Conservatives call for ‘robust plan’ on alleged Chinese interference in Canada

By Rachel Gilmore Global News
Posted November 8, 2022 12:51 pm
Updated November 8, 2022 3:44 pm

WATCH: China allegedly interfered in 2019 Canadian election

The Conservatives are calling on the government to come up with a “robust plan” to counter China’s alleged foreign interference in Canada, following a Global News report that Canadian intelligence officials have warned of covert activity by Beijing during the 2019 election campaign.

Global News reported on Monday that Canadian intelligence officials have warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that China has allegedly been targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference, which includes funding a clandestine network of at least 11 federal candidates running in the 2019 election.

“Conservatives are extremely troubled by a recent media report that Canada has been a target of extensive foreign interference by Beijing in the 2019 election,” Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

“It’s long past time for the Trudeau government to come forward with a robust plan to counter Beijing’s foreign interference operations here on Canadian soil.”

Delivered to the prime minister and several cabinet members in a series of briefings and memos first presented in January, the allegations reported on by Global News included other detailed examples of Beijing’s efforts to further its influence and, in turn, subvert Canada’s democratic process, sources said.

Based on recent information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), those efforts allegedly involve payments through intermediaries to candidates affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), placing agents in the offices of MPs in order to influence policy, seeking to co-opt and corrupt former Canadian officials to gain leverage in Ottawa, and mounting aggressive campaigns to punish Canadian politicians whom the People’s Republic of China (PRC) views as threats to its interests.

CSIS told Global News it could not answer some questions for this story. But the service confirmed it has identified the PRC’s foreign interference in Canada, which can include covert funding to influence election outcomes.

“The Chinese Communist Party … is using all elements of state power to carry out activities that are a direct threat to our national security and sovereignty,” CSIS stated.

The briefings did not identify the 2019 candidates. But the alleged election interference network included members from both the Liberal and Conservative parties, according to sources with knowledge of the briefs.

Global News was not able to confirm from the sources which cabinet ministers may have been privy to the briefs nor the specific timing of the information being reportedly shared.

Chief among the allegations is that CSIS reported that China’s Toronto consulate directed a large clandestine transfer of funds to a network of at least 11 federal election candidates and numerous Beijing operatives who worked as their campaign staffers.

The funds were allegedly transferred through an Ontario provincial MPP and a federal election candidate staffer. Separate sources aware of the situation said a CCP proxy group, acting as an intermediary, transferred around $250,000.

The 2022 briefs said some, but not all, members of the alleged network are witting affiliates of the Chinese Communist Party. The intelligence did not conclude whether CSIS believes the network successfully influenced the October 2019 election results, sources say.

CSIS can capture its findings through warrants that allow electronic interception of communications among Chinese consulate officials and Canadian politicians and staffers.

“It’s clear that Beijing spread disinformation in the 2021 federal election campaign through proxies that negatively affected Conservative campaigns in several ridings,” Chong wrote in his statement.

“It’s also clear in indictments unsealed in U.S. court that Beijing’s agents are operating here on Canadian soil, coercing people to go back to the People’s Republic of China … by threatening their families in the PRC.”

Chong added that the unsealed indictments suggest China’s agents in the U.S. have “pressured U.S. residents to travel to Toronto for more intensive interrogation,” something the Conservative MP said suggests “that the PRC views Canada as a safe haven for more intensive operations.”

“More recently, reports have revealed the presence of three illegal PRC police stations operating in Toronto and surrounding areas,” Chong added.

READ MORE: The RCMP is investigating Chinese ‘police’ stations in Canada. Here’s what to know

“We now find out that CSIS has concluded that Beijing corrupted political financing laws and interfered in the 2019 election. But to our knowledge, the government has not expelled anyone for these interference operations in Canada, nor has anyone been criminally charged.”

The biggest victim of these tactics, Chong said, is the Chinese community.

“The Trudeau government must do more to protect the Chinese community from the PRC’s threats, and to protect Canadian democracy,” he said.

Speaking on Monday, Trudeau told reporters that the government has taken “significant measures to strengthen the integrity of our elections processes and our systems.”

“We’ll continue to invest in the fight against election interference, against foreign interference of our democracy and institutions,” Trudeau said.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing countries, state actors from around the world, whether it’s China or others, are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”

According to Reuters, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Tuesday that Canada should stop making remarks that the spokesperson said hurt relations with China.

“The relationship between countries can only be built on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and China-Canada relations are no exception,” said spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

“China is not interested in Canada’s internal affairs,” Zhao added.

— with files from Global News’ Sam Cooper and Aaron D’Andrea and Reuters

Conservatives call for ‘robust plan’ on alleged Chinese interference in Canada

New report adds to years of warnings about Beijing’s meddling in Canadian politics: activists, experts
Despite the warnings from Canada’s intelligence agency, federal government has not taken action against China

Author of the article:Tom Blackwell
Publishing date:Nov 08, 2022 • 6 hours ago • 4 minute read • 119 Comments

Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu says he lost his seat because of China’s interference in the 2021 federal election. PHOTO BY JASON PAYNE/POSTMEDIA/FILE

A Canadian Security Intelligence Service boss calls out an unnamed foreign government and its influence over at least two provincial cabinet ministers, the meddling nation eventually identified as China.

