For further reporting on the NSIRA report’s findings on polygraph screening, see CBC reporter Catharine Tunney’s article, “Federal government rethinking use of controversial polygraph test.”

The relevant portion of the 2019 NSIRA annual report is reproduced below (footnotes omitted, links supplied):

The Polygraph

82. A final observation relates to the government’s use of the polygraph for screening security and intelligence employees. Commonly referred to as a lie detector test, the polygraph is a technology that measures and records several physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration and skin conductivity while a person responds to a number of questions. “Deceptive” answers produce physiological responses that can, so it is alleged, be differentiated from those associated with “non-deceptive” answers.

83. The TBS Standard on Security Screening, created in 2014, cites the use of the polygraph as an appropriate tool, among others, for assessing candidates seeking an Enhanced Top Secret (ETS) clearance. CSIS, in conducting security assessments for its staff, uses the results of the polygraph as a determinative element when granting ETS clearances, rather than an instructive element, to be considered as part of a series of relevant factors. If an outside candidate, employee or individual contracting with the Government of Canada is denied a security clearance that is necessary to obtain or keep federal employment or a contract, the individual can make a complaint to NSIRA pursuant to section 18 of the NSIRA Act. If NSIRA’s jurisdiction is established, the complaint would be investigated by an NSIRA member. This could include, for example, a complaint where a CSIS employee was terminated solely because of the revocation of a security clearance, and the Deputy Head of CSIS could have based the decision to revoke the clearance on the results of a polygraph test. Given the highly invasive and controversial nature of this technology, NSIRA decided to examine the use of the polygraph within our latest safeguarding review of CSIS. We sought to determine the justifications for its use, and the extent to which such determinations are reasonable and necessary.

84. Several key observations were derived from this analysis. First, this tool can have profound negative impacts on an employee’s mental health if not used appropriately. Second, CSIS was unable [sic] justify the merits of examiners — who are not medical practitioners — to ask medical-related questions of the people they examine. Third, the outcomes or consequences for polygraph exams conducted on external applicants compared with CSIS employees differed. [ Text removed – As of November 20, 2020, NSIRA and CSIS could not agree on how all of the facts of this review should be presented in an unclassified, public document]. Essentially, a successful polygraph is a determinative factor for external applicants in obtaining an ETS clearance through CSIS. Fourth, CSIS requires policy clarity for cases where employees fail the polygraph examination. Finally, CSIS did not conduct a privacy impact assessment (PIA) for the use of the polygraph, despite a PIA being required by government policy when a department or agency is dealing with “personal information.”

85. These issues raised in the CSIS context are related to a much broader consideration: namely, the extent to which the government’s overarching policy document, the Standard on Security Screening, provides adequate guidance for departments and agencies when they implement this safeguarding measure. For example, this standard requires the use of the polygraph for all ETS clearances, but it is silent on any guidance on the implementation of this requirement, including the conditions for the reasonable use of the polygraph. Rather, such key considerations are left to the discretion of specific departments and agencies.

86. The OPC has also raised concerns with TBS as to how the polygraph examination is used as an enhanced screening requirement under the 2014 Standard on Security Screening. In July 2017 correspondence, for example, the OPC noted particular concerns surrounding its effectiveness, sensitivity and privacy implications, and the potential adverse consequences associated with polygraph examinations.

87. These contemporary observations are not new. In seven consecutive annual reports, ranging from 1985–86 to 1991–92, SIRC requested that CSIS stop using the polygraph. One of the key concerns raised by successive committees were SIRC’s “grave doubts” about the use of the technology, pointing to the fact that test results could be wrong 10% of the time or more. As well, Canadian courts have refused to admit the results of a polygraph as evidence in criminal trials. The Supreme Court of Canada has found that they are unreliable and risky, and would not assist the Court in determining a person’s guilt or innocence.

