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The Chinatown gate on March 9 in Montreal. Quebec RCMP say they are investigating two alleged secret police stations operated by Chinese authorities in the province, including one in Montreal's Chinatown.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team is investigating two “clandestine police stations” in Quebec, the force said on Thursday.

“We are carrying out police actions aimed at detecting and disrupting these foreign state-backed criminal activities, which may threaten the safety of persons living in Canada,” the RCMP said in a statement.

The alleged locations are the Service à la famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal, in the city’s Chinatown neighbourhood, and the Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud, in the municipality of Brossard, Sergeant Charles Poirier of the RCMP confirmed. The Journal de Montréal first reported the investigation on Thursday.

Both institutions offer integration and support services to the Chinese community in Quebec, according to their websites, including French language classes for newcomers and home visits for elders.

Spanish human-rights organization Safeguard Defenders said in a report last September that there were Chinese police operations around the world, including three in Toronto. It later identified two more, including one in Vancouver and a second unknown Canadian location. The group said in December there were more than 100 such stations in more than 50 countries.

The group says the stations serve to persuade people who Chinese authorities claim are fugitives living overseas to return to China to face charges.

The Decibel: The secretive Chinese ‘police stations’ in Canada

Xixi Li, a city councillor for Brossard, is the director of both the Quebec centres. She did not immediately return a phone message requesting comment. The Chinese Embassy in Canada also did not immediately answer a request for comments.

The RCMP said on Thursday that Canadians of Chinese origin have been victims of the possible activities conducted by these centres and that intimidation, harassment or targeting would not be tolerated.

Brossard Mayor Doreen Assaad said she was not contacted by the RCMP and she learned of the investigation in the news. She said Ms. Li, who sits with the opposition, should withdraw from city council until the investigation is completed.

Ms. Assaad expressed her support for the Chinese community. “I would not want an entire community to be criticized or isolated based on a situation in which they are victims,” she said.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Quebec Premier François Legault, and provincial Public Security Minister François Bonnardel all declined to comment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the presence of Chinese police stations in Canada is concerning and underlines how the primary targets of foreign interference are diasporas living in Canada. “We’ve known about the [presence of] Chinese police stations across the country for many months, and we are making sure that the RCMP is following up on it and that our intelligence services take it seriously,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

During Question Period on Thursday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked Mr. Trudeau when his government would set up a foreign-influence registry. The Prime Minister did not answer but said Canada “will spare no effort to protect Canadians from the unacceptable actions of hostile authoritarian states.”

A foreign-influence registry, used in countries including Australia and the United States, could shed light on Canadian citizens paid to influence Canada’s political process on behalf of countries such as China or Russia. A registry was recently recommended by former deputy minister of foreign affairs Morris Rosenberg, who wrote a report reviewing Ottawa’s efforts to protect the integrity of elections. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said last year Ottawa is preparing to consult Canadians on the possibility of creating such a registry.

Earlier this week, Mr. Trudeau announced two closed-door probes into Chinese election interference that will be reviewed by a special rapporteur. The Prime Minister has resisted calls for a public inquiry into Beijing’s influence activities in the wake of reports from The Globe that China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 election campaign.

Thursday, Mr. Mendicino answered another call for a public inquiry by Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet that the government would follow the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency’s, and the special rapporteur’s recommendations after the probes.

With a report from The Canadian Press