Daphne Bramham: Muslims and Sikhs of Indian descent want Canada to do more to protect them

Of note:

Like Canadians of Chinese, Uyghur, Tibetan, Russian and Iranian descent, organizations representing the Indian diaspora say their members have been subject to foreign intimidation and have seen evidence of India attempting to interfere in elections here.

They’re urging Canada to set up a foreign agents registry and add India to the list of governments exerting undue influence here.

“Canada’s racialized communities are simultaneously some of the most targeted — and vulnerable — for foreign interference, intimidation and harassment in pursuit of securing the policy objectives of foreign states,” says a March report released by the B.C. Gurdwaras Council and the Ontario Gurdwaras Committee.

That’s echoed in a joint report by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the World Sikh Organization of Canada, also released in March.

While the reports are aimed at raising awareness, they also underscore just how complicated the issues of foreign interference and diaspora politics are.

The World Sikh Organization has been linked to the Sikh separatist movement. As recently as 2018, “Sikh extremism” was mentioned in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service annual assessment of domestic terror threats. The reference to Sikh extremism was later removed because it “unintentionally maligned certain communities.”

During Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India in 2018, concerns were repeatedly raised about Sikh separatists in Canada, and included the four Sikhs in his cabinet.

It’s a link so deeply embedded in the Indian consciousness that after a father was stabbed to death outside a Vancouver Starbucks last week and Inderdeep Singh Gosal was arrested, a Delhi-based journalist tweeted — without evidence — that it was “a shocking murder by a Khalistani radical.” Other Indian media websites posted similar descriptions.

The two March reports blame the continued stereotyping of Sikhs and Muslims on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-first policies and its attempt to spread its message to the Hindu diaspora through a network of organizations aligned with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Since the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014, human rights groups have raised concerns about the erosion of civil rights, arbitrary detention of activists, journalists and critics, and the use of counterterrorism laws to silence dissent.

In 2022, Amnesty International reported that the Indian government “selectively and viciously cracked down on religious minorities, and explicit advocacy of hatred by political leaders and public officials towards them was commonplace and went unpunished.”

It noted that “punitive demolitions of Muslim family homes and businesses were carried out with impunity.” Peaceful protests were treated as a threat to public order, and minority and marginalized communities continued to face violence and entrenched discrimination.

The joint Muslim and Sikh report alleges the Indian government — through its diplomats and an expanding network of aligned organizations — is attempting to spread the message through “bold and often public stereotyping of Muslims and Sikhs as anti-Indian, anti-Canadian, and Hindu-phobic terrorists working to discredit the BJP’s reputation and accomplishments across the world.”

The gurdwaras report echoes that concern, alleging that Indian diplomats and intelligence agencies are trying to “persuade Canadian policymakers to criminalize and prosecute Sikh political advocacy in Canada under the guise of ‘countering extremism.’”

Among the evidence cited of Indian government interference is a CSIS document filed in a 2018 immigration case. Global News reported in 2020 that CSIS said the Indian citizen, an editor known only by his initials, was involved in espionage.

It said he attempted to sway politicians into supporting Indian government interests following more than two dozen meetings in Canada with agents from India’s two main intelligence branches.

Since 2014, the joint Sikh and Muslim report says, there has been a rapid expansion of both the radical Hindu nationalist network called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is listed on the American’s registry of foreign agents.

In 2018, the Canadian Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its chapters in B.C., Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario changed their name to Canada India Global Forum.

According to the forum’s website, its mission is to “utilize the Indo-Canadian diaspora in Canada to help promote and strengthen the economic, bicultural and political ties.”

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh played a key role in Modi’s party winning successive majorities in 2014 and 2019. Quotes from its founders and early leaders citing Nazi Germany as an inspiration are included in the report. It warns that the Indian government’s nationalist policies pit Hindus against other religious minorities and that message is being exported here.

It also says that the “sectarian, discriminatory, and often hateful antipathy toward those framed by RSS and Hindutva ideology as enemies … pose a direct threat to Muslim and Sikh communities, as well as to the social fabric of Canada.”

It singles out Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh as part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Canadian network, noting that photos on the group’s Facebook page include images of some of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s earliest leaders “often strewn with flowers.”

Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is a tax-exempt charity with 25 Canadian chapters or shakhas including some operating out of public schools in Ontario.

According to the its website, it encourages “maintaining Hindu cultural identity in harmony with the larger community” through structured programs of regular athletic and academic activities that develop leadership skills “emphasizing values such as self-discipline, self-confidence and a spirit of selfless service for humanity.”

Coincident to foreign interference in Canada widely discussed last month, hundreds of people gathered in Vancouver outside the Indian consulate and rallied in Prince George to protest mass arrests, internet and mobile phone shutdowns in Punjab as police hunt for activist Amritpal Singh.

Singh has been described as the leader of a renewed Sikh separatist movement and is being sought by police for attempted murder, obstruction of law enforcement and creating disharmony.

If this is a harbinger of rising Sikh separatist sentiment in Canada, Canada will have to respond, adding a further complication to the knotty problem of protecting Canadians from foreign interference, while also ensuring all citizens’ right to speak freely and be free from discrimination.

Source: Daphne Bramham: Muslims and Sikhs of Indian descent want Canada to do more to protect them

‘Nobody in the Chinese Canadian diaspora was surprised’: Diaspora communities balance fears of foreign meddling with political organizing

Of note:

As revelations continue to surface about interference by the Chinese government in recent Canadian elections, Canada’s diaspora communities say they’ve been warning about this issue for years.

They also insist that their communities have every right to organize politically and influence policy at every level of government and hope the recent revelations don’t cast a pall over these efforts.

Many members of the Chinese community said they had been warning government and security officials about foreign political interference from the Chinese government for years. 

“I can say with confidence that nobody in the Chinese Canadian diaspora was surprised at all when Global News first broke the story,” says Karen Woods, a co-founder of the Canadian Chinese Political Affairs Committee, a Toronto-based non-profit. 

Workers at the Chinese consulate in Toronto helped mobilize Chinese-Canadian voters to vote for Liberal candidate Han Dong in the riding of Don Valley North, according to recent reporting by Global News. Also reported were similar actions on behalf of the Chinese government in B.C. that contributed to the defeats of Conservative incumbents Alice Wong and Kenny Chiu in their Richmond ridings.

A string of stories by Global News and the Globe & Mail paint a picture of an intricate interference network set up by Chinese government actors to influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections to ensure a Liberal victory. 

Calgary-based political scientist and Hub contributor Rahim Mohamed believes diaspora politics are organized to obtain greater cultural recognition within a country, or to influence a country’s foreign policy towards the “homeland,” which he notes is the right of any Canadian. 

“It may be an unseemly sort of politics to some, but it generally falls within the bounds of legitimate democratic activity,” says Mohamed. “If the recent intelligence leaks are to be believed, this is a clear-cut case of a hostile foreign power meddling in our democratic process, which is a totally different ball game.” 

Nonetheless, Mohamed believes diaspora politics can open the door to foreign interference in democratic elections.

“New Canadians have democratic rights just like all other Canadians. If they want to mobilize organically to influence public policy, I take no issue with that,” says Mohamed. “The challenge for policymakers will be dealing with the opportunities these diaspora networks give interloping foreign powers to meddle in our democratic processes.” 

With over 300,000 Cantonese speakers, 500,000 Mandarin speakers, and families that arrived last year or five generations ago, Woods says the Chinese-Canadian community is far too diverse to ever be fully under the sway of the Chinese government. 

