The remark was made in 2013 by Justin Trudeau’s hand-picked “independent” special rapporteur, former governor general David Johnston, as he delivered a speech at Nanjing University at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The visit was of considerable political significance, given it was the first high level meeting between Canadian and Chinese officials since Xi Jinping assumed leadership of the Communist country on March 14, 2013. At this time, David Johnston had already made over a dozen trips to China, stating that he had “become attached to Nanjing thirty years ago.”
Thirty years of relations then; 40 now.
Nanjing University was of personal interest to David Johnston — known by his Chinese name “Jiangshan” in China.
There, he received an honorary doctorate from the university in 2012, which was delivered to him in a special ceremony held at the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa by Zhang Junsai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China; Professor Hong Yinxing, Chancellor of Nanjing University; and Feridun Hamdullahpur, President of the University of Waterloo.
During his time as president of the University of Waterloo, Johnston was integral in establishing a Confucius Institute (孔子学院) in Canada in cooperation with Nanjing University in 2006.
The institutes, seen as fronts for the Chinese Communist Party, have been ordered out of numerous educational institutions in many countries (including Canada) after being identified as national security threats as early as 2009 by former intelligence official Michel Juneau Katsuya in his book, Nest of Spies: The Startling Truth About Foreign Agents at Work Within Canada's Borders.
Katsuya recently testified in parliamentary committee following the release of the Johnston report in the House of Commons, saying that he felt the actions of the Liberal government ignoring the foreign interference threat were “close to treason,” True North reported.
Curiously, Johnston did not delve into the role that Confucius Institutes may have played in foreign interference in Canada in his recent report on Chinese interference influencing Canadian elections, despite the institutes maintaining close relationships with Justin Trudeau and his brother Alexandre.
Justin Trudeau sent letters wishing the Institutes a Happy Chinese New Year as recently as 2019 — a full 10 years after they were identified as a risk to national security.
Can someone whose “home away from home” is in China be trusted to analyze and independently investigate Beijing's interference in Canadian elections and suggest meaningful recommendations to prevent it?
It seems to me like it’s just more 换汤不换药 to me — changing the soup, but not the medicine.