Canada’s federal police force confirmed to Global News Tuesday it has started an investigation after a report emerged last year that Beijing might be paying ex-RCAF top guns, as well as ex-military pilots from other NATO allied countries, to train People’s Liberation Army air force pilots.
“The RCMP is aware of the report of former RCAF pilots taking part in training People’s Liberation Army Air Force pilots,” RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Kim Chamberland said in a statement.
“As the RCMP is investigating these incidents, there will be no further comment on this matter at this time.”
Last October, the BBC reported up to 30 former British military pilots are “believed to have gone to train members of China’s People’s Liberation Army.”
The pilots were offered “lucrative” packages of up to $350,000 for their work, according to the report. And while the BBC report did not mention Canada, The Daily Mail reported that Canadians were also being poached.
At the time, Department of National Defence spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier told Global News in an email that former RCAF pilots could find themselves facing severe consequences if they take Beijing up on its offer.
“The Security of Information Act applies to both current and former members, and non-compliance with the Act could result in serious consequences,” Le Bouthillier said.
A person found guilty of an indictable offence under the Act could be imprisoned for up to 14 years. Those found guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction can be liable to up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $2,000 — or both.
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is an “institution that upholds democratic principles and the rule of law,” Le Bouthillier said, and it expects “current and former CAF members to adhere to the values of the institution.”
“Any behaviour that could potentially harm Canadian national interests is a violation of this trust, and will be dealt with appropriately,” he added.
RCAF commander Lt.-Gen. Eric Kenny was pressed about the issue during an appearance before the House of Commons national defence committee on Oct. 18, 2022, and said he’s “aware of” the reports.
“My focus is on the national security of Canada and Canadians. We take that extremely seriously,” Kenny said.
“We look at the threats every day to ensure that we’re ready to meet those today and in the future.”
Canada works “very closely” with all its partners to ensure it is undertaking “appropriate vetting” related to the security of those working within the air force, Kenney added.
Canada-China relations are at a low point amid allegations of foreign interference by Beijing in Canada’s elections and democracy.
In June, RCMP Commissioner Michael Duhem told MPs on the procedure and House affairs committee that the force has more than 100 ongoing investigations related to foreign interference.
Chamberland on Tuesday reiterated the RCMP’s commitment to investigate allegations of foreign interference when asked about the investigation.
“The RCMP is aware of foreign actor interference activity in Canada from foreign state actors. Various methods and techniques are in place to combat foreign actor interference within the RCMP’s mandate,” Chamberland said.
“While for operational reasons we cannot speak at length about this, it is within the RCMP’s mandate to investigate this activity should there be criminal or illegal activities occurring in Canada that are found to be backed by a foreign state.”
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