“The Chinese-Canadian diaspora consists of people who have settled in Canada for more than five generations or people like me, who came to Canada at 12,” says Woods, who says most Chinese Canadians do not like the Chinese government. “We are no different than your everyday Canadian…we certainly are part of Team Canada.” 

Within the Chinese-Canadian community, Woods says some fault lines have developed between those whose families have lived in Canada for decades and new arrivals, as well as those born in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Mainland, or outside China. 

“Based on these factors, your attitude toward Beijing and the CCP is going to be very different. And that is why you now have HK, Taiwanese voters that will never vote for a mainland candidate in elections,” says Woods. 

However, Woods says the Chinese government’s influence has helped silence divergent points of view on Hong Kong’s anti-extradition movement and the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in western China. 

Hong Kong-born Canadians and residents, and pro-democracy activists more generally, are often confronted by supporters of the Chinese government when conducting demonstrations in cities like Vancouver and Toronto.

At the height of the 2019 anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong, crowds of pro-democracy and pro-Chinese government demonstrators at a busy Vancouver intersection had to be physically separated by the police

Kash Heed, a city councillor in Richmond, where over half of the population is of Chinese descent, says that diaspora communities have attempted to influence Canada’s relations with their ancestral homelands for hundreds of years, and this is present in every democracy. He says there is a marked distinction between members of a diaspora community attempting to influence Canadian politics and a foreign government directly interfering in Canadian elections. 

“If I can directly relate it to a foreign government, I don’t have a strong indication that they’re actively involved in it (electoral interference),” says Heed. “If I could relate it to foreigners that have come to Canada (and) that have settled in Canada, trying to influence which way we go, yes absolutely,” says Heed. 

When the Chinese government does target the diaspora in Canada, Woods says it is mostly the Mandarin-speaking community from Mainland China. 

“A large percentage of the Chinese Mainland diaspora certainly still supports Beijing, but I would also like to add that is not necessarily an ideologically driven affinity to the CCP,” says Woods, who notes there are many economic interests at play with China being Canada’s second-largest trading partner. “That adds a lot of weight.”  

Mohamed says one example of diaspora politics was the political shift of the Chinese-Australian community in the country’s 2022 federal election. 

Pointing out that Australian electoral districts with the largest Chinese-Australian populations swung heavily towards the Labor Party, Mohamed says it was reported as a response to the Liberal-National government’s deteriorating relationship with China. 

Labor, which ultimately unseated the Liberal-National government, has pursued a more moderate relationship with Beijing but has not reneged on regional security agreements aimed at countering China’s geopolitical ambitions in the Pacific region.

Source: ‘Nobody in the Chinese Canadian diaspora was surprised’: Diaspora communities balance fears of foreign meddling with political organizing 

Amal Attar-Guzman: Diaspora communities in Canada are an incredible asset—if only we would take them seriously

The one point missing from this analysis is the divisions within the various diaspora communities. Members in most communities have diverse interests and viewpoints and thus the question of “who to take seriously” is not as straightforward as it may appear.

In the case of China, it appears the government was too cozy with Chinese Canadians who were more aligned with the Chinese regime than Chinese Canadians who were more independent:

China’s foreign interference in Canadian democracy has been the hot topic these past few weeks. The Conservatives and Bloc Québécois are demanding a public inquiry to investigate how the last two federal elections were compromised and who in the government knew what and when. 

This is not just a federal issue, either. In Ontario, the Progressive Conservative government has faced own its backlash, with allegations that PC MPP Vincent Ke served as a financial intermediary for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Toronto-area network.1

Canadians have strong feelings on the matter. A recent Angus Reid Institute poll finds that a plurality (40 percent) of Canadians now view China as a potential threat to Canadian interests, while over a quarter (26 percent) say that the Canadian government should proceed cautiously with Beijing. Only 12 percent of Canadians are favourable towards China.  

While the coverage of this story has been extensive and shows no signs of slowing down, one major element has been under-discussed in this affair: the impact on the Asian diaspora and other diaspora communities as a whole. 

Here in Canada, we love commending ourselves for having a pluralistic, open, and inclusive society where people from many parts of the world can live together peacefully and in harmony. Where diversity, famously, is our strength.

While I tend to agree with the premise, how does that shake out in practice? What’s the use of praising ourselves when government officials do not listen to diaspora communities when they are being harmed?

That has been the case in this current scandal, where warnings from the Chinese diaspora of potential foreign interference were not taken seriously. In fact, members of the community reported the issue of Chinese foreign interference as early as 2006. Instead, the Canadian political establishment, both Liberal and Conservative governments, mostly ignored them. 

Because of the severity of the scandal, there have finally been talks of officially setting up a publicly-available foreign influence registry, as outlined by Senate Bill S-237. This bill would require individuals or organizations that have ties with foreign governments to be officially registered,especially in the case where they seek to contact Canadian public officials. It would fall in line with what other allies have done, particularly in the U.S. and Australia

Many are apprehensive of this bill. There have been growing concerns that a foreign influence registry would be used to further incite anti-Asian sentiment in Canada, which has been prevalent in recent years. Over the course of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a 47 percent increase in racist incidents against the Asian community, according to a Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter and Project 1907 survey.

I am sympathetic to these concerns. Racism and xenophobia in times of crisis are not new here in Canada, and can at times be reflected by a political establishment. In fact, sadly, I have been on the other side of such treatment. Being half-Iraqi, I have experienced racist and xenophobic sentiments over the years following America’s invasion of Iraq 20 years ago, despite Canada not officially joining the war.2

But why did these sentiments persist? The answer is in large part because there was little to no national discussion on how these difficult situations impacted our communities, nor did the political establishment of the day care to hear our experiences or insights. And this didn’t just happen to my community. Ask any diaspora community and they’ll have similar stories. 

Dynamics in diaspora communities are complex. For those of you not part of a diaspora, let me paint a picture. Being a part of a diaspora community in Canada is to be living in two worlds. Not only do we operate on a daily basis within the larger local, regional, and national culture of the country that we immigrated or were born into. But many also retain strong communal connections with their respective diaspora community, either with other fellow community members or by maintaining professional, social, or familial ties back in their countries of origin. The WhatsApp groups that many of our older relatives are a part of are no joke. 

Additionally, people within diasporas have complicated relationships among themselves. Social, cultural, or political grievances are often uprooted and replanted in the soil of their new homes.

Diaspora communities are then often stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, given these ties to their countries of origin, diasporas can be threatened by malicious adversarial actors back from their country of origin. This has often been the case with the CCP targeting members of the Chinese-Canadian community.

On the other hand, entire diaspora communities in Canada get chastised by the larger adoptive community and painted as the malicious actors themselves. As a result, many can feel as though they are living in a no man’s land, alienated by both their home country and their adopted country.

But there is a major upside. Because diasporas live and operate in two worlds and are culturally versed, they can provide the essential knowledge and intelligence that can be used to serve and protect Canada and its interests. Diaspora communities are the ace in Canada’s card deck. Their wealth of knowledge is an underutilized resource that Canada can tap into, if only we would listen.

But instead of being taken seriously, diaspora communities tend to be viewed by larger Canadian society in one of two ways: childlike and ignorant or dangerous and distrustful. By placing us in either category and not factoring us into the conversation, we are not seen as living, breathing communities that impact Canadian society at large. Both our issues and, importantly, our insights are ignored.

