Chinese-Canadian MPs and senators are among those who are “primary targets” of foreign interference efforts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.
Trudeau made the comments to reporters in Winnipeg on Friday as pressure mounts on the federal government to call for a public inquiry into reports of attempted Chinese interference in Canadian elections and society.
“We know that Chinese-Canadian parliamentarians, and Chinese Canadians in general, are more important targets for Chinese interference than others,” he said.
“We know the same is true for Canadians of Iranian descent, who are more prone to interference from the Iranian government. Russian speakers in Canada are more vulnerable to Russian misinformation and disinformation, and we are regularly updated on how we can ensure our integrity and the work Canadians do to serve in politics is done with all the protections.
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Chinese-Canadian lawmakers among ‘biggest targets’ of foreign interference, Trudeau says
Trudeau had been asked about a Global News investigative report that cited information from intelligence officials who allegedly provided Trudeau’s party with an urgent and classified briefing in late September 2019 regarding the Toronto-area Liberal candidate, Han Dong.
The sources said that over the summer, CSIS tracked Dong – a former Liberal MP from Ontario – because they feared he had replaced Don Valley North Liberal incumbent Geng Tan in what they thought were suspicious circumstances.
They feared that Dong was seen as the preferred candidate by officials at the Chinese consulate in Toronto, according to an official with direct knowledge of the alleged threat about Dong.
Trudeau insists the integrity of the 2019 and 2021 elections was not compromised by foreign interference
Responding to questions from Global News for the story, Dong denied the allegations and said Monday he would defend himself. Trudeau defended Dong on Monday, saying he was “an exceptional member of our team and that suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be accepted.”
Will there be a public inquiry?
Trudeau also did not respond directly to questions Friday about whether he would support a public inquiry into alleged Chinese interference attempts in the recent Canadian election.
On Thursday, a House of Commons committee investigating the allegations called for a public inquiry into the matter.
Motion to inquire into foreign election interference passed in committee, Liberals oppose
Conservative and Bloc members of the procedure and House affairs committee voted in favor of an NDP motion to launch “a national public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference in Canada’s democratic system.”
It is not known if any of them will be launched. Liberal members of the committee voted against the measure.
While not binding, the motion further increases pressure on Trudeau, who has faced growing calls to launch an investigation after multiple media outlets detailed China’s alleged attempts to influence Canadian society and governments. elections.
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Reports from Global News and The Globe and Mail also questioned what Trudeau and Canadian officials might have known about the alleged interference attempts and whether the allegations should have been shared with the public sooner.
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The NDP is now considering bringing a similar motion to the full House of Commons, which resumes on Monday.
More specifically, the motion adopted in committee on Thursday notes that the committee cannot compel the government to launch a public inquiry. The motion also calls for such an inquiry to investigate “abuses of diaspora groups by hostile foreign governments,” and to have the power to order and review any documents it deems necessary, including including documents related to national security.
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She called for the person to lead such an inquiry to be “selected unanimously by the House Leaders of the officially recognized parties in the House of Commons” and noted that although the motion calls on the government to launch a public inquiry, the committee cannot compel him to do so.
Trudeau has so far resisted calls for an inquiry, saying there are other ongoing proceedings – including the House of Commons committee’s broader inquiry – that are equipped to respond to the allegations.
He also pointed to a report released this week that detailed an election integrity panel’s conclusion that the 2021 federal election was free and fair, despite attempted interference that fell short. the level of requirement for a voter warning.
NDP and Conservatives call for investigation into allegations of foreign election interference
However, that report suggested that the threshold for the panel to notify the public of interference – which was also not met in the 2019 vote – should be lowered for future elections.
“All of these processes are ongoing and demonstrate the seriousness with which this government in this country must take the issue of foreign interference,” Trudeau said Friday.
“As these processes unfold, I’m sure they will further highlight what we need to do…and we’ll be there to do whatever is necessary to achieve two goals: first, to ensure that our electoral integrity holds; that our democracy is defended against foreign interference; and second, that Canadians can have confidence in our institutions, in our democracies, in our ability to defend ourselves.
Joly takes on his Chinese counterpart at the G20
The office of Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Friday that she met with her Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in India and raised the issue of the alleged interference.
His office said Joly was “direct, firm and unequivocal” that Canada “will never tolerate any form of foreign interference in our democracy and internal affairs from China.”
“We will never accept any violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” his office said.
“We will never accept any violation by Chinese diplomats of the Vienna Convention on Canadian soil.”
The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is a United Nations treaty governing the conduct and expectations of diplomats around the world. It sets out what diplomatic missions can and cannot do, and expectations for how they will be treated by the states where they operate.
Joly’s remarks appear to stem from calls from Canada’s former ambassador to China, David Mulroney, who told MPs on a committee studying foreign interference on Feb. 7 that Ottawa must be prepared to expel Chinese diplomats. if it turns out that they were involved in interference or harassment.
Qin’s office, meanwhile, refuted allegations that Chinese embassies and consulates were trying to interfere in Canadian elections and society. He said the alleged interference was “completely false and absurd” and that China strongly opposes it.
“The Canadian side should take practical measures to ensure the normal performance of the functions of Chinese diplomatic missions in Canada and prevent rumors and speculation from interfering with relations between the two countries,” his office said.
– with files from Sam Cooper, Sean Boynton and Reuters of Global News
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