Top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents unveiled Friday that China actively protected its "Canadian friends" network that covertly gathered information from MPs and senators.
Supposedly, the Red Dragon desired a minority Liberal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to defeat Conservatives deemed "unfriendly" to Beijing in the 2021 federal election.
The top-secret CSIS reports outlined the tactics used by China, which included disinformation campaigns, undeclared cash donations and using international students to volunteer for preferred Liberal candidates.
But the spy agency clarified its report that Canadians friendly with China constituted non-ethnic-Chinese individuals who maintain relations with PRC officials in Canada and have close ties with federal politicians, not Chinese Canadians close to MPs.
Former Conservative Party leader Erin O'Toole claimed in a podcast last June that his party lost "about eight or nine seats" due to Chinese interference, adding that if the party had won those seats, he would have had a stronger case to remain party leader.
According to CSIS documents, Beijing's influence exceeded election interference, as they also targeted Canadian legislators to sway public opinion through proxies in the business and academic communities.
Trudeau told reporters Friday that he wants CSIS to find the leaker of secret reports. He also maintained that China did not influence the results of previous federal elections.
"It's certainly a sign that security within CSIS needs to be reviewed. And I'm expecting CSIS to take the issue very seriously," said Trudeau.
Former BC Conservative MP Kenny Chiu previously went on record that he believed a coordinated campaign from Beijing cost him his seat in the 2021 federal election. Chiu said his private member's bill to establish a foreign-agent registry provoked China's network in Canada to ensure he did not win in his re-election bid.
"When I [went] door knocking … there have been supporters of mine who just shut the door in my face," said Chiu. "There [was] so much hatred that I sense."
DisinfoWatch, a foreign disinformation monitoring watchdog, also warned of a coordinated campaign against the Conservative Party in 2021. Experts said the campaigns stemmed from WeChat, a Chinese instant messaging service.
However, Trudeau played down allegations of foreign interference in federal elections, despite China's former consul-general in Vancouver, Tong Xiaoling, boasting about defeating two Conservative MPs.
"The fact that a Chinese diplomat would try to take credit for things that happened is not unseen in diplomatic circles around the world," claimed Trudeau.
But CSIS warned the prime minister about Toronto-area politicians with alleged ties to Chinese diplomats.
Trudeau added that a civil servant in Ottawa maintains Canada's electoral integrity, stating, "Canadians can have total confidence that the outcomes of the 2019 and the 2021 elections were determined by Canadians and Canadians alone at the voting booth."
However, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre accused Ottawa of "covering up the interference of the authoritarian regime" in Beijing.
"He is perfectly happy to let an authoritarian foreign government interfere in our elections as long as they're helping him," said Poilievre at a Friday media blitz in Calgary.
Poilievre also called on Ottawa to set up a foreign-agent registry that tracked all people paid to influence Canadian governments on behalf of foreign countries.
Trudeau declined to answer whether Ottawa would proceed to set up a registry in allied Australia and the United States.
On January 15, 2022, an intelligence report by CSIS said China had learned that the spy agency warned MPs and senators about China's influence operations, prompting Chinese diplomats to shut down their operations directed at Ottawa.
"[People's Republic of China] officials believe that CSIS is conducting investigations into Chinese foreign interference in Canada, resulting in officials considering that it is more prudent for "Canadian friends" to cease contacts with MPs for the time being," reads the report.
"PRC officials will simply need to provide an ambiguous warning to the 'Canadian friends' for the latter to grasp the situation."
However, the CSIS documents did not disclose the Canadian business executives, academics or researchers they believed had been compromised through Beijing's foreign-interference operations.
Beijing expressed concern over the spy agency's pressuring on Canadian universities and researchers collaborating with China on research. One Chinese diplomat in Canada said CSIS is "unnecessarily investigating PRC-focused academics" and said PRC officials should warn these academics about the investigations.
In 2021, Ottawa tightened national security reviews for academics seeking federal funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne extended the ban to all federal granting agencies after they learned in January that 50 Canadian universities have collaborated with China's National University of Defence Technology since 2005.
Champagne announced on Tuesday that Ottawa would no longer fund research with the Chinese military or state security institutions and urged Canadian universities and provinces to adopt the same stringent national security measures.
Rebel News reached out to Alberta's Ministry of Advanced Education for comment. They responded that in May 2021, the province directed its four research universities to suspend any new or renewed partnerships with China and to review and report on their partnerships with China.
Minister Demetrios Nicolaides admitted they required more efforts to curb foreign state infiltration into Alberta's research and innovation centres, including its post-secondary institutions.
Advanced Education spokesperson Sam Blackett told Rebel News that they informed the universities that they could resume "low-risk agreements" with China — limited to arrangements regarding "undergraduate student mobility and transferability," as well as "corporate training opportunities."
He added that they eased restrictions because "they were deemed a low risk to intellectual property and national security."