Thankfully, these last few weeks may be the wake-up call we need. Diaspora communities from the Canadian Coalition for a Foreign Influence Registry (CCFIR) have called on the federal government to start a foreign influence registry that will serve and protect diaspora community members. Hopefully their calls do not go unheeded. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced that there will be public consultations on any foreign agent registry to broadly engage with all Canadians, including the Chinese diaspora and other affected communities.

Ultimately, not actively involving diaspora communities in our policymaking not only does a disservice to Canadian democracy, national security, and our institutions, it puts diaspora communities at risk. If a “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” then those in diaspora communities ready to participate in building this country must be both 1) protected from harmful foreign influence and 2) taken seriously as valuable contributors to our national project.

Would this entire mess have been avoided if prudent care was taken to seriously listen to marginalized members of the Chinese diaspora who were ringing early alarm bells about foreign interference? Maybe, maybe not. But we would be a lot further along in solving this problem than we are right now.

Source: Amal Attar-Guzman: Diaspora communities in Canada are an incredible asset—if only we would take them seriously

To really tackle Beijing’s interference, Canada must engage with the Chinese diaspora

Good commentary:

What needs to happen before Canada takes action on foreign interference? Apparently something as drastic as leaks of top-secret intelligence documents to the media.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to recent reports of Chinese foreign interference and disinformation campaigns in Canadian federal elections by announcing that his government would appoint an independent special rapporteur to investigate, provide recommendations and decide if a public inquiry is necessary. Further steps include reviews by intelligence bodies on such foreign-interference issues and new funding for civil-society organizations to combat disinformation.

Mr. Trudeau also announced consultations on a foreign-agent registry and the appointment of a new foreign-interference co-ordinator at Public Safety Canada. (Consultations on a foreign-agent registry – a policy previously pursued by Kenny Chiu, the former Conservative member of Parliament who was reportedly targeted by a Beijing-led online disinformation campaign – were actually announced back in December.)

This is all welcome news, and it signals that Ottawa may finally be taking foreign interference seriously. But the government continues to rely on top-down methods to address the issue, despite the fact that it alone cannot adequately take on the problem – and nor should it be the sole institution to take on the challenge. While funding is coming for non-governmental organizations to tackle disinformation, what is needed is a whole-of-society approach.

This includes engagement with a broader range of traditional and non-traditional stakeholders, such as academia, the private sector, media and local communities. Crucially, it prioritizes engagement with these stakeholders and with NGOs, aims to facilitate active participation in the decision-making process and strives to rebuild trust in our public institutions. In the specific case of foreign interference, it would allow the challenge to be tackled in ways that do not demonize equity-deserving groups.

In contrast, the current and proposed actions by the Canadian government overlook the targeted individuals and affected communities at the heart of China’s foreign-interference efforts. Canada’s response continues to miss opportunities to engage with the Chinese diaspora and dissident communities who have long been sounding the alarm on the Chinese Communist Party’s meddling in our democracy.

The issue of foreign interference, after all, goes beyond electoral meddling. It also involves the covert amplification of pro-Beijing narratives and the suppression of anti-Beijing ones. This has ramifications for the Chinese diaspora, which has found itself caught in the crossfire between two worlds and the geopolitical tension between them.

The status quo represents a silencing on two fronts. While the Chinese diaspora faces increasing anti-Asian sentiment and marginalization in Canada, the baggage of another home has followed them across oceans. Those who dare to speak out against the CCP, even on Canadian soil, endanger not only themselves but their friends and loved ones back in China or other PRC-controlled territories.

This is why the whole-of-society approach should centre on the Chinese diaspora – particularly the vulnerable communities within it, such as Hong Kongers, Uyghurs and Tibetans. While the diaspora and dissident communities bear the brunt of foreign interference by the CCP, these groups are often ignored when they could be helping to combat it. Many Hong Kongers, for instance, are well versed in tactics used by the CCP to target voters, having seen them in action firsthand in their own elections.

Canada must also engage with stakeholders who can communicate in the languages spoken in the community, who understand how cultural norms intersect with broader Canadian society, and who can meet members of the community where they are at. To increase civic engagement we must be able to communicate and educate in ways that are both respectful of one’s self-determination and understanding of the geopolitical tensions vulnerable groups must contend with.

National security concerns such as foreign transnational repression must be considered, too, to ensure that targeted communities can safely and freely engage in democracy without ramifications.

Foreign interference is a challenge that is here to stay. While the federal government is taking encouraging first steps, these can only be the beginning. A whole-of-society approach is required not only to address this issue, but to give a voice to those who have been silenced for so long.

Ai-Men Lau is a research analyst at Doublethink Lab and adviser to Alliance Canada Hong Kong. She is a contributor to Alliance Canada Hong Kong’s 2021 Report “In Plain Sight: Beijing’s unrestricted network of foreign influence in Canada.”

Source: To really tackle Beijing’s interference, Canada must engage with the Chinese diaspora

Diaspora groups tell Ottawa to start a foreign influence registry — and do it fast

Agree. Long overdue:

Canada needs to establish a foreign influence registry before the next federal election, say associations representing diaspora communities across the country.

The Canadian Coalition for a Foreign Influence Registry (CCFIR), a consortium of more than 30 community groups, held a video news conference Wednesday pushing for the federal government to establish such a registry by this summer.

“It needs to be in place before the next federal election,” Gloria Fung of CCFIR said. “If the government considers consultation necessary, we would be happy to co-operate fully, however, the consultation should be conducted in a timely manner.”

The CCFIR consists of grassroots organizations representing Chinese, Vietnamese, Uyghur, European and other communities across Canada. Members include Canada-Hong Kong Link, the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project and the Central and Eastern European Council in Canada.

The timing of the election is uncertain, depending on the Liberal minority government maintaining enough support to govern.

The demand for a foreign influence registry comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces new questions on Parliament Hill following a news report alleging he was briefed about the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to influence Canadian elections with funding.

The report from Global News said two weeks before the 2019 election was called, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians told Trudeau that Chinese officials were secretly bankrolling candidates in the election.

It was the latest blow to Trudeau over a growing scandal about China’s alleged interference in elections stemming from leaks from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Calls for a foreign influence registry have grown along with the scandal.

A foreign influence registry would require those working on behalf of foreign governments to log their activities, with legal consequences for failing to do so. The federal government has already said it will launch consultations into such a registry but the timeline needs to be shorter, the CCFIR said.

Such a registry would shed light on who is doing what for foreign interests, the CCFIR said, preventing their activities from remaining covert.

“This is essential to protect Canadian democracy, national security and our own communities from foreign interference,” Fung said.

A bill for a registry is currently before the Senate, but has received little attention. Before the most recent election, Conservative MP Kenny Chiu also tried to establish such a registry in a bid that did not make it past Parliament.

Chiu lost his seat in the next election and he and others have partially blamed a disinformation campaign, potentially orchestrated by Beijing’s supporters. The campaign spread false information suggesting Chiu’s registry would require all Chinese people in Canada to sign up.

Trudeau recently said he would appoint a “special rapporteur” to investigate allegations of election tampering, but others have demanded a full public inquiry. The prime minister also suggested the concern over what role Beijing may have played in the 2019 and 2021 elections stemmed from racism.

Chinese community leaders rejected that characterization to the Star and complained they have been ignored by Ottawa when raising similar concerns in the past.

