Chinese intervention turns Canadian politics upside down

The lack of accusations of Chinese interference in Canadian politics has not only generated heated debate in the country and threatens to change its already difficult relationship with the Asian giant for decades, it may also be the “tip of the iceberg”. already happening.

That’s what experts consulted by EFE pointed out about the myriad of Chinese operations in the North American country that appear in Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents that have been leaked to the media in recent weeks and are causing both surprise and concern. .

From funding candidates for federal, provincial, and municipal elections from the Chinese Consulate General in Toronto, to mobilizing supporters among politicians, businessmen, and academics, to lobbying members of the Chinese community in Canada and setting up secret police stations in the country’s major urban centers.

“Election interference is just the tip of the iceberg,” Chok Kwan, co-chair of the Association for Democracy in China in Toronto, told EFE, one of the leading activists who have spent decades denouncing Beijing’s activities in Canada.

According to The Globe and Mail, in the fall of 2022, CSIS warned Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Chinese interference in the 2019 election, during which the Toronto consulate promoted 11 friendly candidates (nine from Trudeau’s Liberal Party and two from the opposition Conservative party).

Other CSIS documents released by the media indicate that the consulate gave large sums of money to friendly candidates and that in the 2021 election, China carried out a complex operation to support Trudeau’s re-election but with the aim of preventing the Liberal Party from gaining an outright majority.

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Trudeau won the election even though the Liberals secured only 160 MPs, 10 short of the number needed to control Parliament.

Jeremy Paltell, professor emeritus at Carleton University in Ottawa and expert on Canada-China relations, told EFE that it is not new that there is “some interaction” between Beijing and the country’s Chinese community.

“What surprised me is the direct role the Chinese consulate in Toronto is being accused of,” Paltil said, adding that interference in the elections is clearly a “red line” that Beijing has crossed.

For Paltiel, what the Chinese government wants is for the “China story” to be told to be one that Beijing has agreed to.

Explained the academic, for whom the interference of this country cannot be compared with others such as the one denounced by Russia to influence the US elections in which Donald Trump won.

There is talk of 11 deputies out of a total of 338 deputies. It is not like Russia. “What we have is a new China that does not apologize for anything,” he added.

The situation in Canada has become more complex in recent years since rivalry with China has become the backbone of US foreign policy.

For years, Ottawa has resisted pressure from Washington to ban Huawei equipment from using 5G telecoms technology.

In December 2018, the United States asked Canada to arrest Huawei’s chief financial officer, and the daughter of its founder, Meng Wanzhou, when its plane stopped in Vancouver. When Meng was arrested, China retaliated by arresting two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

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Meng, Kovrig and Spavor were finally released in September 2021. But by then, Canada-China relations had been badly damaged.

Sources consulted by Ivey indicated that the Canadian intelligence services, concerned about relations with its main ally, the United States, have been pressing the Canadian government for years to bring Ottawa closer to Washington.

The leaked CSIS reports left Ottawa little room for manoeuvre.

Paltiel expressed his surprise that no one in Canada questioned the cause or moment of the CSIS documents being leaked.

Since the leaks began, Canada has published its strategic plan for the Indo-Pacific region, in which it hardens its stance towards China and considers it a “disruptive power”; It banned Huawei 5G devices as well as the official mobile app TikTok.

Trudeau also ended joint investigations of Chinese scientists linked to the Beijing military; appointed a special rapporteur to investigate allegations of Chinese interference; He announced the creation of a registry of lobbyists working in Canada on behalf of foreign governments.

But at the same time, he opposed the formation of a commission to investigate the Chinese interference at the request of the opposition parties.

Cowan supports the creation of the commission and says the only solution for Canada is to stand firm against China. “If you don’t, China will not respect Canada,” he said.

Sacha Woodward

"Wannabe writer. Lifelong problem solver. Gamer. Incurable web guru. Professional music lover."

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