The Liberal Party may let Independent MP Han Dong return to caucus pending a review of foreign interference allegations against him.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters Wednesday he would meet personally with the MP to discuss a potential return. As of writing, he has yet to have a face-to-face conversation with Dong but hopes to have one soon.
Dong left the Liberal caucus unceremoniously on March 22 following a scathing media report that claimed he asked Han Tao, China's consul general in Toronto, not to free diplomats Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in February 2021 to avoid bleeding support to the Conservatives.
In a separate media report, The Globe and Mail claimed that Chinese diplomats and their proxies worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered "hostile" towards Beijing during the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
Top-secret CSIS documents unveiled that China actively protected its "Canadian friends" network that covertly gathered information from MPs and senators. They desired a minority Liberal government to defeat Conservatives deemed "unfriendly" to Beijing.
Though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Beijing tried to meddle in Canada's elections, he referenced two intelligence reports studying foreign influence in elections that said any interference did not affect the outcome of the 2019 and 2021 elections.
Global News also reported that Dong allegedly received covert support from the Chinese consulate in Toronto. The MP denied both allegations.
Immediately following his resignation from the caucus, he announced a lawsuit against the publication and its parent company for publishing "inaccurate and irresponsible claims that come from an unverified and anonymous source."
"Let me assure you, as a parliamentarian and person, I have never and would never advocate or support the violation of basic human rights of any Canadian — of anyone, anywhere, period," said Dong.
Global previously named him a "witting affiliate in China's election interference networks" on February 24. They said CSIS surveilled him as early as June 2019, months before his election to Parliament, and named him in an intelligence memo distributed to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
The PMO claimed they only learned of the two-year-old conversation following the media report.
In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff, Katie Telford, testified at the Commons to discuss election interference by China. During the deliberations, she told MPs she had no conversations about dropping Dong as a Toronto candidate over foreign interference allegations.
"I was never involved in a conversation on the subject," testified Telford when questioned about the Independent MP. "There was no conversation I was part of on this subject."
Telford added that she discussed all essential matters with the prime minister.
"I know if it had ever been brought to my attention, if it was ever brought to the prime minister's attention...we would have acted on it. I would have ensured he knew about it, and I know he would have acted on it."
Intelligence services urged the PMO to rescind Dong's nomination over alleged foreign interference.
However, Trudeau said: "In a free democracy, it is not up to unelected security officials to dictate to political parties who can or cannot run."
In February, he linked questions on Chinese interference and Dong to "a rise in anti-Asian racism…arisen around people's loyalties."
In an attempt to seek clarification, CBC reporter Lorenda Reddekopp asked: "Are you saying that they didn't warn you? Or were you warned and chose to dismiss it for those reasons?"
Trudeau responded: "I want to make everyone understand fully: Han Dong is an outstanding team member, and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained."
LeBlanc confirmed Wednesday he would "still [go] through the process [of reviewing the allegations, as]... it's something the prime minister asked me to do [and] I want to do it properly."
"The prime minister asked me to begin a process that would look at all of these issues…and when we have more to say at the right moment, I'd be happy to do so," he said.
LeBlanc did not provide a timeline for his decision on Dong returning as a member of the Liberal caucus.