This article originally appeared in the Epoch Times.
By Peter Menzies, March 8, 2023
The extent to which China’s dark tentacles of influence—long rumoured but thinly reported—have entangled Canada is finally becoming clear.
Security service leaks to The Globe and Mail and Global News indicate proof exists that the Chinese regime prefers Canada to be ruled by Liberal minority governments and that its agents were involved in both the 2019 and 2021 elections.
Remarkably, both news organizations cited unnamed sources within the usually tight-lipped Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS).
People within the normally circumspect national spy service are clearly concerned. After all, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s knees appear to have been trembling at the prospect of offending Chinese leader Xi Jinping for years.
In the early days, when Trudeau’s Liberals dreamed of a free trade agreement with the Beijing regime, this made sense. But that went off the rails in 2017 and, a year later, China arrested and jailed Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. We all get that.
But there was always a sense that something else was involved.
That air of uneasy suspicion is now a storm of concern that has journalists and commentators searching for—and finding—incidents of covert and overt Chinese influence.
The CSIS leaks so far involve China’s efforts to, specifically, influence the outcome of candidate selection processes and elections in targeted ridings and to curry favour by donating to the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation. The latter effort came with the suggestion that a statue of Mao Zedong and the elder Trudeau together would be a welcome addition to the University of Montreal’s aesthetic.
The most glaring electoral example is the case of Steveston-Richmond East Tory Kenny Chiu, who had won the British Columbia riding handily in 2019. However, he then proposed the creation of a foreign agent registry—et voila—lost in 2021. The winner, Liberal Parm Bains, is thought to have benefited from a disinformation campaign waged by Chinese Communist Party agents through Chinese-language news and social media platforms. More than 39,000 of the 100,000 people in the riding speak a Chinese language.
Toronto MP Han Dong, also according to CSIS leaks, allegedly won the Liberal nomination for Don Valley North thanks in part to an influx of votes from seniors and foreign students funded by the CCP.
Trudeau incredulously suggested that questions regarding the matter are inherently racist and—while still refusing to clarify whether CSIS had warned him Dong had been compromised—insisted that “unelected” security people don’t get to decide who gets elected. In other words, he didn’t like what he heard, but he never heard it.
Foreign agents monkeying with politics isn’t new. And as anyone familiar with party nomination politics knows, busloads of non-citizen seniors have been showing up to vote en masse for a preferred candidate for decades.
The revelation here is the unexplained patterns of hesitation and willful blindness displayed by Trudeau when it comes to all things Chinese. For instance, the decision on prohibiting Huawei from involvement in building Canada’s 5G network took years. Banning TikTok apps from government devices came months after the Americans took the same step, while Trudeau’s first efforts to procure COVID vaccines were, inexplicably, from China.
It’s not like our friends haven’t noticed. Long a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance designed to keep eyes on China (the other four are New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, and the USA), Canada was left on the curb when the UK, USA, and Australia announced a big kids’ version—AUKUS—of the same. Then, last year, Canada was again on the outside looking in when a new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework was announced.
Over at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Peter Dahlin’s request for the regulator to de-license CCTV and CGTN—Chinese state broadcasters—has lingered without explanation for getting on to four years. Dahlin’s organization, Safeguard Defenders, focuses on human rights abuses. It asked the CRTC to take action given that, in addition to spreading propaganda, the two networks had broadcast forced confessions (including Dahlin’s) from dozens of political prisoners.
Last month, Conservative MP Michael Chong raised the issue again. All he got was a dodgy response from Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino. Notorious for his flirtatious association with facts, Mendicino could only mutter about the CRTC’s independence—a notion that was made redundant last spring when, at the bidding of Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, the broadcast regulator took only two weeks to remove RT (Russia TV) from its list of approved channels.
It is not unreasonable for a rational person to conclude that if the government can get its “independent” regulator to remove one foreign state broadcaster of which it disapproves, it can use a nod and a wink to ensure the continued presence of other state broadcasters of which it is not interested in disapproving.
Given the revelations that the Chinese Communist Party has been using Chinese-language media to influence Canadians’ political perspectives, the CRTC should be called before Parliament to explain its refusal to rule on Dahlin’s complaint. Canadians have every right to know whether it, too, is subject to pressure from Beijing.
This is, after all, the same CRTC that is about to be given the power to regulate content on the internet.
Peter Menzies is a Senior Fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a former newspaper executive, and past vice chair of the CRTC.