A Parliament Hill ceremony held on June 24, 2023, to commemorate the Chinese Exclusion Act was co-opted by pro-Communist voices drawing a parallel between the Act and the recent introduction of a foreign agent registry law.
The entire event was broadcast by an organization called The ACCT Foundation (Action, Chinese Canadians Together) over the official Senate Zoom channel. The Canadian federal government sponsors the ACCT with over a million dollars in direct funding and contracts through the Canadian Heritage Department.
ACCT was created in 2017 to “build the capacity of Chinese Canadian leaders committed to creating a more equitable society in Canada.”
The proposed registry law requires citizens engaged in political activities or lobbying on behalf of foreign entities to disclose their relationship with the foreign entity and details of their actions, financials, and other disbursements.
Calls to “oppose a modern-day Chinese Exclusion Act” were spread through WeChat and Chinese state-affiliated media, including a poster featuring the commemoration ceremony to take place on Parliament Hill on June 24th.
Senator Victor Oh and Senator Yuen Pau Woo were the event's chief sponsors. Oh reportedly rented buses to bring protestors to Parliament Hill. Some WeChat messages indicated protestors were offered compensation to attend.
Instructions released before the event had strict rules for attendees: posts reminded participants not to chant “red slogans” (in favour of the CCP), not to waive the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) flag, and not to mention or circulate the petition against proposed foreign agent registry legislation. Earlier messaging had indicated pushback against a registry was the underlying motivator for the event, but organizers changed the messaging.
Despite the strict instructions, some protestors engaged in a People’s Liberation Army-type military march to the anthem of the Chinese military group while donning Beijing Olympic jackets as uniforms.
Demonstrators arrived on the Hill with coordinated signage, splattered with various phrases such as “We support David Johnston,” “We Condemn Racism,” and “Oppose False Media Reporting” – messages that have been parroted by Senators Woo and Oh as they have pushed back against tougher foreign interference laws. Senator Oh was recently captured on video stating that he intended to start a fund in order to sue reporters that “smear Chinese people.
Senator Oh has taken more travel “gifts” from the PRC regime than any other parliamentarian.
Senator Woo is a founding member of The ACCT and the non-profit has received over a million dollars in federal contracts since 2020 alone to “combat anti-Asian racism.”
Documents show that funding in 2017 to kick off the foundation was provided by now Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly under an “Inter-Action” funding program provided by the Canadian Heritage Department. The ACCT was allocated $158,000 in funding, which was celebrated at a ceremony attended by Senator Woo, Liberal MP Melanie Joly, and Deputy Consul General Gao Zhenting (高振廷), amongst others.
A statement on foreign interference allegations on the ACCT Foundation’s website parrots Senator Woo and Oh’s statements:
“We are troubled that the current dialogue arose from leaks from unknown sources and spread through innuendo. As a result this issue is now highly sensationalized and reputational and physical harm amongst those within the Chinese Canadian community is a real possibility. Our discourse must always be evidence-based, not just conjectures.
Finally, we ask those who have made allegations of foreign interference to provide the evidence they relied on in making such allegations to the proper authorities and we encourage our media reporting this issue to carefully weigh whether the information they have in their possession support the allegation of interference or whether the information they have demonstrates influence operations during an election campaign in Canada.”
David Johnston’s report, which has been highly praised by foreign-language media outlets backed behind the scenes by Chinese-state media, claimed that after review that there were “no networks” that could be traced back to a coordinated campaign by the PRC.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was introduced on July 1st, 1923, by the Canadian Government and was a culmination of anti-Chinese policies that had been steadily increasing in Canada since the 19th century. The Act prohibited the reunion of families and required all Chinese - even natural-born citizens-to register with the government and carry identification on them or risk detention or deportation. The legislation was repealed on May 14, 1947.
Calls for a FARA-type (Foreign Agents Registration Act) piece of legislation have been echoed for years in Canada and amplified as of late, given claims of foreign interference. The United States has had similar legislation since 1938.