Chinese interference Whistleblower Brief implicates Trudeau's Senator and National Security Advisor
Brian McAdam, the Hong Kong immigration control official that triggered Project Sidewinder, died in December '22. His legacy as a whistleblower continues with new allegations
Marie McAdam, a petite and energetic woman, grips her coffee mug with two fists and turns away.
“Sorry, this memory always makes me cry,” she says. “We came back to Ottawa, and Brian was so excited leaving for work. And then he came back that afternoon. But he was just slumped over, almost dragging his brief case behind him.”
We are sitting at the kitchen table in Marie’s townhouse, talking about her husband, one of Canada’s most consequential whistleblowers.
Brian McAdam, a diplomat and immigration control officer, died in December 2022, almost 30 years after he was recalled from Canada’s Hong Kong High Commission. From 1991 to 1993 in Hong Kong, McAdam uncovered a gaping hole in Canada’s national security.
He found the consulate’s computerized immigration-vetting system was compromised.
Canadian passports were up for sale, while immigration investment scams and corruption enabled Hong Kong Triad leaders and Chinese intelligence fronts to flood into Canada, investing in real estate and critical infrastructure, infiltrating politics, and doing business with Canadian officials.
Gathering sensitive intelligence from his colleagues in the United States and Britain, as well as the Royal Hong Kong Police, McAdam reported back to Ottawa on these growing threats. He took his job as Canada’s first line of defence against foreign interference seriously.
Ultimately, McAdam questioned the relationships between some Canadian diplomats and a circle of powerful businessmen with suspected Chinese Communist Party and Triad connections, including financier Li Ka Shing, casino magnates Cheng Yu-Tung and Stanley Ho, and Hong Kong movie mogul Charles Heung.
In 1993, McAdam believed he was being called back to Ottawa for a promotion. Instead he was effectively dismissed from Canada’s foreign service.
“He faced ostracism, harassment, and intimidation, for doing his job well,” Marie says. “It was a breaking point. It stole the core of his self-worth.”
In the aftermath, McAdam suffered severe depression. Marie fears a degenerative neurological disorder that he was diagnosed with six months before dying, could possibly be related to decades of pain he endured.
In 2005, McAdam testified on the impacts to a panel including Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, in a Parliamentary session regarding Canada’s lack of whistleblower protections.
“Most whistle-blowers will end up with a depression,” McAdam said. “It is almost like having someone assault you. I try to use this example: if someone came in with baseball bats and hit you over the head and broke your legs, your arms, and everything else, quite honestly the pain would not be as bad as having a severe depression. I can assure you.”
At the same time, Marie says, McAdam fought back to reclaim a productive life.
Against the odds, working outside government in the mid-90s, McAdam helped a small group of RCMP and CSIS officers prepare Project Sidewinder, a ground-breaking report on Chinese interference in Canada, stemming from McAdam’s Hong Kong files.
The report called for further investigation into China’s penetration of Canadian politics and business via organized crime. But its findings were buried, McAdam and his colleagues believed, leading to the leak of a Sidewinder draft.
The report and its authors were discredited in Ottawa.
But like a set of Matryoshka nesting dolls, the files that McAdam originated continue to unfold, as new whistleblowers come forward with revelations on China’s vast election interference operations in 2019 and 2021.
So now, as Ottawa grudgingly implements a quiet inquiry into foreign interference, which risks being too private, too shallow, too timid to examine Canada’s political elite and the tycoons behind them, McAdam’s story is more relevant than ever.
His legacy also matters for Canada’s contemporary China-file whistleblowers, advocates say.
“Brian paid a huge cost to do his job with integrity,” said Pamela Forward, president of Whistleblowing Canada. “His story is a screaming example of why protecting national security whistleblowers — and all whistleblowers — is an urgent priority, and why a Public Inquiry into election interference is needed.”
NowThe Bureau can reveal new details from McAdam’s files, which might suggest broader angles of examination for the current inquiry in Ottawa, if there is interest in probing root causes of Canada’s foreign interference crisis.
These new documented allegations, summarized in a Whistleblower’s Brief that McAdam compiled before his death, explain why he believed his bombshell reporting was buried, and how Peter Harder, a prominent senator appointed by Justin Trudeau, may have contributed to McAdam’s bureaucratic isolation.