Freeland won't commit to removing Liberal MPs from caucus if complicit in foreign interference

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland skirted a media question seeking reassurance that if Liberal MPs were complicit in foreign interference they would be booted from caucus.

Freeland won't commit to removing Liberal MPs from caucus if complicit in foreign interference
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick and The Canadian Press / Ryan Remiorz
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A federal committee learned Monday that parliamentarians spied on colleagues, and felonies may have been committed.

“Some parliamentarians are, in the words of the intelligence services, ‘semi-witting or witting’ participants in the efforts of foreign states to interfere in our politics,” said the report by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. 

It details frequent communications with unidentified diplomats on the promise they would mobilize support from community groups and businesses in the favour of candidates, whose identity is also not known.

Some public office holders pocketed “funds or benefits from foreign missions,” the report reads.

Others acted at the “request or direction of foreign officials to improperly influence parliamentary colleagues or parliamentary business to the advantage of a foreign state.”

One MP is also known to have served as an informant for a foreign government, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“These are particularly concerning examples of behaviour by a few parliamentarians,” said the Special Report On Foreign Interference In Canada’s Democratic Processes And Institutions, noting that “Some may be illegal.”

Though the foreign state was not named, the report noted China “is clearly the most prolific actor” in clandestine operations.

Chinese agents specifically targeted public office holders “in ridings with large numbers of ethnic Chinese voters and who maintain close relationships with the Chinese ethnocultural community including through Chinese leaders and businesspeople,” detailed the report.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc refused to comment on the findings. “It’s unwise to speak about specific elements that may involve individuals,” he said. 

“Do you agree with what was said in the report that an MP sought a meeting with a foreign intelligence officer?” asked a reporter. “I want to be careful not to comment,” replied LeBlanc.

“Are they still sitting as MPs?” asked a reporter. “I’m not going to address the individual allegations,” replied LeBlanc.

Another reporter asked Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland for reassurance that said MPs would be booted from caucus if they were Liberals. Freeland did not answer the question directly.

“The guarantee I can give to Canadians is that our government takes foreign interference very, very seriously,” said Freeland. “We have put in place tougher measures than existed under the previous conservative government to fight foreign interference,” she added.

“From my perspective, foreign interference is not a partisan issue. Foreign interference is an issue about the national interest.”

The last time that a parliamentarian was convicted of espionage was in 1947 with the jailing of MP Fred Rose as a Soviet agent, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. Rose served six years in prison for violating the Official Secrets Act.

“Foreign actors have targeted federal parliamentarians to collect information to support potential future efforts to coerce them,” said Foreign Interference. “Foreign actors have also intimidated or pressured parliamentarians who they perceived as having taken political positions counter to theirs. The People’s Republic of China in particular employs this strategy.”

Despite the revelations, Minister Freeland contends “Canadians have [not] lost confidence in our democracy.”

“Are you not concerned that by not releasing the names of the MPs involved, you are further undermining confidence in the system?” asked a reporter.

“Canadians… [are] concerned by foreign interference, and they should be,” she replied. “Our government is as well.”

“But if we potentially have MPs still sitting in Parliament, who this committee says wittingly participated with foreign governments to undermine our elections, does that not undermine Canadian confidence in our elections?” the reporter continued.

“I think Canadians recognize how lucky we are to be Canadian and how strong our democracy is,” replied Freeland, completely skirting transparency and accountability.

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