Conservative Michael Chong told MPs Thursday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s national-security adviser has informed him that the 2021 intelligence report about his family being targeted by China was circulated beyond the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The report, he said, even reached the desk of the person serving as Mr. Trudeau’s national-security adviser at the time.
This version of events contradicts what the Prime Minister told reporters the day before when he said the spy service didn’t feel the report met “a threshold that required them to pass it up – up out of CSIS.”
Mr. Chong’s revelation in Question Period fuelled another day of intense debate on a story that has dominated Parliament this week and sheds more light on the intelligence failure surrounding the MP’s case. He didn’t learn of the threat to him and his family until The Globe and Mail reported it Monday, citing a top-secret CSIS memo dated July 20, 2021, and a national-security source.
Also Thursday, Canada summoned China’s ambassador over revelations Beijing was targeting Mr. Chong and his family and that Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei, posted in this country, was working on this matter.
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the Canadian government is weighing all options as a response, but must consider what blowback it would face were it to expel any Chinese diplomats.
As The Globe reported, Mr. Chong and his family were targeted by the Chinese government after he spearheaded a parliamentary motion that condemned Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide.
CSIS head David Vigneault confirmed this to Mr. Chong in a briefing this week.
Mr. Trudeau, speaking to reporters on Wednesday, blamed CSIS for the fact Mr. Chong was never notified of this targeting. He said Canada’s spy service made the decision not to send the report up the chain of authority because it felt this “wasn’t a significant enough concern.”
Mr. Chong said, however, Ms. Thomas’s call to him Thursday is at odds with the Prime Minister’s version of events.
“I’ve just been informed by the national-security adviser that the CSIS intelligence assessment of July 20, 2021, was sent by CSIS to the relevant departments and to the national-security adviser in the Privy Council Office,” he told MPs.
The national-security adviser counsels the Prime Minister on security and intelligence matters and is associate secretary in the Privy Council Office. The Privy Council Office is the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Globe asked the Prime Minister’s Office Thursday to address the apparent conflict between what Mr. Trudeau told reporters and what Mr. Chong said Ms. Thomas told him – about how the report apparently reached the office of the national-security adviser in 2021.
Alison Murphy, a press secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, declined to address the national-security adviser in her response, reiterating what Mr. Trudeau has already said.
“The national security and intelligence advisor confirmed to Mr. Chong that the information from CSIS was not briefed up to the Prime Minister or his office, nor the Minister,” Ms. Murphy said. “When it comes to information about Members of Parliament, the information should be elevated by security officials and briefings provided. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, moving forward, matters relating to Members of Parliament should be quickly and fully briefed up by officials.”
Conservative MP Michael Chong said on May 4 that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service shared a 2021 report alleging that Chinese diplomats were targeting the family members of MPs, including himself, with senior government officials.
The Canadian Press
Former Liberal MP and cabinet minister Catherine McKenna voiced anger on Twitter Thursday that Mr. Chong wasn’t alerted two years ago about the threat to his family and him. “That a bunch of folks in official Ottawa knew that MP Chong’s family was being targeted by the Chinese, decided not to tell him & no apparent consequences is appalling on personal, political & diplomatic level,” she wrote.
“But not surprising based on my experience.”
Former Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum responded to Ms. McKenna with a tweet: “Totally agree.”
Earlier Thursday in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry played down allegations of China trying to intimidate Mr. Chong and his relatives.
“China is opposed to any interference in a country’s internal affairs. We never interfere in Canada’s internal affairs and have no interest whatsoever in doing so,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told reporters, according to an official English transcription.
“We are resolute in defending our sovereignty, security and development interests and opposing actions that interfere in China’s internal affairs and harm China’s interests.”
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, responding to Mr. Chong in the Commons Thursday, said neither he nor the Prime Minister knew of this targeting by China until Monday. Bill Blair was Public Safety Minister back in July 2021 when the CSIS report was produced.
There was a lot of churn in the office of the national-security adviser in the summer of 2021. Vincent Rigby left the post at the end of June. David Morrison, who was then already the foreign and defence adviser to the Prime Minister, took on the job of acting national-security adviser later that summer and held it until he was replaced by Ms. Thomas in January, 2022. Privy Council Office spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold, however, on Thursday said a third individual, Mike MacDonald, acted for Mr. Morrison between July 16 to Aug. 3 in 2021.
The top-secret CSIS report revealed by The Globe on Monday says CSIS reporting from 2021 indicates that China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), “has taken specific actions to target Canadian MPs” who are linked to the February, 2021, parliamentary motion condemning Beijing’s oppression of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities. The motion, which passed, declared China’s conduct to amount to genocide.
The spy agency said an MSS officer sought information on an unnamed Canadian MP’s relatives “who may be located in the PRC, for further potential sanctions.” This effort, the CSIS report said, “is almost certainly meant to make an example of this MP and deter others from taking anti-PRC positions.”
A national-security source, whom The Globe is not naming because they risk prosecution under the Security of Information Act, said the MP targeted was Mr. Chong and that Mr. Zhao was working on this matter.
Ms. Joly said Canada is still mulling how to respond to China.
“What we’re doing right now as a government is we’re assessing the consequences that we’ll be facing in case of diplomatic expulsion,” she told the Commons foreign affairs committee.
She said Mr. Morrison, now deputy minister of foreign affairs, was meeting with Chinese envoy Cong Peiwu Thursday morning on the matter.
Ms. Joly warned MPs that Beijing will strike back if Canada acts. “I think it’s important that Canadians know, what we’ve learned from the two Michaels experience, is that, of course, … the People’s Republic of China will take action,” she said.
“These interests, including economic interest, consular interest and also diplomatic interest will be affected.”
She told Mr. Chong she only became aware of this targeting of him after it was published in The Globe and Mail this week.
“I can only imagine the shock, the pain, the worry you have gone through due to the targeting of your family and loved ones.”
Mr. Chong said in his opinion there is no excuse for not expelling Mr. Zhao, noting Canada has expelled no Chinese diplomats in the past few years as evidence of Beijing’ foreign interference mounted.
The Chinese embassy in Canada warned against Canada expelling their diplomats in a statement Thursday, saying the controversy is based on rumours “hyped up by some Canadian politicians” and media.
It warned of consequences if Canada follows through. “Should the Canadian side continue to make provocations, China will play along every step of the way until the very end.”
With a report from Xiao Xu in Vancouver