RCMP faces lawsuit into investigation of 'secret' Chinese 'police stations'

The RCMP is investigating the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal (SFCGM) and Centre Sino-Québec over suspicions they front as 'secret police stations' for China. The organizations filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday, seeking more than $4.9 million in damages.

RCMP faces lawsuit into investigation of 'secret' Chinese 'police stations'
joseph roland - stock.adobe.com and Google Maps
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Two Montreal-area centres have sued the RCMP over its investigation into secret Chinese "police stations." 

Alongside the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal (SFCGM), the RCMP is investigating the Centre Sino-Québec over suspicions they serve as front for the Chinese government to identify, monitor, intimidate or silence critics of Beijing.

Their executive director, Xixi Li, who also serves as a Brossard city councillor, claims the accusations damaged her "dignity and reputation" as well as that of the centre.

RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme maintains his agency is acting on "credible" information, but that did not stop either centre from filing a defamation lawsuit Wednesday in Superior Court, seeking more than $4.9 million in damages.

Overnight, these “reputable community organizations” lost support from the federal and provincial governments over suggestions they carried out illegal activities as supposed Chinese police stations, says the lawsuit.

Duheme told Radio-Canada last week this "is not the first time" the RCMP has been sued over an ongoing investigation.

"All I'm saying is that the information that was brought to us was credible enough for us to launch an investigation," he said.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Kim Chamberland said last May their "national response disrupted illegal activity" but did not specify what or where it occurred.

"It is important to note that some of the activity the RCMP is investigating was occurring at locations where other legitimate services to the Chinese Canadian community were, or are being, offered," she said at the time.

The ongoing investigation has cost the centres $3.2 million in funding, of which some includes government grants, alleges the lawsuit, including $378,120 from Quebec's labour ministry to help newcomers find employment and a $44,532 funding cut for French-language training services from the immigration ministry.

"My clients hope that the matter can be resolved amicably, but they are also ready to go to trial if needed," according to their lawyer, Maryse Lapointe.

The lawsuit alleges they requested the RCMP to disclose evidence to substantiate their claims on August 10, 2023, to no avail.

The SFCGM and the Centre Sino-Québec remain "in the dark" after nearly a year since the national police force launched the probe, according to the lawsuit.

Lapointe emphasized the importance of “an efficient dialogue” with the RCMP to quickly repair the damage to her clients' reputation.

The RCMP have yet to file charges, reported CTV News, with both centres continuing to deny that they front for Chinese espionage.

The RCMP's investigation is linked to a larger debate over allegations that China interfered in the past two federal elections and is stealing Canadian research and intellectual property.

A public inquiry probing those allegations is set to resume later this month.

According to a 2022 document by Safeguard Defenders, more than 50 secret Chinese police stations exist worldwide, with two "secret police stations" possibly located in Montreal. However, a parliamentary report titled Overseas Police Service Stations doubled that number to nearly 100 alleged stations worldwide.

The RCMP confined their probe initially to the Greater Toronto Area last fall, having learned of activity "at locations where other legitimate services to the Chinese Canadian Community are being offered." 

They expanded their probe to Chinese community centres in Montreal after receiving 15 tips from human rights activists.

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