88. After consideration of the foregoing, on December 12, 2019, NSIRA sent a letter to TBS seeking access to the legal advice prepared for Treasury Board on how the polygraph complies with Canadian legal requirements, as well as a summary of the evidentiary basis used to establish the requirement for using the polygraph, and any assessments of how the use of the polygraph achieves its intended goal. The TBS response failed to answer NSIRA’s questions. However, the letter did acknowledge that the next round of security policy modifications was under way.

89. When SIRC recommended in 1985 that CSIS should cease using the polygraph, it was meant to allow the government time to reach definitive conclusions about whether this technique should be employed by Canadian agencies and, if so, under what circumstances and under what rules. SIRC requested what sound government policy instruments should always require: namely, that there are consistent approaches across government; that risks are managed; and that policies exhibit public service values such as probity, prudence, equity and transparency. NSIRA has not been provided with evidence that suggests that the use of the polygraph meets all of these policy requirements. To this end, future reviews will examine the polygraph’s use outside of CSIS, and based on the information assessed, NSIRA will make a definitive determination about the legality and utility of this instrument.

Former Head of RCMP Polygraph Unit Opposes Polygraph Screening

Charles Momy
Canadian Police Association president Charles Momy

Kudos to Charles Momy, the former head of the RCMP polygraph unit who now serves as president of the Canadian Police Association for his public opposition to polygraph screening. Momy’s criticism comes in the wake of a decision by the Quebec City municipal police to implement pre-employment polygraph screening. Marianne White reports for Postmedia News (excerpt):

QUEBEC — The president of the Canadian Police Association is questioning the decision of a police force to ask recruits to take a lie-detector test before they are hired.

Quebec City municipal police has hired a private company to conduct a polygraph in order to improve screening for drug use.

CPA president Charles Momy, who headed the RCMP polygraph unit for seven years, said these tests are not 100 per cent reliable and it’s the reason why they are not admissible in court.

“You could be eliminating very good candidates because the polygraph is not foolproof,” Momy said in an interview.

He noted the polygraph test can be a useful tool, but stressed when it comes to recruiting the best results can be achieved through a tight interview and investigation process.

“You can obtain probably a lot more information from recruits that way than going the polygraph route. And I say that even as a former polygraph examiner,” said Momy, who heads the association that represents 57,000 police personnel across Canada serving at different levels.

Canada: “Terror Suspect Passed Lie Detector Test, Expert Says”

The following Canadian Press report was published on

Montreal — A polygraph expert testified Monday that he believes suspected sleeper agent Adil Charkaoui told the truth when he denied in a lie detector test having any links to terrorists.

Mr. Charkaoui, who has been in detention since May, 2003, on a national security certificate, was making another attempt in Federal Court to get bail.

Polygraph expert John Galianos told the court he believes Mr. Charkaoui answered all questions truthfully during the Nov. 17 test. Mr. Charkaoui was asked to respond to the federal government’s allegations that he knew al-Qaeda terrorists and trained with them in Afghanistan in the 1990s.

“It is my opinion that Mr. Charkaoui told the truth when he responded to questions pertinent to the inquiry,” Mr. Galianos said. “Mr. Charkaoui had no unusual physical reactions to the questions.”

Mr. Charkaoui, a 31-year-old permanent resident of Canada, was to testify in his own defence later on Monday.

Mr. Galianos acknowledged under cross-examination that polygraph tests are not foolproof.

Under questioning from Justice Department lawyer Daniel Roussy, the former Sûreté du Québec officer said the test’s accuracy depends on the phrasing of the questions.

Mr. Charkaoui was asked five questions during the test: whether he planned to tell the truth, whether he trained in terrorist camps, if he was ever a member of a terrorist network, if he was currently a member of a terrorist network and whether he had ever planned attacks.

He responded “No” to all of the questions, Mr. Galianos said.

But Mr. Roussy pointed out Mr. Charkaoui was never asked whether he had handled firearms or if he knew people who may have committed violent acts.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Roussy said the test result would have no effect on the government’s position.

