Disclosing the details of Canadian spying on the Chinese embassy in Ottawa would “cause injury” to national security and international relations, the Federal Court has ruled.
In a decision released publicly on Thursday, Justice Richard Mosley ruled against an Ontario man who was ensnared by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service operation.
WATCH: (DEC. 2013) Canadian accused of offering military secrets to China
Qing Quentin Huang, an engineer at a firm working on Canada’s Arctic patrol vessels, allegedly phoned the Chinese embassy and offered up classified information.
His calls were intercepted by CSIS, which at the time was authorized to monitor the embassy as part of a broader investigation. CSIS then notified the RCMP that Huang had “offered to provide Canadian military secrets” to Beijing.
Huang was arrested following a brief RCMP undercover operation and charged under the Security of Information Act. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.
Portions of the warrant and affidavit authorizing the CSIS investigation that included the Chinese embassy were disclosed to Huang, but he filed a case in the Federal Court arguing he needed the full documents to defend himself.
Mosley disagreed, however, writing that the documents “would not be reasonably useful” to Huang’s defence and that disclosing them would cause “certain injury” to Canada’s national security.
The warrant, issued to CSIS on March 7, 2013, was not specific to Huang but “covered a broad range of threat related activities believed to be occurring in Canada on an on-going basis,” Mosley wrote.
The case raised “delicate issues” about Canada’s international relations, he added.
“International conventions require that diplomatic communications and missions be protected. However, it is essential that nations receive sensitive information about the activities and intentions of other countries,” he wrote.
“The collection of intelligence has long been part of international diplomacy. It would not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the history of foreign relations and with public disclosures in recent years that this often involves covert methods.”
“These methods are well known and are featured in many publications in the public domain. However, the specific nature and manner of how such collection methods are employed remains highly sensitive and protected information within each country.”
The case, a rare confirmation of Canadian counter-intelligence activities apparently aimed at China, comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing to strengthen trade ties with Beijing.
Huang was scheduled for trial on June 4, 2018.
A Canadian citizen who immigrated from China, he was employed at Lloyd’s Register Canada, which was subcontracted by Irving Shipbuilding to work on the design phase of Canada’s Arctic patrol ships.