The federal Conservatives are asking the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to investigate former Canadian ambassador to China John McCallum over possible interference in the upcoming fall election.
In a letter to CSIS director David Vigneault, deputy Conservative Leader Lisa Raitt and public security critic Pierre Paul-Hus asked Canada’s spy agency to review comments made by McCallum, who said in an interview this week that he warned China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry that further “punishments” against Canada over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou could help the Conservatives win the fall election — a result he said would be far less favourable to Beijing.
“Mr. McCallum confirmed that he has provided advice to the Government of China with respect to the upcoming federal election in Canada. This advice was partisan in nature and encouraged the Government of China to take specific actions in order to influence Canada’s democratic process,” Raitt and Paul-Hus wrote.
“This is highly inappropriate, for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which is the fact the Government of China continues to arbitrarily detain two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and has taken other hostile actions towards Canada,” the letter said.
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The letter asks CSIS to review the matter as it falls within their mandate to investigate “activities that may on reasonable grounds be suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada.”
“Canadians expect that the upcoming election will be conducted in a free and fair manner, and that any and all incidents of foreign interference will be fully investigated, with action taken to prevent said interference,” the MPs said. “We believe Mr. McCallum’s actions, as confirmed by his own public statements, deserve the utmost scrutiny of your agency.”
A CSIS spokesperson confirmed the agency has received the letter, but would not offer further comment.
“As you can expect, we do not publicly comment, or confirm or deny the specifics of our investigations,” John Townsend said in an email.
McCallum was fired as ambassador to China in January amid an escalating diplomatic crisis between Canada and Beijing, following the arrest of Meng at the request of U.S. prosecutors in relation to alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
McCallum, a longtime Liberal, told the South China Morning Post that he had cautioned Chinese officials that further punitive actions against Canada could help Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives defeat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the election scheduled for October.
Speaking to reporters in London, U.K., this week Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland strongly condemned McCallum’s remarks and said he “does not speak” for the government.
“Let me be extremely clear that Mr. McCallum does not speak in the name of the government of Canada,” Freeland told reporters.
“It is a very important issue and it is something that we, as a country, have to be prepared to defend ourselves against,” she continued.
“In that context, I think that it is inappropriate for any Canadian to be advising any foreign government on ways it ought or ought not to behave to secure any particular election outcome in Canada.”
McCallum was fired after he told media that he believed Meng had strong legal case in order to avoid being extradited.
Following the arrest of Meng, China has arrested two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — on alleged national security violations and targeted Canada’s agriculture sector by restring imports on canola, pork and beef.