“He still represents a danger to the Canadian public and he’s a threat.”

The government suspects Mr. Charkaoui of being an agent who could be activated by al-Qaeda at any time.

A final decision on whether to deport him to his native Morocco still has to be made.

Under the security-certificate rules, the federal government can hold suspects – and eventually deport them – without disclosing the evidence it has against them. Suspects’ lawyers are also denied a chance to cross-examine government representatives.

The Federal Court of Appeal recently upheld the constitutionality of the security-certificate process, saying individual rights must sometimes be suspended to preserve national security and protect Canadians’ safety.

Not only are polygraph “tests” not foolproof, as polygrapher John Galianos conceded, but they have no scientific basis whatsoever. It is worth noting that the Encyclopedia of Jihad, a training manual for Al-Qaeda insurgents, explains that the lie detector is a sham.

Calgary, Alberta: “Fire Recruits Claim Test Questions Too Kinky”

Linda Slobodian reports for the Calgary Herald:

An investigation is underway to determine if candidates for Calgary Fire Department jobs are being asked — in mandatory polygraph tests — if they have ever had sex with cows or dogs, the city’s fire chief has confirmed.

However, with the investigation barely underway, Wayne Morris has dismissed claims of such questioning as “inaccurate” information.

“This is something that has been built into a war story around the coffee table,” said the chief.

“We haven’t gone the full length of our investigation,” said Morris, who added he expects it to be wrapped up within a month.

Herald sources claim candidates are subjected to detailed questioning about sex with animals, as well as “invasive” questions such as: “Have you ever masturbated in public places?” Or: “Have you ever become aroused while changing a baby’s diaper?”

At least one candidate allegedly left the lie detector sessions, which can last anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours, in tears.

The Calgary Firefighters Association raised concerns about this line of questioning with the department last fall, said president Scott Wilcox.

“This is a consistent, methodical theme all the way through all of the interviews that we’ve done. We have questioned almost everybody that has been through this thing,” said Wilcox.

“It appears that the threshold question in sexual issues relates to: ‘Have you ever had sex illegally?’ It means with animals. It means with underage children. It means in inappropriate or public places. It means with prostitutes. They say it — out loud,” he said.

“I cannot think of any circumstances where a firefighter would be in a position where they would be alone with a child, alone with a member of the public, alone anywhere. We work in teams.”

Aside from this line of questioning, the firefighters association has opposed parts of the polygraph test that delve into areas including credit history, gang affiliations, spousal abuse and drug and alcohol problems. These are the subjects of questions listed on “personal history statements” that job candidates must answer.

“Lie detectors and personal disclosure are unreasonable, intrusive, unproductive and destructive to morale. We have a problem with this practice, and we’ll take that up with management in the same spirit of co-operation that we’ve always used,” said Wilcox, adding the union and department have a good working relationship.

Department employees can be disciplined, and possibly fired, if they speak to the media on policy issues.

Applicants to the Calgary Police Service must take a polygraph. EMS applicants do not. Fire department job applicants are given polygraph tests and videotaped by Cochrane-based Rocky Mountain Polygraph and Investigation Services Ltd., operated by former city police officer Rick Patzer. The tapes remain in Rocky Mountain’s possession. Citing privacy issues, the department has chosen to rely on the investigation of hired consultant Gail Skeet, a former city police officer, who refrains from asking newly hired recruits, who are still on probation, pointed questions about cows, dogs and masturbation.

“She’s not to put words in their mouth,” said Morris, who added viewing the videotapes “may be an option” in the future. They can be viewed only if the recruit requests it and signs a consent form.

“There’s a certain privacy component. It’s not something we want to do. We all have skeletons in our closets,” said Skeet.

She said she is convinced such lines of questioning do not occur.

Acting on one complaint, police polygraph expert Det. Wally Musker reviewed one tape “and found nothing that was inappropriate as far as questions go,” said Skeet.

