Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

NDP MP Jenny Kwan speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 5.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

New Democrat Jenny Kwan is the third opposition MP to be identified as a target of Chinese state intimidation, setting off a new round of calls for the Liberal government to remove former governor-general David Johnston as special rapporteur and appoint a full-fledged public inquiry into foreign interference.

Ms. Kwan told reporters Monday that she received a classified briefing from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service on Friday during which she was told that she has been – and still is – a target because of her outspoken criticism of China’s authoritarian regime.

“The reason why I’m being targeted is because of my activism,” she said. “They used the term evergreen, meaning that I will forever be targeted. Coming out of this briefing, it is more clear than ever that I will not be intimidated, that I will not be silenced in any way.”

Ms. Kwan said she could not disclose specific details provided by CSIS on how China sought to intimidate her but said the efforts date back as far as the 2019 election. The Vancouver MP has been a strong critic of Chinese efforts since 2020 to silence opposition and dissent in Hong Kong, where she was born, as well as Beijing’s brutal treatment of Muslim Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province.

She is the third opposition MP who has been told by CSIS that they were targets of Beijing. Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong have also been briefed that they have been and remain targets of the Chinese government over their outspoken criticism of Beijing.

Ms. Kwan said the revelation makes it clear there is a need for a public inquiry into Chinese meddling and criticized Mr. Johnston for concluding there was no need for one. “That was absolutely dismaying to me,” she said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the party will table a motion Tuesday to renew the call of opposition parties for a public inquiry, headed by a judge with subpoena powers and allowing for cross-examination of witnesses.

A vote by all the main opposition parties in a minority Parliament would not be binding but would send a powerful message of support for a public inquiry. It also could make it more difficult for Mr. Johnston to carry out the rest of his mandate to hold public hearings.

Leaders of Canadian activist and religious groups targeted by Beijing – including groups representing human-rights activists, Muslim Uyghurs, Falun Gong practitioners and supporters of Tibetan independence – told The Globe last week that they want a public inquiry and don’t want to tell Mr. Johnston what they have already said many times before to parliamentary inquiries and in published reports.

“I call on the government to do what is right, and what is just, and that is: We need a national public inquiry,” Ms. Kwan said. “It is not just for the protection of people like me, who is a member of Parliament, but it is also people who face those dangers every day. And they need protection, and they need the government to be on their side.”

Mr. Johnston was asked by Mr. Trudeau in March to lead an investigation into foreign meddling in the 2019 and 2021 elections. His report last week said such interference is an “increasing threat to our democratic system,” and China is “particularly active.” He concluded, however, that because intelligence about Beijing’s activities is highly classified, it could never be openly discussed with Canadians in a public inquiry.

Mr. Trudeau said he would abide by Mr. Johnston’s recommendation not to call a public inquiry.

Ms. Kwan expressed dismay that she only found out years later that the Chinese government had sought to interfere with her role as MP. The government agreed to provide briefings to MPs who were targets of China as a result of national-security leaks to The Globe and Mail about the effort to intimidate Mr. Chong and his family in Hong Kong.

“Members of Parliament who were a target should have been informed right away,” she said.

Mr. Singh said Monday that Mr. Johnston should not continue with his work on Chinese foreign interference because of his connections to the Trudeau family and the fact that his chief counsel, Toronto lawyer Sheila Block, has made donations only to the Liberal Party.

“Give the clear appearance of bias … we are going to be asking for Mr. Johnston to be stepping aside as special rapporteur,” he said.

The NDP motion said a public inquiry should be headed by someone who has the support of Conservative, Bloc Québécois and NDP members and should be given the mandate to investigate foreign interference by China, Russia, Iran and India.

In the House of Commons Monday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said the NDP should stop supporting the Liberals on confidence and budget measures to show it is serious about wanting a public inquiry.

He also rejected the government’s offer to show classified portions of Mr. Johnston’s report to the opposition leaders provided they take an oath of secrecy. Mr. Singh has taken up the offer, but Mr. Poilievre and Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet refused, calling it a trap.

“The government will not pull me into a room, stamp public documents ‘secret’ and then tell me I cannot speak,” Mr. Poilievre said.

Bloc House Leader Alain Therrien called the special rapporteur’s recommendation against a public inquiry “a masquerade protecting” the Prime Minister.

“David Johnston’s report on Chinese interference is a farce. No one accepts it except the Prime Minister and China, which is dying of laughter,” Mr. Therrien said during Question Period.

“This obliging report for the Prime Minister was done by a man chosen by the Prime Minister. That is not what the people and the House want,” he said. " I am declaring now that the Bloc Québécois will hound the Prime Minister every day until he launches this inquiry.”

Dennis Molinaro, an instructor at Ontario Tech University and former national-security analyst, said it’s particularly disturbing that Ms. Kwan was informed she remains a target today.

“Three opposition members being actively targeted by People’s Republic of China,” he wrote on Twitter. “A story the PRC wanted a Liberal Party minority and the government doesn’t want an inquiry. At what point does the government cede this looks horrible?”

He said it raises questions about what steps Ottawa is taking to stop foreign interference.

“MPs in Canada are being targeted by a foreign government right now. And what exactly are we doing?”

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe