House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Taiwan combined with the head of the US military Mark Milley recently calling the Chinese military “noticeably more aggressive” has greatly ratcheted up tensions with the world’s most populous nation.
Major Canadian media and think tanks are pressing for this country to join the conflict. They have recently offered suggestions on how to “win the new Cold War” with China (Globe and Mail), called for promoting Taiwanese independence (McDonald Laurier Institute) and accused the country of “committing mass atrocity crimes and grave human rights violations against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims” (Toronto Star). Through endless stories in recent years about Chinese spying and technology theft, as well as influence over Canadian cultural and schooling initiatives, the dominant media has established the ideological terrain for conflict. Echoing ‘Russiagate’ nonsense, last month former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole even claimed his party lost “about eight or nine seats” in the last election due to Chinese interference.
On spurious security grounds, the Trudeau government recently conceded to US and media pressure to ban the world’s largest 5G network provider, Huawei, from building its cutting-edge broadband in Canada. During a meeting with her US counterpart last month Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland raised the idea of “friend-shoring”. If pursued seriously, this could lead to delinking economically from China and Russia.
Concurrently, Canada and the US have been working together to combat Chinese dominance over rare earth minerals used to produce electric cars and other newer technologies. Earlier in the year, opposition politicians and the media demanded Ottawa block a Chinese firm from purchasing lithium deposits a Canadian company controlled in northwestern Argentina. How dare the Chinese take our Argentinian resources!
With US military bases and warships encircling the Asian nation, Canadian vessels and aircraft are increasingly present near China’s territorial waters and airspace. Four Canadian naval vessels are participating in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a massive month-long US-led training that largely takes place off of Hawaii. The wargames partly target China.
Alongside their US counterparts, Canadian vessels have run provocative manoeuvres in the South China Sea. While they claim to be upholding the “international rules-based order” in these missions, the USA refuses to recognize the Law of the Sea.
In early June it was reported that Chinese jets had repeatedly buzzed Canada’s CP-140 Aurora surveillance plane operating near its territory. A Global News story — likely instigated by Canada’s military — claimed Chinese pilots flew so close to “sometimes see them raising their middle fingers.” (Flipping the bird is not a common Chinese cultural practice.) Probably hoping to prod a (somewhat) reluctant Trudeau government to condemn the Chinese, the military got what they wanted. Asked about Chinese aggressiveness towards Canadian forces 8,000 km from their territory, Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters, “the fact that China would have chosen to do this is extremely troubling, so we will be bringing it up directly with Chinese officials and (government) counterparts and ensuring that this doesn’t continue to be part of an escalatory pattern.”
At the NATO summit in Spain last month the alliance released a new strategic concept that for the first-time listed China. It labeled Beijing a challenge to the alliance’s “interests, security and values”. NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared, “China is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons, bullying its neighbours, threatening Taiwan … monitoring and controlling its own citizens through advanced technology, and spreading Russian lies and disinformation… China is not our adversary, but we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents.”
At a time when international cooperation is essential to mitigate the climate crisis and global health threats, a sizable segment of Canada’s ruling elite is stoking conflict with China.
Could Canada actually follow the US into war with China?
Top Canadian reporter volunteered to promote domestic intelligence campaign, documents reveal
By Aidan Jonah, The Canada Files, July 28, 2022
One of Canada’s senior-most reporters volunteered to promote a domestic intelligence campaign promoting allegations of foreign interference in the country’s political system, emails obtained by The Canada Files reveal.
Emails obtained by The Canada Files through access to information requests reveal the Globe and Mail journalist Robert Fife volunteered to uncritically reproduce the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s warnings about “foreign interference/influence operations” and interview a CSIS source after learning of an operation focused on briefing parliamentarians about supposed risks of Chinese, Iranian and Russian interference in domestic politics.
Fife’s email in full, sent in the first few days of January 2022:
“I understand that CSIS has set up an outreach program for Members of Parliament and Senators to educate them about foreign interference/influence operations. Can you tell me how the outreach program works and is it possible to interview someone at CSIS about what to watch for in foreign interference/influence operations.
Requests for comment from both Robert Fife and Steven Chase were not answered; they did not provide comment.
