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The Globe and Mail

Chinese-Canadians request meeting with CSIS head

Richard Fadden, CSIS director at Citizen and Immigation Committee in Ottawa June 9, 2009.

Bill Grimshaw For The Globe and Mail/bill grimshaw The Globe and Mail

Two Chinese-Canadian groups have requested a meeting with CSIS director Richard Fadden, saying his recent comments about foreign influence over Canadian politicians have cast a cloud over the entire Chinese-Canadian community.

"When a federal agency makes a serious mistake, we should demand that it be remedied right away," David Choi, co-chair of the National Congress of Chinese Canadians, said Friday at a press conference in Vancouver. "Is this Mr. Fadden's approach, is it appropriate and where is the accountability?"

The NCC, which is an umbrella group for more than 280 Chinese-Canadian groups, and the Vancouver-based Chinese Benevolent Association sent a letter to Mr. Fadden on Friday to request a meeting and discuss whether any "corrective action" should be taken.

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"It's irresponsible for a senior public official, least [of all]the Director of Canada's Security Intelligence Service - a most important senior public servant to all Canadians - to make the public comments that you did and then walk away and leave it hanging," the letter states.

The letter was also sent to federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

The groups are the latest in a string of commentators to register concern over remarks Mr. Fadden made in an interview broadcast last month by CBC television. In that interview, Mr. Fadden alleged that two unnamed provincial cabinet ministers and a number of B.C. municipal politicians are being influenced by foreign governments.

He did not mention China during the interview. But CSIS has for years raised concerns about China planting agents in Canada to obtain secrets or influence policy, so attention immediately focused on politicians who were Chinese immigrants or of Chinese descent.

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell blasted Mr. Fadden's comments, calling them "unprecedented and completely unprofessional." Other politicians, including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Alberta Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, also voiced concerns.

Mr. Fadden's comments could hurt Chinese-Canadians who are seeking public office or trying to get a job, said Vancouver city councillor George Chow, who also attended Friday's press conference.

"The negative implications are immense for the Chinese-Canadian community - at the ballot box, for jobs, in research," Mr. Chow said. "It calls into question our loyalty, our trustworthiness."

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If CSIS has evidence that Canadian politicians are under the influence of foreign regimes, the agency should act on that information, said Vancouver MLA Jenny Kwan.

"If you have something to say, substantiate it - back it up with evidence," Ms. Kwan said. "If there are charges to be laid, then lay them .... CSIS needs to come out with an explanation, and they need to do it now."

Speakers at the press conference said they understood CSIS's mandate to protect national security and would expect the agency to have people under surveillance, but questioned the content and timing of Mr. Fadden's remarks, which were broadcast on the eve of the G8 and G20 summits in Huntsville, Ont. and Toronto.

After the interview aired, Mr. Fadden retracted a statement that he had discussed the matter with the Privy Council Office, which is the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office.

Mr. Fadden is scheduled to appear before a Commons Public Safety Committee on Monday. A long-time bureaucrat, he was appointed head of CSIS last year.

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