On Wednesday, the CCFIR aimed to cut off any accusations a foreign influence registry would be racist.

Kayum Masimov, of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said it would instead enhance the ability of bureaucrats, politicians and others to understand who they are dealing with when a registered person approaches them and help counter covert influence campaigns.

“Left unaddressed these malign activities aggravate social polarization and erode public trust in our democratic institutions,” Masimov said. A registry “will increase transparency by exposing those who seek to influence our policies, public debate and decision making on behalf of foreign regimes.”

During the news conference concerns were specifically mentioned about attempts at foreign influence in Canada from Russia, China and Iran.

The United States and Australia already have registries. Fung said that while the registry would help in stemming foreign influence in Canada, it would need to be bolstered by additional federal efforts.

“We still have to continue to work with the government to urge them to come up with other necessary measures, bills or even regulations to detect foreign interference in different sectors.”

Source: Diaspora groups tell Ottawa to start a foreign influence registry — and do it fast

Chinese interference in Canada? Chinese Canadians say they reported it for years — and were ignored

Of note:

The first time Cheuk Kwan and Sheng Xue testified to a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee was in 2006. They warned of Beijing’s desire to “control everything” including activities of Canadians, and urged Ottawa to adopt a stronger stance in order to “earn (China’s) respect and not wrath.” 

“But every time we spoke to the government, it felt like we were putting on a show and helping them tick off a box that they were hearing from critics. Nothing was done,” Kwan said. 

Nearly 20 years later, he said they are part of a group of veteran Chinese-Canadian advocates and experts on China who are still struggling to be heard. 

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apparently relented. He is set to ask MPs and senators on Parliament’s national security committee to launch a new investigation of foreign interference in Canada.

None of the recent leaks of Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) warnings about Beijing’s foreign interference have surprised people in the country’s Chinese diaspora who have directly experienced Beijing’s intimidation and harassment, they say. 

“These are not even open secrets. It’s common knowledge,” said Kwan, an author and filmmaker who co-founded the Chinese Canadian National Council in 1980. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Kwan’s group supported those who fled to Canada from China following the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, and he has since witnessed Beijing’s mobilization of resources to influence other societies, particularly in places such as Canada, the U.S. and Australia where many Chinese diaspora settled. 

These days most of the blame is attributed to the increasingly infamous United Front Work Department. Since 1979, the United Front has been an official bureau in China that employs thousands of agents to pursue the Chinese Communist Party’s political strategy to use international networks to advance its global interests. According to official documents, the bureau takes special interest in people of Chinese descent living abroad, viewing them as powerful external threats as well as potential allies. 

Kwan alleges that his organization was targeted by United Front astroturfing: a new group arose with a very similar name, and it started issuing press statements and interviews that regularly opposed his own group’s messages, while boasting of connections to the Chinese consulate in Toronto. 

He and others also became suspicious when they saw buses of people arrive at federal political nomination meetings to support candidates who were known to shy away from critical messages about China, or when buses of international students in Toronto arrived to participate in counterprotests defending China’s position. 

Sources in the Chinese-Canadian community tell the Star that they have sent many tips, including copies of email correspondence, to RCMP and CSIS. In 2018, Mounties in Metro Vancouver probed allegations that the Chinese-state-linked Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society sent out messages on the social-media app WeChat urging chat group members to vote for certain candidates in mayoral elections — and offering a $20 transportation subsidy. But police later said they found no evidence of voter manipulation. 

“Even if there was proof the Chinese consulate or its proxies paid for transportation or paid people directly to support certain candidates or to protest, it’s hard to explain to Canadians the nefarious ways the Chinese state uses its tools and resources to try to influence our democracy,” Kwan said. While media had published the leaked WeChat screenshots offering the $20 subsidy, it is unclear why RCMP found that this was insufficient evidence of voter manipulation. 

And these are relatively subtle forms of influence, Kwan said: Beijing’s blunt tactic of coercion on Canadians is to threaten their friends, family members or business connections in China. 

He and others collected testimony and documentation, and published a report in 2017 with Amnesty International on a “sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at activists working on China-related human rights issues in Canada, in circumstances suggesting the involvement or backing of Chinese government officials.”

“We sent copies to the RCMP and to the Prime Minister’s Office, but it was ignored,” Kwan said. 

Numerous reports emerge over years

The report detailed threatening phone calls and physical confrontations of Canadians, improper detention of Canadians at Chinese airports, threats of retaliation against relatives living in China and online smear and disinformation campaigns. 

This was followed by a cascade of research from academics and advocacy groups, including Alliance Canada Hong Kong, journalist Jonathan Manthorpe’s book “Claws of the Panda,” and Australian researcher Alex Joske warning that Beijing’s foreign interference is “likely widespread” in Canada. 

Canada does not have laws or protocols in place for police and CSIS to work together with different levels of government to counter foreign interference. Following reports of intimidation of Canadians of Sikh heritage by Indian authorities, Canada’s Ministry of Public Safety told the Star that “anyone who feels threatened online or in person should report these incidents to their local police.”

But many Canadians have told the Star that their reports of threats from foreign actors to police have gone largely unheeded. A Chinese student in Quebec only had two followers on Twitter, but he still didn’t escape Beijing’s tactics, which he alleged included tracking his IP address and threatening his father living in China. 

Chinese-Canadian reporters and others would whisper to each other the names of Canadian politicians of various backgrounds who they saw having meetings or attending events with Chinese consulate staff. But without support from Canadian law enforcement, they didn’t dare air those observations publicly, Kwan said.

Last year Victor Ho — the former editor of Sing Tao Daily, Canada’s largest Chinese-Canadian newspaper, who has been outspoken on pressures from the Chinese government on Canadian media — was placed on a “wanted list” by security officials in Hong Kong. He was accused of violating the territory’s National Security Law, which applies to anyone in the world regardless of nationality. 

In the wake of recent reporting from the Globe and Mail and Global TV on leaked CSIS warnings, spy chief David Vigneault tolda parliamentary committee that a registry of foreign officials or agents would make it easier to track activities of people intent on influencing or interfering in Canadian elections on behalf of foreign governments.

“CSIS has been talking about foreign influence for the last few years — foreign interference — and I think that tool would be useful,” Vigneault said last Thursday. “It wouldn’t solve all our problems, but it would increase transparency.”

The most aggressive actors trying to influence Canadian lawmakers and voters are China, Russia and Iran, which try to coerce or pressure people within expat communities abroad — or leverage sympathizers in Canada — to exert influence on elections, nomination contests or public debate, the committee heard.

Trudeau is facing increasing pressure from the public and opposition parties to launch a public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference. Until Monday he had rejected calls for a probe, and said “there are ongoing public committee hearings … where those heads of agencies and people responsible for safety and integrity of our elections are testifying publicly on all the work that’s being done.” 

The RCMP told Parliament last week they are not investigating any allegations related to foreign interference from the 2021 federal election. 

The Globe and Mail and Global TV have separately reported several specific details about what happened in both the 2019 and 2021 campaigns. Among them: China being behind the nomination of Liberal candidate Han Dong ahead of the 2019 election; undeclared cash donations to candidates; schemes to have some of that money paid back to donors; having businesses hire Chinese students who were then lent out to volunteer and intimidation campaigns.

China has disputed all of the allegations.

The Star has not verified the reports independently, and security officials at the committee repeatedly declined to do the same, saying they couldn’t “validate” or “speak to” the allegations.