Note: The emails are contained in documents obtained via Access to Information Processing requests. They can be found at the bottom of this article.
A CSIS staffer, whose name is redacted, said Fife’s request “appears as good news to me!” on January 7, 2022, suggesting that the agency was certain the story would be positive, a full four days before Fife’s story was published in the country’s national newspaper. David Vigneault, CSIS’ Chief of Policy and Foreign Relations, appeared to have been kept in the loop about Fife and fellow Globe and Mail reporter Steven Chase’s piece, confirming the story was positive five hours after its release on January 11, 2022.
The documents show CSIS was seeking to raise alarm about alleged foreign interference plots, by China in particular. The Globe and Mail piece mirrored the agency’s push, accepting without scrutiny two National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ reports, which claimed that China intimidates critics in Canada and has “diplomats and agents of the United Front [in Canada],” which is “managing the Chinese diaspora.”
While CSIS redacted the names of MPs and the specific talking points crafted for them, the documents reveal that among those briefed were an unnamed Liberal cabinet minister and the Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendicino. Interviews cited for Fife and Chase’s Globe and Mail article corroborate that Conservative MP Michael Chong and NDP MP Jenny Kwan were likely among the group of MPs briefed by CSIS.
CSIS internal emails claim that their briefings on supposed foreign interference threats “were welcomed by all MPs and received consistently positive reactions.” A “majority of MPs” recommended that other MPs receive the same briefing, and wanted to know “how to deal with large ethic diaspora in their ridings” and how they might be affected by “individuals and organizations that were involved in FI [foreign interference],” according to CSIS.
The findings also hint at a troubling relationship between Canada’s public servants and constituents. According to CSIS, a “majority of MPs” recommended that other MPs receive the same briefing and wanted to know “how to deal with large ethic diaspora in their ridings” and how they might be affected by “individuals and organizations that were involved in FI [foreign interference].”
CSIS’ Extensive China File
Canadian intelligence scrutiny of Chinese-Canadians and Chinese institutions is a recurring theme dating back to the 1990’s, when a joint CSIS/RCMP counter-espionage report claimed that Chinese-Canadians are being used by the Chinese government to influence Canadian politics.
As William Dere, author of the award-winning book “Being Chinese in Canada, The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging”, explained for The Canada Files:
This report from 1997 could be referenced as the text-book for law enforcement in the practice of racial-profiling and looking for reds under every bed. An entire case study can be made into the racist Sinophobic intent of this report.
The Report links investment immigrants from Hong Kong - to the “Triad” organized crime syndicates - to the Chinese Intelligence Services (ChIS). Quotes from the Report: “A certain number of very rich Hong Kong Chinese business people (tycoons) who are known to have been cooperating with the Chinese Government for years. … ChIS make very active use of their access to Canadian industries through exchanges of specialists and students, and also set up shell companies to pursue their acquisition of economic and technological intelligence.” The Report goes on to stereotype Chinese cultural relations, “Central points and essential for the understanding of the problem are the cultural singularities that characterize the Chinese as the concepts of "debt of honour", "duties", "Hou Tai or backers" and "Guanxi or connections. … By using these alliances, the Chinese government is trying to gain influence on Canadian politics by maximizing their presence over some of the country's economic levers.”
As China’s global profile rose over the ensuing decades, CSIS’ interest in Chinese-related activities in Canada only grew.
Dere noted that “In electoral politics, Richard Fadden, in 2010, as then head of CSIS, in a drive-by shooting style of innuendos claimed that Chinese Canadian politicians including cabinet ministers and elected municipal officials in BC are under the influence a “foreign government”, i.e. China. No evidence against the unnamed politicians was ever produced but the damage was done.”
A 2013 CSIS ‘intelligence report’ claimed that Confucius Institutes were “spreading propaganda”, and were uniquely dangerous in comparison to other foreign language and cultural institutions such as the British Council and Germany’s Goethe Institute.
As noted in an earlier The Canada Files article:
“The presence of Confucius Institute(s) in the US, Canada around the world is a cultural exchange program which allows students to learn about Chinese culture, and offers training for Mandarin. These institutes were introduced at the request of foreign governments, whose educational institutes partnered with the Confucius Institute located in Beijing.”