The revelation sparks debate and much criticism for the CSIS director. The one minister publicly identified is allowed to stay in his job, earning a vote of confidence from the Ontario premier. No other action is taken.

The events unfolded a decade ago but sound remarkably familiar today.

A similar uproar was triggered this week by another media report suggesting CSIS recently alerted the Prime Minister’s Office to an extensive campaign of interference by Beijing in Canadian politics.

Citing unnamed sources, Global News said CSIS alleged that Chinese diplomats had supported 11 candidates in the 2019 federal election, funnelling $250,000 in funding at one point through a sympathetic member of the Ontario legislature.

Community activists and security experts said Tuesday the charges have the ring of truth, echo repeated warnings from the intelligence community — and yet seem unlikely to generate any concrete action in response.

“Most people in the Chinese community are thinking that Chinese influence is so huge, they can say nothing to oppose it,” said Victor Ho, former editor of Sing Tao newspaper’s Vancouver edition. “They cannot say ‘No’ to the Chinese influence, because our government is so weak, so inactive on that foreign influence.”

“I am very pessimistic. So far I have no hope.”


Victor Ho, who is speaking out about the pro-Beijing slant of Chinese-language media in Canada since retiring as editor in chief of the Vancouver edition of Sing Tao, the most-popular Chinese newspaper in this country.
Inside Canada’s Chinese-language media: ‘Beijing has become the mainstream,’ says ex-Sing Tao editor
Zhu Jiang, left, one of the group’s leaders as a young People’s Liberation Army soldier.
Federally funded Canadian group used by China to spread propaganda on Uyghurs: report

Dennis Molinaro, a former national security analyst and now a legal studies professor at Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, said he is barred from divulging what he learned while working in intelligence on the China file.

But from those warnings issued in 2010 by Richard Fadden, then CSIS director, to more recent alerts, it is in some ways nothing new, he said.

“CSIS has raised it repeatedly,” said Molinaro. “We have this situation where … CSIS is warning that these activities are going on and we have no way of stopping them.”

What’s needed is not just talk and hand wringing but legislation to counter foreign interference, he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did respond relatively strongly to the Global report this week, condemning China and others.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing countries, state actors from around the world, whether it’s China or others, are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”

But there’s little sign the government plans, for instance, to institute a foreign-agent registry like those in the U.S. and Australia, or anti-foreign influence legislation like Australia’s.

And China reacted with predictable disapproval, a government spokesman urging Trudeau to stop making comments that hurt relations between the countries.

While the extent of Beijing’s meddling in Canadian politics can be debated, the fact it happens seems undeniable. After coming to power, for instance, Chinese President Xi Jinping greatly expanded the United Front Work Department, the Chinese Communist Party branch charged with covertly extending Beijing’s reach overseas.

While it uses proxy groups to promote its views on controversial issues like Tibet, the Uyghurs and Taiwan, the organization also eyes the political process itself. A leaked handbook for United Front cadres even touted the fact that the number of politicians of Chinese descent elected in Toronto had almost doubled between 2003 and 2006, and urged officials to “work with” them.

Certain Canadian politicians — like a current Ontario provincial politician who attended a Beijing-run workshop for diaspora leaders in China nine years ago — are known for their close ties to Beijing.

Kenny Chiu, a Conservative MP who lost his seat in last year’s election, championed a foreign agent registry bill while in Parliament. He and others believe it prompted a flood of disinformation and smears on Chinese-language social media that spelled his downfall.

Karen Woods, a prominent figure in the Toronto area’s Chinese-Canadian community, has seen both sides. She once worked for a lobby group that represented the city’s China consulate, but says her views on the country have changed. As co-founder of the Canadian Chinese Political Affairs Committee, she issued a handbook for Chinese voters in Ontario’s recent municipal elections, outlining among other facts the candidates’ past ties to Beijing.

She believes the recent allegations are true, but questions whether the money and other support for certain candidates had much impact.

“I wouldn’t think China is very successful in influencing Canadian politics,” said Woods Tuesday. “I mean, 92 per cent of Canadians now have a very negative view of China.”

Still, she believes Canada should be more vigilant, a view shared by other critics of China’s behaviour.

Molinaro said implementing a foreign agent registry is the minimum step Canada should take, but also argued laws need to change to allow CSIS to share its findings with more than just the government, and to make it a crime to work covertly for another nation.

He also favours holding a Royal Commission to flush out all the facts about foreign interference in Canadian politics.

That’s something recommended as well by Ho, who is a friend of former MP Chiu. He favours anti-interference legislation, too, and says top Chinese diplomats should be expelled if the Global charges are proven true.

Not only does the interference threaten Canada’s sovereignty, but it could undermine its relationship with other members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance — the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand, said Molinaro.

“They are going to start looking at us as a security risk,” he said. “And for us, that is a real problem.”