In an effort to get their opinions on the controversial polygraph testing, Skeet has begun to interview 71 probationary recruits from 2003. She has interviewed five so far and plans to interview another four today.

“If an applicant has a grievance, we’d like to know what it is,” she said. “We’re doing what we can with the limited information we have. The investigation is based on what they tell us.”

Skeet said she’s heard “through the rumour mill” the claim that a distasteful question involving a dog, peanut butter and genitals is asked.

She defended such a question, if examined in context, saying it “may come up.”

“One question leads to another,” she said.

“The tester might say, ‘This is what other people have told us. . . .’ ” said Skeet, who added she is a “very strong proponent” of polygraph testing.

Why sexual questions? “They speak to character. They speak to very serious unlawful acts,” she said.

Polygraph testing was implemented after former Calgary firefighter Douglas Henry Eastaugh was charged with several pimping-related offences following police raids on his home, the fire hall where he worked and an escort agency. His trial is expected to begin next month.

Morris said recruiting problems arose after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted a flood of poor job candidates.

“Are they a fit? Are they honest? Are these people you would trust with your own children? We’re in and out of private property and homes with access to everything on a daily and nightly basis,” said Morris.

If a sexual inquisition with a polygraph is appropriate for firefighters, then why not then for all municipal employees? For discussion of the issues raised in this article, see the message thread, Calgary Fire Fighters Poly Saga Continues.

Canada: “Cops Praise New Lie-Detector”

Ajay Bhardwaj reports for the Edmonton Sun.

Cops and the City of Camrose are lauding a new lie-detector-type tool even though critics say it gives police the power to intimidate people accused of committing crimes.

The computer voice-stress analyser (CVSA), which purports to pick up tremors in the voice when a person is lying, is already in use by the Camrose Police Service. Cops say it’s another investigational tool.

“If you didn’t do anything wrong, there’s nothing to worry about,” said Camrose Mayor Norman Mayer. “I suppose it would be intimidating if you did something wrong because you know that something’s going to show up. But maybe you should be intimidated if you’re causing problems.”

Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff of the Edmonton Police Association agreed.

“The results can lead you to other avenues for investigation,” said Ratcliff. “There’s probably been a lot of people who’ve confessed on a polygraph because they feel pressure they put upon themselves. I don’t see this thing going any farther than the polygraph right now. I think it’s a good idea. “

It’s another one of those things that we have to use to get evidence to solve crimes. It’s intimidating if you’ve done something.”

Smaller police departments are using the $10,000 US tool, which many say is more accurate than a polygraph.

But Sanjeev Anand, a professor of criminal law at the University of Alberta, said any evidence gained from a CVSA test wouldn’t be admissible in court.

“It’s one possible tool but if it’s not probitive enough to be admissible in court you wonder how much they should be relying on it, even in their investigations,” said Anand.

Ratcliff said anyone who is convicted using a CVSA is likely to challenge it in court.

Camrose Mayor Norman Mayer is either woefully misinformed, a fool, or both if he truly believes that “if you didn’t do anything wrong, there’s nothing to worry about.” Voice stress analysis, like polygraphy, has no scientific basis whatsoever. See the CVSA and Other Voice Stress Analysis Applications forum of the message board for further discussion of this pseudoscience.

Canada: “Lie Detector ‘Useful Interrogation Prop'” reports:

VANCOUVER (CP) – Lie detector technology less costly than controversial polygraphs is catching on among smaller Canadian police forces, scaring some doctors who say it’s even less reliable.

The computerized voice stress analyser (CVSA), which purports to pick up tremors in the voice when a person is lying, “isn’t more than 50 per cent accurate,” said University of Toronto psychiatrist John Furedy.

“It is however, a very useful interrogation prop.”

The device was in the news this week for helping to cause another scandal within the Vancouver Police Department.