CSIS claimed that it was problematic for a Chinese government funded institution to prevent anyone with a record of participation in the Falun Gong cult (which was banned in China in 1999, after hundreds of practioners died after following their anti-medical teachings). Falun Gong’s leader and his followers spread to the US, and this same cult has a right-wing newspaper, The Epoch Times, which spreads anti-China smears and conspiracies about COVID.
That same year, Qing Quentin Huang, a former naval engineer and subcontractor to the Canadian frigate program, was charged by CSIS in 2013 for stealing trade secrets for China. Dere explained “For eight long years Mr. Huang stood alone, except for his lawyers, to fight the allegations. No human rights advocates, no civil libertarians came to his defense. When CSIS refused to disclose evidence against him, the case was stayed and then finally, the criminal charges were dropped in December, 2021. This was a blatant misuse of the court system by national security forces purely based on ideology.”
In 2014, CSIS agents visited the director of a Confucius Institute in Quebec shortly after the CI was launched. According to the CBC, the agents “only left her alone after she threatened to file a human-rights complaint.”
In July 2019, under advice from CSIS, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng were fired from the Winnipeg National Microbiology Lab. Dere notes that Dr. Qiu was instrumental in finding a treatment for Ebola.
In April 2020, CSIS began conducting a campaign to warn universities and researchers about the supposedly extreme risk of them being targets for international espionage, by China in particular. The Globe and Mail article confirmed that “CSIS met with more than 230 Canadian research and industry groups and briefed more than 2,000 individuals” about this supposed threat. Canadian universities have been facing pressure especially since the story broke, to cut off or severely limit collaborations with Chinese universities.
In 2021, CSIS director David Vigneault told Canadian PM Trudeau that foreign interference operations by China and Russia in particular, “have become normalized.”
Then came the focus of this article, the CSIS campaign beginning in late 2021, which seeks to brief MPs on alleged “foreign interference” threats from China, Iran and Russia. Even municipal politicians are being targeted as part of a potential extension of this initial campaign. British Columbian municipal politicians, in view of municipal elections in October, are the initial focus of this potential campaign expansion.
A Vancouver is Awesome article notes that Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart met with CSIS on May 30, 2022, to discuss foreign interference threats and “forms that it could take in terms of foreign interference in both policy making and elections”. The meeting included “a CSIS official with expertise on China”. According to a June 24 article by Toronto Star reporter Jeremy Nutall, “A source with the Vancouver suburb of Port Coquitlam said officials there had a similar briefing.” A Richmond News article released on July 13 notes that Richmond Mayor, Malcom Brodie, also recently had a meeting with CSIS.
Reporters and the security state
What is the function of journalism? To challenge power, and expose misdeeds done by powerful people, is it not?
By uncritically volunteering to advance CSIS’ narrative of “Chinese, Iranian and Russian interference in Canadian politics,” Globe and Mail reporter Robert Fife proved himself to be more interested in maintaining his sources within CSIS, which has targeted Chinese-Canadians for decades, than reporting in the interest of the general public.
The final product of Fife’s interview with CSIS was a redbaiting article which promoted multiple voices who supported a “Foreign Influence Registry Act,” and featured zero voices which would reject CSIS’ campaign to brief MP about supposed foreign interference dangers from enemy nations. The article read as an extended press release which CSIS was able to get into one of Canada’s most read newspapers. The article, and how the article came to be, is the product of a complete failure of Fife, Chase and the Globe and Mail to follow the ethos of journalism.
Link to the documents obtained via Access to Information Processing requests:
Aidan Jonah is the Editor-in-Chief of The Canada Files, a socialist, anti-imperialist news outlet founded in 2019. Jonah has broken numerous stories, including how the Canadian Armed Forces trained neo-Nazi "journalist" Roman Protasevich while he was with the Azov Battalion, and how a CIA front group (the NED) funded the group (URAP) which drove the "Uyghur genocide" vote in parliament to pass this February. Jonah recently wrote a report for the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council, held in September 2021.
Posted August 9, 2022