B.C. urges intelligence reform, access to information to protect province from foreign meddling

B.C. Premier David Eby penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the need for CSIS to share foreign interference information with the provinces. Alberta Premier Danielle Smith made a similar request earlier this year.

B.C. urges intelligence reform, access to information to protect province from foreign meddling
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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British Columbia wants intelligence access to better manage and counter alleged foreign interference in their communities, says Premier David Eby.

On Monday, Eby penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, articulating the sharing of information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) with the province is long overdue.

He urged CSIS Act amendments to permit “broader disclosure” of information beyond the federal government.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith earlier told Rebel News she had asked CSIS if Alberta was a target. “The answer was no, which I find quite surprising,” the premier said.

“Something feels like it's not on the up and up.”

Smith also urged legislative changes for premiers to access classified intelligence concerning their jurisdiction.

Premier Eby notes B.C. lacks the necessary intelligence to intercept and address foreign meddling concerns in the province. He outlines “grave concerns” about foreign intrusion by suspected state-level actors.

Most recently, Chinese agents attempted to infiltrate a provincial leadership race in 2022 — only B.C. and Alberta held leadership campaigns at the time.

A democratically elected politician vying for the leadership of their provincial party was to meet Chinese officials inside a Chinese Consulate that year, reported The Bureau. Canada hosts Chinese Consulates in both Vancouver and Calgary.

A classified intelligence memo from October 31, 2022, detailed efforts by China to influence provincial leadership candidates.

During the June to October 2022 time frame described by the intelligence assessment, an elected official only identified as “CA3” allegedly met with Chinese officials at an undisclosed consulate. It did not disclose any names.

Premier Smith told Rebel News she did not receive any information on the matter in a CSIS briefing earlier this year.

“It is classified,” she said. “They're not allowed to tell me what it might be about.”

The investigation exposed gaps in the China inquiry, which only mandates Justice Marie-Josée Hogue to examine the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

This is shortsighted, according to political experts and the October 2022 intelligence assessment. “Interference actors and activities can span various levels of government,” it said.

The memo notes that “CA3” allegedly gained support following the meeting, with “trusted” Chinese contacts organizing a campaign rally in July 2022 and sustaining support for the candidate through the leadership nomination process.

Both governments denied any knowledge of the alleged meeting.

Intelligence experts called the case unlike any to surface in Canadian democracy.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong earlier testified that Chinese agents could infiltrate closed-party leadership races to appoint premiers and the prime minister.

Chong told the Commission on Foreign Interference that foreign states could wield undue influence on leadership contests, giving rise to concerns about political leaders installed by foreign operatives.

“We are effectively opening up the appointment of heads of state or provinces,” he said.

“We could have a situation where a prime minister resigns, and a prime minister is appointed and elected through a leadership process impacted by non-citizens and foreign state actors,” continued the member of Parliament.

The report, Special Report on Foreign Interference in Canada's Democratic Processes and Institutions, named China as the “most prolific actor” in clandestine operations.

It revealed that MPs leaked confidential information to foreign governments, whom they advocated on behalf in exchange for secret payments.

The report also said a former MP had maintained a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer and sought a meeting with that officer while in a foreign country.

Premier Eby pens there are credible reasons to suspect interference at the provincial level, with some in B.C. holding connections to China and other nations considered hostile to Canada.

He says that so far, the federal government is moving in the right direction, but too slowly. 

“I need the federal government to bring the changes around sharing information with the province of B.C. into effect immediately, so that we can get that briefing from CSIS about the risks,” said Eby.

“You passed a law. Bring that section into force, so we can get our briefings and we can take action.”

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