A Vancouver police officer who took a CVSA test in a job interview with another force admitted to lying under oath in a criminal trial, keeping goods that should have been turned in and withholding information about possible brutality by other officers.

To use this high-tech method of lie detection, the person being interviewed speaks into a microphone and software, run on a laptop, measures voice modulations.

The problem, Furedy said, is the operators of these machines don’t really know what they’re measuring.

“Voice can vary for a number of reasons and we don’t know whether it’s relative to certain stimuli or not,” he said.

The CVSA can be used on taped interviews and claims to give officers fresh leads on cold cases.

The $10,000 US device is used by more than 1,000 law enforcement and government agencies south of the border, and recently Canadian forces have been buying it, said a spokesman for its manufacturer, the National Institute for Truth Verification.

In the past two years departments in Lethbridge and Camrose, Alta., Edmunston and Rothsay, N.B., Vancouver and Saanich, B.C., in the Victoria area, have purchased the system from the West Palm Beach, Fla., company.

“Canada just recently started to really get involved,” said executive director David Hughes.

Hughes said the company only sells the CVSA to law enforcement and government agencies and has buyers sign a contract prohibiting them from passing the equipment on to anyone else.

There are fears that it could fall into the hands of organized criminals and be used on suspected undercover officers.

People taking the test don’t have to be hooked up to the machine, as is the case with a polygraph, and therefore wouldn’t know it was being performed on them unless told.

Marshall Chalmers, chief of the Camrose police force, said his investigators always inform people being tested because they have the right to refuse it.

“We say, OK, if you’re really telling the truth, prove it to us,” he said.

Chalmers said that in the first six months after purchasing the CVSA last August, it was used to solve 42 criminal cases.

“That’s a dramatic increase. It’s an integral part of our operation now.”

He said people have been brought in on charges and in the course of their CVSA test, other crimes they had committed came to light.

Before buying the device, Camrose police had to share a $20,000 polygraph machine with a number of municipal organizations. Only suspects of major crimes were eligible and there was a three-week wait list.

“That gave the suspects plenty of time to change their minds about taking the test,” Chalmers said.

The chief read about the CVSA in a police magazine and ordered one of his officers to research its effectiveness.

“This is leading edge technology and it is advancing quickly across the U.S.,” Chalmers said.

“We talked to numerous departments that are using it and were convinced of its accuracy. The CVSA is 100 per cent accurate. With the polygraph, there’s a grey area.”

Furedy said “it’s pretty scary” that police have that kind of faith in the machine.

“It’s a sign of a fundamentally superstitious society, certainly here in North America. The reality is that you can never determine with 100 per cent accuracy whether someone is telling the truth.”

Lie-detection devices are a scare tactic he said, that can sometimes push people into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit.

He has testified at many criminal trials and convinced juries to throw out such admissions.

One was the trial of a 74-year old crossing guard who was accused of molesting a girl. He was under accusation for a month and his community was suspicious of him, Furedy said.

He failed the test and in a post-exam interview that lasted several hours Furedy said the man got so angry he confessed in order to put an end to the questions.

“He just wanted to get out of there and figured he would talk to his lawyer and sort it out.”

The confession was eventually thrown out and the man was found not guilty.

Furedy said all lie-detection tests are subjective and results vary depending on the way the questions are worded and the relationship the interviewer has with the interviewee.

Saanich Police Insp. John Charlton, who heads the department’s detective division, said he only uses the CVSA to point him in the right direction.

“Every result we’ve gotten through the CVSA we then go out and corroborate with evidence and we’ve found it to be very effective. If there were any credibility issues with the device, we wouldn’t use it.”

