CSIS wiretaps caught Consul General and Federal Candidate's "trusted" intermediary plotting interference in 2021 election
In the most compelling evidence yet to emerge regarding Beijing’s meddling in Canada’s 2021 election, CSIS intercepted phone calls between a Consul General and the middleman for a federal candidate that was clandestinely supported by a “loyal” Chinese Canadian community group.
The case is detailed in a “Canadian Eyes Only” report containing intelligence on China’s sprawling efforts to boost candidates in recent Canadian municipal, provincial and federal elections — often using the same local cells of influence against multiple levels of government.
The Bureau previously reported three alarming cases detailed in CSIS’s October 31, 2022 “Intelligence Assessment” — including a Chinese Consulate’s clandestine meeting in 2022 with its preferred leadership candidate for a provincial party, and also a Beijing agent’s scheme last year, to elect a federal party leader by covertly purchasing party memberships.
Two new cases examined in this story point to unaddressed gaps in Canada’s foreign interference laws, such as the inability to convert CSIS evidence into prosecutions.
Perhaps more acutely — as international media begins to focus on Ottawa’s Foreign Interference Commission — the cases suggest the Commission’s mandate misses the majority of Beijing’s interference throughout Canadian democracy.
For example, in the second case, a pair of proxies active in provincial interference have also sought to control a federal electoral district association “from at least 2020 onwards” — attempting to appoint the riding’s candidates and control its finances.
Experts, including Hong Kong Canadian community leader Fenella Sung, say this top-to-bottom control of certain ridings in Toronto and Vancouver demonstrates the deep penetration of Beijing’s United Front political warfare teams.
And yet the upcoming Interference Commission only focuses on the past two federal elections.
Broadly, the October 2022 Intelligence Assessment reveals how Beijing’s Consular networks rely upon insulation from proxy agents and co-opted Chinese community leaders to indirectly channel funding and campaign support to China’s preferred candidates.
A number of its cases spotlight these subtle networks in action, but identities of the Chinese officials, community leaders, middlemen and favoured Canadian politicians investigated by CSIS, are not made explicit by the October 2022 document.
“CSIS intelligence indicates that, during General Election 44 a PRC Consulate in Canada clandestinely supported an election candidate (CA4) via a local Chinese Canadian community association (CO1),” it says.
The Candidate 4 case alleges during the September 2021 election, this Canadian politician had a middleman communicating with the Consul General.
The Bureau couldn’t confirm which Consul General is referred to.
Toronto and Vancouver’s Consulates have been identified as hotbeds of Chinese interference with hundreds of co-opted community groups doing Beijing’s political work, according to documents analyzed by The Bureau. These groups are managed by President Xi Jinping’s United Front Work Department and Ministry of State Security agents, documents say, in aggressive operations leveraging diaspora communities for Beijing’s political objectives.
“The PRC Consul General stated to a trusted interlocutor of CA4 that the Consulate was ‘interested’ in CA4, but that ‘I cannot get directly involved but what can we do to help?’” the Intelligence Assessment continues.
“On a different telephone call between the Consul General and CA4’s trusted interlocutor,” the Intelligence Assessment says, “the Consul General confirmed that CA4 had met with the leader of CO1, and that CO1’s leader ‘was reliable and loyal and had an excellent team who was greatly involved in the previous provincial and municipal elections.’”