Former CSIS officer says Chinese agents have 'compromised' federal government

On May 11, a former officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) testified before a Commons committee on the need for 'jail time' if elected officials and bureaucrats are caught cooperating with foreign powers.

Former CSIS officer says Chinese agents have 'compromised' federal government
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
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“Because we’re close to treason here,” Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former chief of the Asia-Pacific Unit within CSIS, told MPs.

As part of its study on foreign interference, the Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) heard several recommendations from the former CSIS officer, who criticized his former employer and the RCMP for failing to tackle the threat.

In March, he recommended that Ottawa create a new independent agency with arrest powers to tackle foreign interference, claiming Chinese agents have compromised every Canadian government since prime minister Brian Mulroney took office.

Top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents revealed in February that China actively protected its "Canadian friends" network that covertly gathered information from MPs and senators. 

The Globe and Mail reported that China used disinformation campaigns, undeclared cash donations and using international students to volunteer for preferred Liberal candidates.

To counter foreign influence, Juneau-Katsuya recommended that electoral candidates, political staff and volunteers sign a declaration saying they're not "under the influence or acting on behalf of a foreign government or entity."

"This form will clearly warn of possible criminal procedures in case of intentional deception," he said. "No fine, no suspended sentences or anything of that nature."

He also suggested removing foreigners from voting in party nominations, calling their involvement in the electoral process “obvious nonsense.”

According to the federal spy agency, China's influence exceeded election interference. They also targeted Canadian legislators to sway public opinion through proxies in the business and academic communities. 

One Chinese diplomat in Canada said CSIS is "unnecessarily investigating PRC-focused academics" and said PRC officials should warn these academics about the investigations. Another boasted about defeating two Conservative MPs in B.C.

CSIS warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Toronto-area politicians with alleged ties to Chinese diplomats, but the Liberal leader expressed “total confidence” that Canadians determined the outcomes of the 2019 and the 2021 federal elections.

Juneau-Katsuya also testified that Chinese agents have influence over some staff at Global Affairs Canada, given how long it took Ottawa to declare a Chinese diplomat persona non grata.

According to The Globe, a Chinese Ministry of State Security officer wanted information on relatives of Conservative MP Michael Chong abroad to impose sanctions on them over his condemnation of China’s treatment of Uyghers. Ottawa revealed Wei Zhao led the intimidation campaign against the MP, who was unaware of the efforts against him and his family.

On May 8, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly expelled Zhao from Canada, prompting China to expel a Canadian diplomat in return the following day.

“My speculation as an investigator is that unfortunately, at Foreign Affairs or Global affairs today, we have some people working naively and non-intentionally or maybe intentionally, on behalf of China, and a certain sort of shake-up must be done on that site as well,” he said.

MPs asked Juneau-Katsuya if he came across information that confirmed the involvement of foreign agents in electoral nomination processes.

“Worse than that,” replied the former CSIS officer. “I’ve seen candidates going to the consulate and asking for their help in order to be elected, and he got elected.”

In April, MP Han Dong resigned from the Liberal caucus after allegations surfaced that he told the Chinese consulate to withhold the release of Canadian diplomats Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from Chinese captivity.

Two verified security sources allege Dong told Han Tao, China's consul general in Toronto, that releasing the two Michaels in February 2021 would benefit the Conservatives in the polls.

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