The Trudeau minister responsible for digital government is distancing herself from a fundraising pitch on one of her internet communication channels that was soliciting money to sue a Canadian journalist.
A spokeswoman for Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray said this particular posting, in a group her staff runs on the Chinese-language social-media platform WeChat, is unacceptable and in no way reflects the minister’s views.
As Vancouver news website theBreaker.news first reported, a May 22 post on the Joyce Murray WeChat group has been soliciting donations for a lawsuit against a Global News reporter who broke a story about the China government’s overseas efforts to purchase and amass personal protective equipment from Canada and other countries during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ms. Murray uses WeChat, a social-media platform heavily censored by the Chinese state, to talk to constituents. The Joyce Murray WeChat group has an explainer that says it’s managed by one of the MP’s aides and it includes official contact information to reach the MP.
Ms. Murray’s director of communications, Sarah McMaster, said the minister does not condone this fundraising appeal.
“We value the important work of media across the country. Attacking the integrity of hard-working journalists is not acceptable,” she said.
The post on the Joyce Murray WeChat group contains a link to a website called Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association that asks for money to fund a lawsuit against Global News for reporting on how front groups in Canada for China’s United Front Works Department “helped Beijing stockpile coronavirus safety supplies” from around the world and ship them to China. The United Front reports to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and works to shore up support for the Chinese government abroad.
The Maple Leafs website said Global “has likely already caused harm to the Asian-Canadian community” by reporting on this hoarding of personal protective equipment.
“In order to right a wrong, we are exploring the feasibility of mounting a class action lawsuit against Mr. Sam Cooper and Global News for the inaccurate and unbalanced reporting that targets a specific minority group. Our aim is to demand an apology from Mr. Sam Cooper and Global News to the Canadian-Chinese community as well as compensation for damages,” the pitch on the Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association website says.
Jason Xie, a spokesman for the Maple Leafs association, said the group has raised “well north of” $10,000 to date. “We want to do this right,” he said. The group says it does not accept funding from governments or government agencies.
Ms. Murray’s office said the person who posted this fundraising link has been removed from the Joyce Murray WeChat group.
“WeChat is a social-media tool used to engage members of the Chinese-Canadian community. The views shared by participants do not necessarily reflect those of Minister Murray,” Ms. McMaster said.
“Participation in this group is guided by posted guidelines and a disclaimer. In this case, guidelines were not followed and the individual who posted is no longer in this group.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has instructed all cabinet ministers to treat journalists with respect. In his mandate letter to Ms. Murray, he spelled it out. “Canada’s media and your engagement with them in a professional and timely manner are essential. The Parliamentary Press Gallery, indeed all journalists in Canada and abroad, ask necessary questions and contribute in an important way to the democratic process.”
Global News in a statement on Tuesday said it stands by its reporting but is troubled by what looks like a campaign to attack its work on foreign influence in Canada.
“Global News is committed to following journalistic standards and practices, and we stand by Sam Cooper’s article and support his ongoing investigation in a matter of significant public interest,” the broadcaster said.
“We are increasingly concerned by what appears to be an organized effort to discredit our journalist, our reporting, and our news division as we investigate the serious issue of foreign influence in Canadian affairs."
(Mr. Cooper wrote an article for Global News online and then Global did TV reportage based on the article, with Mr. Cooper and another reporter.)
Conservative MP Peter Kent said the Liberal government passed legislation to prevent foreign interference in Canadian society and Ms. Murray can’t disown responsibility or claim she was a “useful idiot.”
He said it’s well-known among federal politicians that WeChat is used by Chinese United Front agents, who gather intelligence and attempt to influence countries outside China, to go after a journalist whose reporting has been critical of Beijing during the pandemic crisis as well as overseas Chinese “dirty money” in Vancouver’s housing market.
“It’s outrageous that the Minister for Digital Government has been drawn in and had a social-media messaging group exploited by what is a form of the Chinese Communist Party’s espionage operation in Canada,” he said. “We know WeChat was used during the 2019 election campaign to help candidates favoured by the Chinese Communist government.”
Mr. Kent said Canadians should be also be disturbed that Ms. Murray’s WeChat account suggested that Global News was being “racist” in its reporting.
“Liberal politicians needs to realize that the United Front is a very skilled espionage tool of the Chinese government and here is a case where it is fundraising on a Liberal minister’s WeChat group to intimidate a Canadian investigative journalist.”
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