Sheng Xue was among those who fled to Canada from Beijing following the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-reform demonstrators in 1989. Here, she continued to work as a journalist and became vice-president of the Canadian chapter of the Federation for a Democratic China. 

“The Canadian chapter has been quite active for the past 33 years. We’ve had yearly closed-door meetings with Global Affairs Canada,” Sheng told the Star.

Advocacy in Canada for human rights in China used to be a popular and mainstream activity among immigrants from China, she said. But Beijing soon turned to threatening their family members back in China to try to stifle their activities. 

“It was very effective. We lost a lot of members. When your parents or relatives are being harassed and threatened, most people won’t be able to stand it. Especially those who still wanted to go back to China to visit their families.” 

Sheng did not bow to this pressure, and in September 1996, she was arrested by Chinese police when she tried to visit her mother in Beijing. She was interrogated by more than a dozen officers for 24 hours, and then deported back to Canada. 

“My Canadian passport saved me. I have never been able to go back to China and my dad passed away in 1992 and I couldn’t see him. Luckily, my mom was able to come to Canada and she lived with me for many years,” said Sheng, who is now in her early sixties. 

Smear campaign includes fake nude photos 

She thought she would be safe living with her mother in Greater Toronto, But since 2014, the award-winning writer has faced a relentless online smear campaign, including fake nude photos and a photo that seemed to show her kissing a man who is not her husband. 

“This started in 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre. In addition to the online posts and images, thousands of emails were sent to my contacts with the material and if you Google my name in Chinese, there are still a lot of fake nude photos as well as my phone number listed in fake online ads offering sex services,” she said. The Star has viewed copies of the emails and photographs. 

Sheng went to police all over North America to plead for help. 

“I remember going to a police station in Mississauga to report, and the officer just advised me to change my phone number. I told him, ‘Whatever new number I choose, they will find it out right away.’” 

“This is how the Chinese regime makes people feel isolated and hopeless.”

“Of course, the CSIS leaks aren’t surprising. We’ve spent years sharing information to Parliament,” said Uyghur Canadian human-rights advocate Mehmet Tohti, echoing Kwan and Sheng’s frustrations.

In the early 1990s, when the Chinese government was already targeting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, the biology teacher left China for Turkey and then Canada. For over a decade, as China interned an estimated over a million people in Xinjiang in “re-education camps,” Tohti has been a prominent advocate, co-founding the World Uyghur Congress and working as the executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project based in Ottawa. 

For this work, he alleges, Chinese police threatened his mother at gunpoint and ordered her to not speak to her son again. The last time he spoke with her was on the phone in 2016 — to say goodbye. 

‘It’s time for my cousin to pay the price’

More recently, ahead of an unanimous House of Commons vote last month to accept 10,000 Uyghur refugees, a move that Tohti lobbied for, he said he received a menacing call from Chinese police. 

“They told me that my mother died and my two sisters are dead and it’s time for my cousin to pay the price. The message was basically that my family paid a heavy price and if I don’t stop, my cousin will be in danger. It’s a direct threat and it’s still ongoing,” Tohti told the Star. He said his mother had passed away from a stroke, but he believes his sisters are still alive. 

Canada, along with other Western nations, imposed sanctions on high-ranking officials in China in 2021 over what it said were “gross and systematic human rights violations” against Uyghurs. 

Tohti said he has spoken to the Canadian government at least 30 times, and while he is appreciative of existing support for Uyghurs, he thinks it is time for Ottawa to do more to protect them once they’re living in Canada, where they remain vulnerable to persecution. 

Advocates tell the Star that any new approach to countering foreign interference in Canada should involve a whole-of-government approach and apply to all countries and not just China, since local-level politicians and grassroots community groups are as vulnerable to intimidation and meddling as federal politicians.

“What’s happening is the hijacking of families back home to push Canadian citizens in Canada to live under the norms of the Chinese Communist Party and not as free citizens of Canada,” Tohti said. 

Kwan said with a sigh: “We have been talking about the same things in the (leaked) CSIS reports for years but getting much less attention.” 

“If it takes secret spy documents to finally get people’s attention, that is fine.” 

Source: Chinese interference in Canada? Chinese Canadians say they reported it for years — and were ignored

Take political interference claims seriously, Chinese community leaders say

Is it only the PM and his supporters that aren’t taking this seriously? The drip-drip of evidence, along with the refusal for some form of public enquiry, continues to undermine trust in the governing party and government more generally:

It isn’t racist to raise concerns about foreign interference in Canadian elections, say Chinese community leaders, adding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should investigate concerns openly.

When Trudeau said recent media attention to foreign interference in elections was racist, he was using a deflection technique also employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), said Bill Chu of the Chinese-Canadian Concerned Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violations.

“He should be more concerned about national security, he should be more concerned about sovereignty,” Chu said.

Chu, a longtime anti-racism advocate in British Columbia, said the comments also ultimately conflate Chinese people with the CCP, a tactic China’s government often uses to try to silence criticism by trying to spin it into an instance of racism.

On Monday, after more than a week of political pressure over explosive news reports about China’s attempts to influence Canadian elections, Trudeau said the most recent attention on Toronto Liberal MP, Han Dong, stems from racism.

“One of the things we’ve seen unfortunately over the past years is a rise in anti-Asian racism linked to the pandemic, and concerns being arisen around people’s loyalties,” Trudeau said Monday in Mississauga.

“I want to make everyone understand fully: Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team, and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained.”

Last week, Global News reported Dong was a “witting affiliate” in Beijing’s attempts to help him become the Liberal candidate and run for the party in North York.

The report cited unnamed sources who said that Canada’s spy agency — the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) — started tracking Dong in 2019. Officials also suggested to Trudeau’s office that the Liberals should drop Han as a candidate due to the concerns.

Trudeau has said CSIS cannot direct political parties on what candidates they can run in elections.

“Instead of allowing the CSIS input to stand he’s actually allowing the input of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to stand.

“The PRC has been using the racism card for the longest time,” Chu said.

Meanwhile, Fenella Sung of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said she doesn’t think the news stories come from racism.

“I would encourage people to no longer pull the racist card out every time those kind of legitimate questions are asked about our politicians,” Sung said. “You need to look at the facts.”

Sung said Chinese Canadians are more vulnerable to infiltration by CCP officials because of the shared language, culture and communities, making it more important for Ottawa to address the issue head-on rather than allow a cloud of suspicion to hang over them.

She said the government is throwing Chinese Canadians under the bus by trying to subdue the conversation with allegations of racism when it should be getting everything out in the open.

A full independent inquiry with subpoena power to investigate the allegations is in order, adding such an inquiry would be beneficial to Canada’s Chinese communities, Sung said.

Audrey Champoux, press secretary for the office of the Minister of Public Safety, said in a statement the federal government is “soberly aware of incidents in which hostile foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living here.”

It said it uses all tools to respond to such threats.

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said Trudeau’s reaction to the unfolding concerns suggests he’s “getting desperate” and the racism allegations would be welcomed by the Chinese embassy as it echoes their own lines of deflection.

Saint-Jacques said Canada is risking its international partnerships by not acting fast and taking the allegations seriously.

“Once your security services tell you ‘watch out this candidate has close links with the Chinese government,’ and probably that comes with some details to buttress the allegations, then you have to take this seriously,” he said.

