Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending Liberal MP Han Dong amid allegations that Canada’s domestic spy agency warned Liberals in 2019 that he was part of a Chinese foreign interference network.
Speaking to reporters in Mississauga Monday, Trudeau was asked about the allegations and said he was “extraordinarily happy” to have Dong in Parliament.
“I want to make everyone understand fully that Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained,” Trudeau said.
“There are 1.7 million Canadians who proudly trace their origins back to China. Those Canadians should always be welcomed as full Canadians and encouraged to stand for office, to get involved in their communities and to take on part of the leadership of this country.”
Global News reported on Friday that three weeks before Canada’s 2019 federal election, national security officials allegedly gave an urgent, classified briefing to senior aides to Trudeau, warning them that one of their candidates was part of a Chinese foreign interference network.
According to sources, the candidate in question was Han Dong, then a former Ontario MPP whom Canadian Security Intelligence Service had started tracking in June of that year.
National security officials also allege that Dong, now a sitting MP re-elected in 2021, is one of at least 11 Toronto-area riding candidates allegedly supported by Beijing in the 2019 contest. Sources say the service also believes Dong is a witting affiliate in China’s election interference networks.
In a statement published Monday, Dong said he “strongly” rejects “the insinuations in media reporting that allege (he has) played a role in offshore interference.”
Dong added that he will defend himself “vigorously” against the claims.
“Safeguarding Canada’s democracy is integral to public service. I will support all fact-based efforts from parliamentarians to investigate alleged offshore interference and if called upon look forward to refuting these anonymous and unverified allegations,” Dong’s statement read.
The sources who spoke to Global requested anonymity, out of concern they could be prosecuted under the Security of Information Act.
Global’s ongoing investigation over the past four months has revealed exclusive details about concerns over China’s attempts to interfere and influence Canadian elections, including allegations that a network being run out of China’s consulate in Toronto allegedly aimed to support at least 11 Toronto-area riding candidates from the Liberals and Conservatives in the 2019 contest.
On Monday, Trudeau said that Jody Thomas — his top national security and intelligence adviser — and Global Affairs Canada Deputy Minister David Morrison will testify later this week at a parliamentary committee investigating foreign interference issues.
Conservatives on that committee have renewed calls pushing for Trudeau’s top aide, Katie Telford, to also testify.
The prime minister also encouraged Parliament’s national security committee — a cross-partisan panel with access to classified documents and briefings — to investigate the matter.
Trudeau has not, however, weighed in on the possibility of an independent public inquiry into foreign interference — something that former national security officials, as well as Trudeau’s former senior adviser, have endorsed.
On Monday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also came out in favour of a “transparent and independent” investigation into the allegations of foreign interference.
“The way to stop alleged secret Chinese interference is to refuse to keep their secrets for them,” Singh said.
“A fully independent and non-partisan public inquiry is the way to shine a light into the shadows.”