Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has asked his officials to investigate a top-secret CSIS report seen by The Globe and Mail that warns the Chinese government has targeted Canadian MPs behind a parliamentary motion declaring Beijing’s oppression of Uyghurs to constitute genocide.
Mr. Trudeau was asked by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre in Question Period on Monday why a report on the matter from CSIS was produced in 2021 but no action was taken. He noted the Chinese diplomat reported by The Globe as being involved in targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong is still listed as working in Beijing’s Toronto consulate.
“This is absolutely unacceptable and it shouldn’t have happened,” Mr. Trudeau told the Commons of the targeting of Mr. Chong by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The Globe and Mail on Monday reported on the July, 2021, intelligence assessment by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that found China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security (MSS), “has taken specific actions to target Canadian MPs” linked to the February, 2021, parliamentary motion condemning Beijing’s oppression of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities.
The motion, which passed, declared that China’s conduct amounts 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 Conservative MP Michael Chong, and that Zhao Wei, a Chinese diplomat in Canada, was working on this matter.
Mr. Chong, reached by The Globe Friday, said he had no knowledge of this. He said he has relatives in Hong Kong. He was hit with sanctions by China in March, 2021, after sponsoring the parliamentary motion on genocide and has been careful not to contact his relatives since.
Mr. Zhao is listed in the Department of Global Affairs’ record of foreign diplomats as working in China’s Toronto consulate. In February, The Globe reported that a national-security source described Mr. Zhao as a “suspected intelligence actor.”
Mr. Chong, the Conservative Party’s foreign-affairs critic, released a statement Tuesday saying Ottawa should have informed him about any threats to his family from the Chinese government.
“Like many Canadians, I have family abroad,” he said. “The PRC’s targeting of family abroad to intimidate and coerce Canadians at home is a serious national threat. It undermines social cohesion and our cherished fundamental rights and freedoms.”
Mr. Trudeau said after The Globe story was published Monday that he asked government security experts to investigate the matter. He said it’s wrong for “any Canadian to be subjected to intimidation by a foreign power, particularly threats against family and against families of members of Parliament.”
He said he’d asked officials to gather “all the information on this file on what happened, on who was informed, and who was not informed – to make sure that we are following up in an appropriate way.”
Both Mr. Chong in his statement and Mr. Poilievre in the Commons asked Mr. Trudeau why Canada has not expelled the Chinese diplomat.
The Prime Minister did not address the question of expulsion but said his government intends to set up a foreign-influence registry. Both Australia and the United States already have such registries and Britain is considering establishing one. They require those working on behalf of a foreign power – lobbying, communicating, disbursing money – to register or face criminal charges.
“We are right now looking to establish a foreign-agent registry [and] making sure through consultations with potentially impacted communities that is done the right way,” Mr. Trudeau said.
The Globe reported Monday that according to the top-secret intelligence assessment from CSIS, China sees Canada as a “high-priority target” and employs “incentives and punishment” as part of a vast influence network directed at legislators, business executives and diaspora communities.
The report warned that Beijing is the “foremost perpetrator” of foreign interference in Canada. Its agents are unconcerned about repercussions, the report says, because of the lack of obstacles such as a foreign-influence registry.
It’s not known whether elected officials in Canada gained access to the report, which was produced by the agency’s Intelligence Assessment Branch and dated July 20, 2021, several weeks before the federal election campaign got under way.
The assessment is presented as a “baseline for understanding the intent, motives and scope” of Beijing’s foreign interference in Canada.
The nine-page document, seen by The Globe and Mail, is the latest example of the warnings published by Canada’s security service in recent years. It’s marked top secret and for Canadian eyes only.
It said Canada needs to erect more obstacles to foreign interference. “Absent real disincentives,” such as a foreign-influence registry and indictments of foreign-interference actors, Chinese targeting of Canada is “expected to continue and increase over time.”
“Threat actors almost certainly perceive their activities in Canada to be low-risk and high reward,” the assessment said.