Source: Take political interference claims seriously, Chinese community leaders say

CSIS documents reveal Chinese strategy to influence 2021 election

Not a good take on the government’s (lack of) response and the naiveté of some:

China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign as Chinese diplomats and their proxies backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals – but only to another minority government – and worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.

The full extent of the Chinese interference operation is laid bare in both secret and top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service documents viewed by The Globe and Mail that cover the period before and after the September, 2021, election that returned the Liberals to office.

The CSIS reports were shared among senior government officials and Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence allies of the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Some of this intelligence was also shared with French and German spy services.

Over the past decade, China, under President Xi Jinping, has adopted a more aggressive foreign policy as it seeks to expand its political, economic and military influence around the world.

MPs on the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee are already looking into allegations that China interfered in the 2019 election campaign to support 11 candidates, most of them Liberal, in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Drawn from a series of CSIS intelligence-gathering operations, the documents illustrate how an orchestrated machine was operating in Canada with two primary aims: to ensure that a minority Liberal government was returned in 2021, and that certain Conservative candidates identified by China were defeated.

The documents say the Chinese Communist Party leadership in Beijing was “pressuring its consulates to create strategies to leverage politically [active] Chinese community members and associations within Canadian society.” Beijing uses Canadian organizations to advocate on their behalf “while obfuscating links to the People’s Republic of China.”

The classified reports viewed by The Globe reveal that China’s former consul-general in Vancouver, Tong Xiaoling, boasted in 2021 about how she helped defeat two Conservative MPs.

But despite being seen by China as the best leader for Canada, Beijing also wanted to keep Mr. Trudeau’s power in check – with a second Liberal minority in Parliament as the ideal outcome.

In early July, 2021 – eight weeks before election day – one consular official at an unnamed Chinese diplomatic mission in Canada said Beijing “likes it when the parties in Parliament are fighting with each other, whereas if there is a majority, the party in power can easily implement policies that do not favour the PRC.”

While the Chinese diplomat expressed unhappiness that the Liberals had recently become critical of China, the official added that the party is better than the alternatives. Canada-China relations hit their lowest point since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre after December, 2018, when Beijing locked up two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Ottawa’s arrest of a Chinese Huawei executive on an extradition request from the United States.

Most important, the intelligence reports show that Beijing was determined that the Conservatives did not win. China employed disinformation campaigns and proxies connected to Chinese-Canadian organizations in Vancouver and the GTA, which have large mainland Chinese immigrant communities, to voice opposition to the Conservatives and favour the Trudeau Liberals.

The CSIS documents reveal that Chinese diplomats and their proxies, including some members of the Chinese-language media, were instructed to press home that the Conservative Party was too critical of China and that, if elected, it would follow the lead of former U.S. president Donald Trump and ban Chinese students from certain universities or education programs.

“This will threaten the future of the voters’ children, as it will limit their education opportunities,” the CSIS report quoted the Chinese consulate official as saying. The official added: “The Liberal Party of Canada is becoming the only party that the PRC can support.”

CSIS also explained how Chinese diplomats conduct foreign interference operations in support of political candidates and elected officials. Tactics include undeclared cash donations to political campaigns or having business owners hire international Chinese students and “assign them to volunteer in electoral campaigns on a full-time basis.”

Sympathetic donors are also encouraged to provide campaign contributions to candidates favoured by China – donations for which they receive a tax credit from the federal government. Then, the CSIS report from Dec. 20, 2021 says, political campaigns quietly, and illegally, return part of the contribution – “the difference between the original donation and the government’s refund” – back to the donors.

A key part of their interference operation is to influence vulnerable Chinese immigrants in Canada. The intelligence reports quote an unnamed Chinese consulate official as saying it’s “easy to influence Chinese immigrants to agree with the PRC’s stance.”

China wants to build acceptance abroad for its claims on Taiwan, a self-ruled island that it considers a breakaway province and still reserves the right to annex by force. And it seeks to play down its conduct in Xinjiang, where the office of former UN Human Rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet last year said China has committed “serious human-rights violations” in the region, which may amount to crimes against humanity.

Similarly it wants to generate support for a draconian 2020 national-security law to silence opposition and dissent in Hong Kong, a former British colony that Beijing had once promised would be allowed to retain Western-style civil liberties for 50 years.

Beijing also seeks to quell foreign support for Tibet, a region China invaded and annexed more than 70 years ago, and to discourage opposition to Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea and sweeping maritime claims in the region.

A month after the September, 2021, vote, CSIS reported that it was “well-known within the Chinese-Canadian community of British Columbia” that Ms. Tong, then the Vancouver consul-general, “wanted the Liberal Party to win the 2021 election,” one of the reports said.

CSIS noted that Ms. Tong, who returned to China in July, 2022, and former consul Wang Jin made “discreet and subtle efforts” to encourage members of Chinese-Canadian organizations to rally votes for the Liberals and defeat Conservative candidates.

CSIS said Mr. Wang has direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD), a vast organization that uses mostly covert and often manipulative operations to influence overseas ethnic Chinese communities and foreign governments. CSIS said Mr. Wang served as an intermediary between the UFWD and Chinese-Canadian community leaders in British Columbia.

In early November, 2021, CSIS reported, Ms. Tong discussed the defeat of a Vancouver-area Conservative, whom she described as a “vocal distractor” of the Chinese government. A national-security source said the MP was Kenny Chiu. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source, who risks prosecution under the Security of Information Act.

The source said Mr. Chiu was targeted in retaliation for his criticism of China’s crackdown in Hong Kong and his 2021 private member’s bill aiming to establish a registry of foreign agents, an effort inspired by similar Australian legislation to combat foreign interference. The United States has a long-standing registry; Canada is still studying the matter.

Mr. Chiu, who was elected to represent Steveston–Richmond East in 2019, lost the 2021 federal election to Liberal candidate Parm Bains and is widely believed to be a victim of a Beijing-led online disinformation campaign.

According to CSIS, Ms. Tong talked about China’s efforts to influence mainland Chinese-Canadian voters against the Conservative Party. She said Mr. Chiu’s loss proved “their strategy and tactics were good, and contributed to achieving their goals while still adhering to the local political customs in a clever way.”

In mid-November, CSIS reported that an unnamed Chinese consular official said the loss of Mr. Chiu and fellow Conservative MP Alice Wong substantiated the growing electoral influence of mainland Chinese-Canadians.

Former federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has alleged that foreign interference by China in the 2021 election campaign, using disinformation, cost the party eight or nine seats. The Liberals won 160 seats compared with 119 for the Conservatives, 32 for the Bloc Québécois and 25 for the NDP, while the Greens picked up two seats.

While the Conservative Party’s overall share of the popular vote increased slightly in the election, the party lost a number of ridings with significant Chinese-Canadian populations. These included the defeat of incumbents such as Mr. Chiu, Richmond Centre MP Ms. Wong and Markham–Unionville’s Bob Saroya.

However, the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force set up by the Trudeau government to monitor threats to federal elections never issued any public warning about foreign interference during the 2019 or 2021 campaigns.

Mr. Trudeau has said it found no meddling, telling the Commons in November of last year that the task force “determined that the integrity of our elections was not compromised in 2019 or 2021.” He also told reporters that “Canadians can be reassured that our election integrity held” in the two elections.

The Globe has reported that the Prime Minister received a national-security briefing last fall in which he was told China’s consulate in Toronto had targeted 11 candidates in the 2019 federal election. CSIS Director David Vigneault told Mr. Trudeau that there was no indication that China’s interference efforts had helped elect any of them, despite the consulate’s attempts to promote the campaigns on social media and in Chinese-language media outlets.

Nine Liberal and two Conservative candidates were favoured by Beijing, according to the national-security source. The source said the two Conservative candidates were viewed as friends of China.

Source: CSIS documents reveal Chinese strategy to influence 2021 election

CSIS warned Trudeau about Toronto-area politician’s alleged ties to Chinese diplomats

Fortunately, the truth generally always emerges; unfortunately, it appears the PM and government didn’t take the warnings seriously:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and senior aides were warned on at least two occasions that government MPs should be cautious in their political dealings with former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Michael Chan because of alleged ties to China’s consulate in Toronto, national-security sources say.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has a dossier on Mr. Chan that contains information on his activities in the 2019 and 2021 federal election campaigns and meetings with suspected Chinese intelligence operatives, according to the two security sources. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources, who risk prosecution under the Security of Information Act.

Mr. Chan, now deputy mayor of the city of Markham, told The Globe that he is a loyal Canadian and accused CSIS of character assassination, saying they never once interviewed him about his alleged involvement with the Chinese consulate.

“Your own statement to me about a recent briefing by CSIS to Prime Minister Trudeau, serves only to ignite xenophobia and cause continued, unwarranted and irreparable damage to my reputation and the safety of my family,” he said.

He added: “CSIS has never interviewed me regarding their false and unsubstantiated allegations. However, I am aware that they have conducted intimidating interviews with my friends and acquaintances and then instructed them to keep their mouths shut.”

Mr. Chan, 71, was elected as a regional councillor in Markham’s Oct. 24 election last year and, as the councillor with the most votes, he also became deputy mayor. In 2018, he retired from provincial politics, where his last post was minister of international trade for Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government. He has been a key organizer and fundraiser in Ontario’s Chinese-Canadian communities for the federal and provincial Liberal parties.

CSIS has observed Mr. Chan meeting in the past years with Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei, whom one source describes as a “suspected intelligence actor,” and Beijing’s former vice-consul-general Zhuang Yaodong. CSIS believes Mr. Zhuang handled security files out of the Toronto consulate, the source said. Mr. Zhao’s code-name for Mr. Chan is “The Minister,” the source said.

In 2019, Mr. Chan had a number of meetings with Mr. Zhao that were described in a CSIS 2020 briefing package as “clandestine in nature” and were allegedly election-related, the source said. In that same year, CSIS observed Mr. Chan and an associate meeting with Mr. Zhao and Mr. Zhuang at a Chinese restaurant.

Mr. Chan said in his statement to The Globe that his meetings with Chinese consular officials are not unusual for politicians. He also said that he met frequently with consular officials from many Asian and Southeast Asian countries in 2019 relating to business activities abroad.

“Meetings to discuss business and trade between Consular officials and Canadians, politicians or otherwise, are a common practice,” he said. “Just in case you were not aware, I met a few days ago with the Deputy Consul-General from China in Toronto and Mr. Wei Zhao.”

The source said Mr. Zhao, who came to Canada in 2018, has also been observed meeting with a number of constituency staffers for Liberal MPs in Toronto, including an assistant for International Trade Minister Mary Ng. Some of those aides were asked by Mr. Zhao to keep their MPs away from pro-Taiwan events, according to the source.

CSIS Director David Vigneault flagged Mr. Chan’s return to public office during a fall 2022 briefing that he delivered to the Prime Minister and his national security adviser, Jody Thomas, on Chinese election interference. He cautioned that Liberal MPs should be vigilant in their dealings with Mr. Chan, according to two other sources. The Globe is not identifying them because they were not authorized to speak about sensitive matters.

In that same briefing, Mr. Vigneault said China’s consulate in Toronto had targeted 11 candidates from the Greater Toronto Area, a mix of Liberals and Conservatives, in the 2019 federal election, the sources said. But the sources said the CSIS director told Mr. Trudeau there was no indication China’s interference efforts had helped elect any of them, despite the consulate’s attempts to promote the campaigns on social media and in Chinese-language media outlets.

The Globe has previously reported that Mr. Chan had been on CSIS’s radar, stretching as far back as 2010, because of alleged close ties to the Chinese consulate. He had also been involved in community events with leaders of the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations, considered one of the consulate’s unofficial lobby groups.

In a 2019 briefing for the Prime Minister’s Office, one of the national-security sources and a government source say, security officials also flagged Mr. Chan’s Chinese consular connections soon after he was recruited by Ms. Ng to serve as her campaign co-chair in that year’s federal election.

In the 2019 briefing, security officials told senior PMO staff, including Mr. Trudeau’s Chief of Staff, Katie Telford, that Mr. Chan should be on “your radar” and that “someone should reach out to Mary to be extra careful,” according to one source. That security briefing also dealt with foreign interference, tactics and Chinese tradecraft, the source said.

Ms. Ng told The Globe that no one from the PMO told her to steer clear of Mr. Chan, who also co-chaired her 2017 by-election campaign when she replaced veteran Liberal MP John McCallum. The Prime Minister opened the Markham-Thornhill riding for Ms. Ng, who had earlier served as his director of appointments, by naming Mr. McCallum as Canada’s ambassador to China.

Mr. Trudeau later fired Mr. McCallum after he criticized the American request for Canada to detain and extradite Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou.

In the interview with The Globe, Ms. Ng said that Mr. Chan never actually took up the role of campaign co-chair in 2019 because, she said, there were other capable volunteers to help.

“We were working with so many members of my community – the Chinese members of our community, Tamil members of my community, Muslim Canadian and Jewish Canadians – so really it was really a cross section of people. So the campaign, you know, it just was working as it was and I felt very supported by a lot of people who were on the ground,” she said.

She added: “I haven’t talked to Michael in quite some time.”

A confidant of Ms. Ng said the MP quietly dropped Mr. Chan as co-chair after public comments in the late summer of 2019 where he condemned Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators and supported China’s crackdown on them, attributing the protests to alleged manipulation by foreign actors. Mr. Chan agreed to step aside because he did not want his comments to reflect badly on Ms. Ng, the confidant said. The Globe is not naming the confidant, who was not permitted to publicly discuss the matter.

“Your statement to me regarding Mary Ng’s campaign is utterly false,” Mr. Chan said. He did not elaborate.

The confidant also said that Ms. Ng’s assistant, who used to work for Mr. McCallum, likely met Mr. Zhao at Chinese-Canadian community events, often frequented by Chinese consulate officials. He stressed, however, that Ms. Ng has avoided meeting Chinese consulate officials since she became Trade Minister in 2021. She became Minister for Small Business in a cabinet shuffle in 2018.

Ms. Ng received the necessary vetting to obtain a security clearance to serve in cabinet in 2018 when she became Small Business Minister.

In the 2017 by-election campaign, then Chinese consul-general He Wei gathered Chinese-Canadian media at the consulate and urged them to support her election, saying they needed a friend like Mr. McCallum in Ottawa, according to one of the security sources. Ms. Ng’s confidant said she was not aware of the intervention by Mr. He, now a senior official in China’s Foreign Ministry.

CSIS has repeatedly warned that China has been conducting foreign interference operations in Canada, including efforts to influence the political process.