Fabricator Michael Hamdani Passed Polygraph, Sent FBI on Wild Goose Chase

The FBI’s nationwide dragnet for suspected terrorist infiltrators was based on an apparently bogus tip from accused Canadian forger Michael Hamdani. In a 3 January 2003 Washington Post article titled “Fake-ID Arrest Led to FBI Hunt,” staff writer John Mintz reported that U.S. and Canadian investigators had questioned Hamdani extensively using polygraph machines. U.S. President George W. Bush authorized a nationwide manhunt for the putative terrorist infiltrators based on Hamdani’s polygraph-confirmed information. But in an 8 January 2003 Washington Post article titled “Wanted: 5 Men — The Terror Alert That Wasn’t,” Ruth Marcus and Dan Eggen report that the tip was bogus. Already, revisionists within the FBI have begun rationalizing the apparent false negative outcome of Hamdani’s polygraph interrogation, assigning blame to the Canadians for a “seriously flawed” polygraph examination.

In a case with as serious national security implications as this one, why didn’t the FBI promptly review the Canadian-administered polygraph examination? According to the Washington Post, U.S. investigators were in Canada. In a high priority case such as this one, surely a “quality control” review could have been completed within 24 hours. But it appears that it was only after Hamdani’s story was called into question by the testimony of a Pakistani jeweler whose picture Hamdani had falsely identified as that of one of the supposed “terrorists” that the FBI found any “problems” with Hamdani’s polygraph examination. Such post hoc rationalizations of erroneous polygraph outcomes are standard fare from the polygraph community. But the real problem is that polygraph “testing” is a pseudoscientific fraud. It has no scientific basis whatsoever, and unless the subject makes a confession or admission, the polygrapher can only guess as to whether he is telling the truth.

For discussion of the Hamdani case, see the message board thread, US-Wide Manhunt Hoax Based on Polygraph.

“Calgary to Use Lie Detectors to Test Would-Be Firefighters”

Dawn Walton reports for the Globe and Mail. This short article is cited here in full:

CALGARY — Calgary firefighter recruits will be put through the paces their crime-fighting counterparts have been subjected to for years — polygraph tests.

Polygraph machines, popularly known as lie detectors, are used when recruits are being interviewed by fire departments in the United States, but it is believed this will be a first in Canada, Calgary Fire Department Captain John Conley said.

“What we’re trying to do here is just make sure that our background checks, our references and stuff like that are 100-per-cent accurate,” he said. “This is one way of assuring that.”

The machines, long used by governments and law-enforcement agencies around the world, measure breathing, perspiration rate and blood pressure to determine subjects’ truthfulness when answering questions.

Questions to be asked of would-be Calgary firefighters are not yet determined. The department plans to work with the polygraph unit at the Calgary Police Service to administer the tests, Capt. Conley said.

Some U.S. fire departments have embraced the machines to ward off lawsuits between employers when false resumé information is provided for background checks.

Calgary has considered using polygraph machines for about a year but not because it wants to avoid legal action, Capt. Conley said. Rather, the city wants to discover whether a recruit has a propensity to fib, he said.

However, Calgary has decided to use the polygraph as the technology is coming under fire. The American Academy of Sciences recently concluded that the tests are inaccurate, vague and flawed. Researchers attributed part of the blame for the faulty test results to too-high thresholds set by interrogators.

The U.S. government sponsored the study, and its authors are pushing politicians to phase out the machines’ use. But some police forces balk at that.

Calgary fire officials said that next year the polygraph tests would become part of its five-month application and testing procedure for recruits. Would-be firefighters will be told about the tests up front.

Calgary, Alberta: “Recruits Face Lie Detector”

Peter Smith reports for the Calgary Sun. Excerpt:

All potential firefighter recruits in Calgary in future must take a lie detector test to prove their credentials are genuine before they can join the department.

Following a practice carried out by several fire departments in the U.S., Calgary will introduce the polygraph as the first specialized equipment recruits will encounter.

“This is all part of our reference checking system,” said Fire Capt. John Conley.

“In the States, they had some incidents where information recorded on applications wasn’t accurate, so the polygraph is being introduced to make sure applicants are being truthful.”

Conley said the fire department was working with city police introducing the lie detector tests.

