Members of Parliament are requesting an emergency House of Commons committee meeting in light of what they call a “troubling” report first published by Global News that China has allegedly been targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre announced the planned request on Wednesday during a press conference in Vancouver. The formal request was shared in a tweet by Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who is the shadow minister for democratic reform.
Cooper shared the letter sent to the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on Wednesday, which was co-signed by NDP MP Rachel Blaney and Bloc Quebecois MP Marie-Hélène Gaudreau. Committees have five days to hold a meeting in response to a written request by at least four members.
The letter requests a meeting in public as soon as possible, but not on Remembrance Day on Nov. 11, to “determine how the Committee should respond” to the interference allegations in the report.
Global News reported on Monday that Canadian intelligence officials have warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that China has allegedly been targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference, which includes funding a clandestine network of at least 11 federal candidates running in the 2019 election, according to Global News sources.
Delivered to the prime minister and several cabinet members in a series of briefings and memos first presented in January, the allegations included other detailed examples of Beijing’s efforts to further its influence and, in turn, subvert Canada’s democratic process, sources said.
Based on recent information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), those efforts allegedly involve payments through intermediaries to candidates affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), placing agents into the offices of MPs in order to influence policy, seeking to co-opt and corrupt former Canadian officials to gain leverage in Ottawa, and mounting aggressive campaigns to punish Canadian politicians whom the People’s Republic of China (PRC) views as threats to its interests.
Poilievre on Wednesday accused Trudeau of not taking any action regarding China’s alleged interference efforts since hearing of it in January.
“(Justin Trudeau) has failed to protect our democracy,” Poilievre told the press Wednesday. The Conservatives called for a “robust plan” on Tuesday to counter alleged Chinese foreign interference.
The Procedure and House Affairs committee is currently studying foreign election interference and heard from Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) officials on Nov. 1 in a public hearing. Then, Michelle Tessier, the deputy director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) said that the spy agency is “increasingly concerned” about China’s attempts to influence Canadian politics.
“They are an actor in foreign interference, and we have said that publicly … that we are concerned about the activities regarding threats against the security of Canada, including foreign interference by the Chinese Communist Party,” Tessier told MPs.
Cooper’s office said, though, that an emergency meeting is necessary to make sure the latest allegations are on the agenda.
In response to Global News’ report, Trudeau said Monday that China is playing “aggressive games” with democracies.
“We have taken significant measures to strengthen the integrity of our elections processes and our systems, and we’ll continue to invest in the fight against election interference, against foreign interference of our democracy and institutions,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.
“Unfortunately, we’re seeing countries, state actors from around the world, whether it’s China or others, are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said Wednesday that the federal government “will do more to tackle foreign interference.”
“We won’t let any foreign actor meddle in our democracy. Period,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday that “China is not interested in Canada’s internal affairs.”
— with files from Rachel Gilmore, Sam Cooper and Aaron D’Andrea.