On Thursday, Adam Fisher, CSIS director-general of intelligence assessments, told the House of Commons committee on procedure and house affairs that Beijing uses a variety of means to influence the political process, including attempting to get information from unwitting politicians.

“They are not necessarily relying on trained agents. They use cutouts. They use proxies. They use community groups. They use diaspora organizations and community leaders,” he said.

Cherie Henderson, CSIS assistant director of requirements, also noted that states like China will funnel money directly to proxies.

“They will use whatever avenue they can to achieve their objectives,” she told the committee, which is studying alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 election.

In June, 2015, Mr. Chan was the subject of a Globe investigation, which revealed that CSIS was concerned that the then-minister may have grown too close to the Chinese consulate in Toronto, prompting a senior official to formally caution the province about the minister’s alleged conduct in a 2010 briefing.

Around that time, then-premier Dalton McGuinty dismissed the CSIS warnings as baseless. When The Globe brought the allegations to Ms. Wynne in 2015, she also dismissed them. Mr. Chan wrote in 2015 that “there is a persistent theme that there is a perceived risk that I am under undue influence and that I am an unwitting dupe of a foreign government. This is offensive and totally false.” Mr. Chan has steadfastly denied the assertions made by Canada’s spy agency.

He brought a libel action against The Globe, but the case has not gone to court.

In his recent statement to The Globe, Mr. Chan said the 2015 article was “especially egregious and disheartening for someone like myself who has always put the interests of Canada and Canadians first and foremost, and who has a long, true record of exemplary public service.”

Source: CSIS warned Trudeau about Toronto-area politician’s alleged ties to Chinese diplomats

Douglas Todd: China’s thrashing of ‘racist’ West disguises its own sins

Of note:

A UBC professor recently told me that when his family members flew back to work in China after the Christmas holidays they had to get a PCR test to prove to border officials that they did not have COVID.

He was taken aback, because he follows multiple Canadian and international media sources. The reports he had seen had tended to sympathize with Chinese officials who claimed Western nations that instituted test requirements for incoming Chinese citizens were “discriminating”.

The professor hadn’t realized Communist Party officials were simply displaying chutzpah, if not hypocrisy. It was not adequately reported that China, which has experienced an outbreak of COVID after lifting restrictions recently, demands anyone entering the country of 1.4 billion people provide a negative COVID test taken 48 hours before arrival.

Much media coverage had either totally failed to report China’s test requirement, or hardly noted it. Instead, many journalists behaved as if China had an important moral complaint: Western politicians were displaying anti-Chinese prejudice.

It’s a small example of a phenomenon common in the West. Many Canadian politicians, media outlets and activists often fall for China’s strategy of putting the West on the defensive with accusations of anti-Chinese racism. Among other things, it covers up China’s own disturbing reality.

While polls suggest about three in 10 Chinese-Canadians experienced insults during the first year of the pandemic (largely because of reports that the coronavirus began in Wuhan), there are countless examples of Canadians going along with China’s political tactic of amplifying and exaggerating incidents in the West, to avoid criticism of themselves.

One example is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Repeating a theme, Trudeau tried to shut down Opposition complaints about how he covered up Ottawa’s engagement with China’s military at an infectious-disease laboratory in Winnipeg, where two scientists were arrested. Trudeau claimed Conservatives feared Asians, accusing party supporters of “intolerance toward Canadians of diverse origins.”

Liberal cabinet minister Patty Hajdu and Sen. Yuen Pau Woo also stand out as Beijing sycophants — for the way they have repeatedly charged Canadians who want to know more about the origins of COVID, and China’s infiltration into Canadian politics, of resorting to nasty “witchhunts” and “conspiracy theories” against people of Chinese background.

In B.C., the list of examples is long. It includes former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu (Richmond-Steveston East), who lost re-election after a torrent of abusive claims of being anti-Chinese after calling for a foreign-influence registry; Richmond lawyer Hong Guo, who has advised China’s state bodies, charging the B.C. Law Society with being anti-Chinese for disciplining her; B.C. scholars enduring the racist label for researching foreign investment in Vancouver housing; Chinese-language media branding former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart a divisive ideologue for saying Canada’s spy agency is monitoring foreign political intrusion; and scores of Chinese-Canadian advocates for democracy in Hong Kong and Tibet routinely being cited for hating people from China.

China’s authoritarian leaders especially pull out the race card to crush people who point to the incarceration, mass surveillance and draconian clampdown on China’s 10 million Muslim Uyghurs.

The Chinese state-controlled Global Times has tried to stop Canadian criticism of the treatment of Uyghurs by pointing fingers at this country’s residential school system for Indigenous children.

This is not to overlook how accusations of anti-China prejudice are among the milder things thrown at Chinese-Canadians and others who fight for the rights of Uyghurs, Tibetans or Falun Gong members. China also intimidates through threats to health and livelihoods, including of family members in the motherland.

If anyone should doubt that race-baiting is a concerted strategy of China’s (as it is in Russia), check out last year’s statement from China’s embassy in the U.S. in response to the Democrat’s outlining their position on China. In a lengthy diatribe, the embassy accused Americans of white supremacy, flagrant hatred toward Asian-Americans, modern-day slavery, torturing immigrants, bullying and despising Muslims, forced labour, and slaughtering Indigenous people.

Bill Chu, a Vancouver anti-racism advocate, worries many in the West are being fooled by the propaganda spread in Chinese-language media and through pro-Beijing organizations that anti-Chinese hatred is widespread.

“A favourite PRC tactic is to use the terms ‘China,’ ‘Chinese’ and ‘Chinese Communist Party’ interchangeably. The PRC has mixed them all up so often and for so long that criticism of the CCP is now interpreted by China as a criticism of the people, and thus a racist act. The purpose of labelling such criticism as racism is to silence Western critics and politicians,” said Chu, who has been honoured for his work in Indigenous reconciliation.

“Canadians are so used to political pluralism that many assume Chinese citizens in the People’s Republic of China are enjoying the same,” Chu said. But while critics of the West have freedom of expression, the one-party dictatorship practices draconian censorship, lacks the West’s ethnic diversity, and allows almost no permanent immigration.

China’s record is shocking on racism, even while the Communist Party’s goal is to portray it as largely a Western phenomenon. In addition to brutal treatment of Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, many reports have monitored abuse of Black people. In largely homogeneous China, where citizens are 90 per cent of Han ethnicity, Filipinos also complain of brazen discrimination.

While repressive China denies its own racist reality, Chu reminds North Americans to go in the opposite direction: “To be fair and acknowledge mistakes by the West.”

How are Chinese-Canadians responding? It’s tricky to capture the views of the 1.7 million people of Chinese origin in Canada, of which 831,000 were born in China, 487,000 in Canada, 228,000 in Hong Kong, and 72,000 in Taiwan.

An Angus Reid Institute poll of Canadians during the pandemic suggested about one-third of residents born in China “feel like an outsider in Canada,” a higher rate than for other ethnic Chinese.

However, a hefty 88 per cent of all Chinese-Canadians also said “I love Canada and what it stands for.” That was virtually the same proportion who agreed, “I feel a strong sense of belonging to Canada.” StatsCan reports many are doing well in education and careers.

Combining such polling results with recent reports about how Chinese nationals’ interest in emigrating to Canada had spiked 28-fold during the country’s lockdown, it would seem not many are truly buying Communist leaders’ accusations this country is a vipers’ pit of hate.

Source: Douglas Todd: China’s thrashing of ‘racist’ West disguises its own sins