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Former Richmond MP pleasantly surprised by federal committee recommendations on China

The House of Commons committee on Canada-China relations released a report Wednesday with recommendations for addressing threats and concerns
The House of Commons committee on Canada-China relations released a report with recommendations for addressing threats and concerns

The former Conservative MP for Steveston-Richmond East, who was defeated in 2021 after proposing a foreign agents’ registry, said he is pleasantly surprised by one of the main recommendations of the House of Commons committee on Canada-China relations.  

On Wednesday, the committee tabled its report, “A Threat to Canadian Sovereignty: National Security Dimensions of the Canada-People’s Republic of China Relationship.” It contains 34 comprehensive, but non-binding, recommendations to the Liberal minority government.

One of them is for the introduction of a foreign agents’ registry that “would require any individual or entity, including former public office holders, to publicly declare any contracts or remuneration with a hostile state, as determined by the Government of Canada, or any entity affiliated with that hostile state.”

“That’s going way farther than what I was proposing initially,” Chiu said. 

Chiu wonders whether Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino will expedite his public consultations on the issue and if the government will adopt the committee’s wording. 

A series of leaks from Canada’s spy agency, published by The Globe and Mail, have revealed strategies by Chinese government officials to influence elections in Canada. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) found evidence that China’s top Vancouver diplomat in 2021, Tong Xiaoling, had worked to replace Chiu with a Liberal candidate.

The committee emphasized the need for collaboration across all levels of government, and across a wide range of departments and agencies, to combat the threat from China. 

“Moreover, solutions must also involve educating and engaging individuals, diaspora communities, researchers and the private sector,” the report said. “While effectively broaching all national security threats is not a small endeavour, this report outlines a range of recommendations that can help Canada better identify, anticipate and mitigate these threats.”

Chiu remarked that the report was a “long time coming,” shaped by expert testimony from two sessions of Parliament, before and after the September 2021 election. He participated in the committee during his 2019-to-2021 term. 

The current iteration is chaired by Ken Hardie (Liberal, Fleetwood-Port Kells). One of the vice-chairs, Michael Chong (Conservative, Wellington-Halton Hills), was the target of a Chinese diplomat’s intimidation campaign, according to CSIS. Zhao Wei was expelled from Canada on May 9. China responded by sending Canadian envoy Jennifer Lynn Lalonde home from the Shanghai consulate. 

The report’s first recommendation said the government should convey to China’s ambassador that it will not tolerate interference in the rights and freedoms of Canadians. The committee wants the federal government to work with provinces and territories to support individuals or groups targeted by state-backed harassment and intimidation and to do more to guard elections from foreign interference. 

It also suggested the minister of Canadian heritage look for ways to identify and counter China-influenced or China-owned media in Canadian diaspora communities, counter state-backed misinformation, disinformation and censorship on WeChat and TikTok, and direct the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission to ban authoritarian state-controlled broadcasters from Canadian cable TV services.

The final recommendation is to undertake a thorough national security review and publish that policy. 

“It will be foolhardy for the government not to take seriously implementing many of them, if not all of these [recommendations],” Chiu said. 

The report mentions the dashed hope of better relations after Huawei executive Meng Wenzhou was freed from house arrest in Vancouver in September 2021 and China released hostages Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. Instead, matters took a turn for the worse.

Two Richmond witnesses were cited. 

Victor Ho, the former editor-in-chief of Sing Tao Daily’s B.C. edition, who was threatened with arrest by the Hong Kong government for his activism in Canada against the Beijing-imposed national security law. 

Peter German, the former senior RCMP officer who authored two reports for the B.C. government about money laundering in real estate, casinos and luxury cars. 

“Mr. German noted that while the PRC (People’s Republic of China) is known to take severe measures against domestic drug trafficking, Chinese organized crime groups operate around the world outside of the PRC and use family connections and networks to distribute drugs manufactured in Guangdong Province and elsewhere,” the report said. 

Hardie’s tabling of the report came less than a week before the anticipated interim report by former Governor General David Johnston, hired in March by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “special rapporteur” to look into foreign interference. 

Trudeau is in Japan where fellow G7 summit leaders are expected to discuss China, including its alliance with Russia and threat to invade self-governing Taiwan.