Let's not be naive, China spies
by Candice Malcolm
June 17, 2015
Is Canada equipped to deal with foreign agents active within our borders?
Earlier this week, a Globe and Mail story revealed concerns held by the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) about an Ontario cabinet minister.
The report alleged Canada’s intelligence agency considered Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Michael Chan to be a potential threat to Canada, and under the influence of Communist China.
Chan, who has called the allegations “ludicrous”, has not been charged with any crime.
Ontario’s ethics commissioner reportedly investigated his dealings with China and found he did not violate Ontario’s laws.
There is no public evidence Chan’s regular communication with the Chinese consul-general was dubious in nature.
While Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne responded the issue was dealt with and resolved in 2010, and that Chan has her full confidence, Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay said there is an “ongoing investigation” but would provide no details.
It is unfortunate that Chan has been placed in a position where he must defend himself against reports he is a potential security threat without having been charged, let alone convicted, of anything.
His case aside, however, there is reason to be concerned about Communist China’s influence in Canada.
The fact China tries to influence Canadian institutions and decision-makers is well documented.
Four years ago, Conservative MP Bob Dechert was caught exchanging flirtatious emails with an employee of Xinhua News Agency, an organization controlled by the Chinese government.
Xinhua is a product of the Chinese Communist Party, created in the 1930s to handle revolutionary propaganda.
Many Western intelligence agencies suspect Xinhua works with China’s spy agencies to collect information for Beijing.
Yet a Canadian MP — the parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, no less — was not wise enough to keep a professional distance from one of its eager employees.
Following the incident, a former Chinese spy spoke out and warned Ottawa to be more cautious when it comes to senior officials and journalists from China.
Beijing is targeting Canada, he said, and Canadian politicians should be vigilant.
Aside from trying to influence politicians, Chinese agents are also engaged in cyber espionage.
Chinese state-sponsored actors breached the computer infrastructure of the National Research Council, in what was described by CSIS as a highly sophisticated intrusion.
The Globe and Sun reported last year how the infamous “Unit 61398” of China’s People’s Liberation Army was the suspected culprit of hacks to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board in 2011.
According to Chinese defectors back in 2005, Beijing had a network of over 1,000 spies and informants in Canada, ordered to intimidate Chinese refugees and steal economic and scientific secrets.
We know China spies. We also know it steals information.
Earlier this month the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the government’s human resources agency, reported its computer system had been hacked and millions of private files on government employees had been stolen.
It is feared China was behind the hack and could use the information to blackmail government employees and recruit new agents.
China may soon overtake the United States as the largest economic and military power in the world.
It’s anyone’s guess whether China’s ascent will be peaceful, or if it will digress into tension, distrust and conflict.
Canada has an interest in building a constructive relationship with China.
Canada’s leaders, however, should not be naive.
We can play nice with our second-largest trading partner, but we should also be wary of the intentions of China’s diplomacy.