Although the next set of recruits in Calgary will be the first being required to take the polygraph, the preparations getting it in place have been under way for a long time, said Conley.

“Our recruits are always of a very high standard, and using the polygraph will ensure we continue to get the best of the best,” he said.

Conley denied the timing of the introduction of the lie detector test had any connection with a scandal which broke last week when the Sun revealed a then-serving firefighter — who has since resigned — was charged with prostitution and pimping charges.

Former firefighter Doug Eastaugh, 37, resigned after being charged with 10 pimping-related offences in connection with an escort agency.

Eastaugh told the Sun his resignation wasn’t an indication of guilt, but an effort on his part to maintain the integrity of the fire department.

“Preparations for the introduction of the polygraph were under way long before that incident, and there is no link whatever between the two,” said Conley.

Recruits wishing to join the Calgary Police Service have been required to take lie detector tests for many years.

Canada: “The Truth About Mountie Wannabees: Finding the Main Drawback as RCMP Ponders Using Polygraph Tests to Help Get the Straight Goods on Recruits”

John Steinbachs reports for the Ottawa Sun. Excerpt:

Every year, thousands of hopeful RCMP recruits face a battery of tests and background checks in their quest to wear the red serge.

Now, the federal police force is considering using lie detectors to make sure recruits have the integrity to be a Mountie.

Internal proposals to make the polygraph test a mandatory part of the RCMP hiring process have been put forward to RCMP senior management, although one of the major stumbling blocks appears to be funding concerns.

If approved, the task of screening new RCMP applicants would be the largest polygraph program ever attempted in Canada.

The Mounties are looking to hire about 1,000 officers a year for the next several years. To get that many qualified candidates, the force might need to test 2,500 applicants a year, says Staff Sgt. Bob McMillan, head of the RCMP’s truth verification section.

He believes the number of applicants will remain high until word of the polygraph test spreads.

“When people start realizing the program is there, unsuitable people will probably drop off,” McMillan says.

As in all pre-employment polygraph examinations, the test would not be used to draw out admissions from candidates, but to ensure candidates are telling the truth about their lives.

“We need to know people are going to be truthful up front in the application process, because that’s what gives us the confidence that people are going to also be truthful when it comes to things like court,” says McMillan.

“I’d like to see it up and running tomorrow. It’s very big, and it’s all really dependent on when and if the funds are released to us. Once they’re released we’ll be able to put things into high gear.”


The force will likely have to contract out some of the testing, but McMillan says there are many highly qualified polygraphers in Canada who would likely be available for the job.

“We’ve been looking at it for a number of years and it’s just taken this long to get our ducks in a row and get over all the issues that have been brought forward by the legal people.”

If the RCMP goes forward with the polygraph proposal, it will be joining police forces in eastern and western provinces that already use the test to ensure the truthfulness of candidates. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service also uses the tests.

In Ontario, the use of polygraph tests on police candidates contravenes the Employment Standards Act.

The Calgary Police Service was one of the first forces to introduce the polygraph as a pre-employment test 31 years ago. Both sworn officers and civilian employees must be given a test before they can be hired.

Calgary police conduct about 450 tests every year, says Det. Wally Musker, one of the polygraphers who carries out the three-and-a-half-hour tests.

“I think we do more in Canada than anyone,” says Musker. “What we’re dealing with is people who have been screened through 14 prior (employment screening) steps and then what we do is provide them with a polygraph test to verify the information they’ve provided throughout the hiring process.”

Long before the polygraph is administered, test applicants must pass through several checks including physical, psychological and criminal. They are also required to answer a series of questions about everything from traffic tickets to drug use.

They’re also asked whether they believe they have ever committed an offence for which they have not been convicted.

“The questions are very specific; there’s nothing left up to chance,” says Musker, who also trains others in how to administer pre-employment tests.

Despite polygrapher Wally Musker’s representations to the contrary, relying on pseudoscientific polygraph “testing” is leaving a lot to chance.