Exclusive: CSIS report says China infiltrated Provincial and Federal Party leadership races in 2022
Canadian Mayoral candidate got clandestine financial support from community leaders mobilized by Chinese Consulate in 2022 and 2018: "Intelligence Assessment"
A senior Canadian politician running to lead a provincial political party clandestinely met officials inside a Chinese Consulate in 2022, subsequently becoming China’s preferred candidate, and winning campaign support from Consulate proxies, a classified CSIS document alleges.
Details of the Consulate meeting are contained in a sweeping CSIS “Intelligence Assessment” dated October 31, 2022.
Without identifying candidates by name, it details Beijing’s efforts to influence leaders of Canadian parties – at the federal, provincial and municipal level – before and after recent elections.
The report’s chief allegation – Chinese officials arranged in June 2022 to surreptitiously meet an elected provincial official only identified as “CA3” — suggests CSIS monitored a particular candidate in Alberta or British Columbia.
This is because the B.C. NDP and Alberta United Conservatives were the only provincial parties reportedly selecting leaders in the June to October 2022 timeframe described by the Intelligence Assessment. Canada hosts four Chinese Consulates, in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.
Responding to questions fromThe Bureau, the B.C. NDP and Alberta Conservatives both denied any awareness of the Chinese Consulate meeting alleged in the CSIS document.
But ramifications of the CSIS Intelligence Assessment are much broader than China’s interference in a single provincial leadership campaign.
The document strongly suggests that People’s Republic proxies financially infiltrated the federal Conservative’s 2022 leadership contest, shortly after leader Erin O’Toole was attacked with Chinese disinformation, during the fall 2021 federal election.
The Intelligence Assessment says proxies attempted to elect a federal party’s new leader, purchasing party memberships to support an unidentified candidate, with the objective of tempering the federal party’s perceived “anti-China” stance.
This document also refers to a “CA1” — believed to mean Candidate 1 — and points to a “meeting and the Consulate’s endorsement.”
“CA1 said they were unconcerned, as CA1 knows ‘how the underground works’ and that ‘they’ (the PRC Consulate) had supported CA1 in various past elections,” the CSIS document reviewed by The Bureau says.
It doesn’t explain who Candidate 1 is.
The October 2022 CSIS document also says hostile states secretly fund preferred candidates via community networks in Canada.
It cites successive elections in a particular Canadian city, where a Chinese Consulate mobilized three “co-opted” community groups to clandestinely channel funds and “material support” to an unidentified mayoral candidate in 2018 and 2022.
British Columbia has already been identified as a hotbed of Chinese election interference, because CSIS intelligence verified from multiple sources asserts that former Vancouver-area Conservative MP Kenny Chiu was attacked with Chinese disinformation in the 2021 election, because he proposed a foreign agent registry.
The October 2022 Intelligence Assessment alleging clandestine financial support of a mayoral candidate may also point to the Chinese Consulate in Vancouver and Mayor Ken Sim. This is because case details appear to align with allegations in another Top Secret CSIS report reviewed by The Bureau.
This previous, January 2022 document, says China’s Consul General in Vancouver “stated that they needed” to rally Chinese diaspora voters in Vancouver’s 2022 mayoral election “to come out and elect a specific Chinese-Canadian candidate,” because “the candidate will rely on those votes.”
What The Globe didn’t report, is the CSIS record’s summary conclusion, which says: “This report demonstrates CG Tong’s continued interest in involving herself in Canadian electoral processes to benefit the PRC.”
There is no suggestion in the October 2022 Intelligence Assessment the unidentified mayoral candidate or the provincially elected official “CA3” wittingly accepted support from China.
Furthermore the document contains intelligence, which doesn’t carry the same weight as evidence, and these cases haven’t been proven in election interference investigations.
ButThe Bureau’s investigation of these new CSIS allegations, illuminates deeper concerns in the Chinese interference story that shocked Canadians over the past year, exposing gaps in Ottawa’s current foreign interference inquiry, which only mandates Justice Marie-Josée Hogue to examine the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
This is shortsighted, according to political experts and the October 2022 Intelligence Assessment, which says “interference actors and activities can span various levels of government.”
“For this federal inquiry, it's like they are examining their front doors, but they don’t realize the whole back wall of the house is missing,” said former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart.
Stewart — a political scientist and former NDP Parliamentarian — defeated Sim by 957 votes in Vancouver’s 2018 election, and lost to Sim by over 36,000 votes in 2022.
“I don’t know if this interference, which I am now almost certain occurred, was enough to tip the balance in 2022,” Stewart said. “But it looks like it almost worked in 2018 too, which is shocking.”
Ken Sim’s office has not responded to questions from The Bureau for this story.
In March 2023 Sim reacted furiously to The Globe’s controversial report, saying “insinuations” that his campaign benefited from Chinese Consulate interference wouldn’t occur “if I was a Caucasian.”
In a lengthy interview, commenting on cases from the October 2022 Intelligence Assessment, Kennedy Stewart added: “I can’t help but think, in any other G7 country, this would be a red-alert that your systems are being compromised, and there would be an immediate cross-party effort to get to the bottom of it.”
“But here,” he said, “in fact, there’s been cross-party collusion to limit this inquiry, to just the federal level.”
The Bureau asked Canada’s federal police in Ottawa if any of the three CSIS cases outlined in this story are being investigated for People’s Republic election interference.
“Currently, the RCMP is assessing information in relation to foreign actor interference, including electoral interference,” spokesperson Robin Percival said. “While we can’t speak further about this, we can confirm that if criminal or illegal activities occurring in Canada are found to be backed by a foreign state, it is within the RCMP’s mandate to investigate this activity.
The Intelligence Assessment says in June 2022, a “trusted contact” of a People’s Republic Consulate in Canada arranged “a ‘sensitive’ meeting with a provincially elected official.”
And this party leadership contender was to arrive at the Consulate in a separate vehicle and come in “via a side entrance,” the document says.
The meeting was to take place at a location inside the Consulate “where no outsider could observe the meeting taking place,” it adds.
The document doesn’t explain how CSIS learned of the June 2022 meeting arrangements.
But investigators captured an internal conversation evidently, because the CSIS record says “a PRC Consulate official noted that the arrangements were ‘slightly deceptive.’”
There is no explanation of what the provincially elected official and Consulate officials discussed, or what day they met.
But CSIS assessed, according to the document: “the PRC Consulate, after clandestinely meeting with CA3, signalled their preference for CA3 to the trusted contacts.”
And the candidate gained support after huddling with Chinese officials.
“Subsequently in July 2022, trusted contacts of the PRC Consulate organized a campaign rally for CA3 and the same trusted contacts have formalized their continued support for CA3 during the leadership nomination process.”
Charles Burton, a sinologist and former Canadian diplomat in China, said the case is unlike any to surface in previous reports of China’s election interference.
“I think the idea that a Canadian political candidate would make a clandestine visit to a Chinese diplomatic facility, is really shocking,” Burton said. “This is a whole different level of concern.”
Burton said diplomatic facilities typically have glass-walled, soundproof, secure-meeting rooms, where sensitive discussions can take place.
He said CSIS’s description of the Consulate meeting suggests Chinese officials could have met the candidate in a secure room.
“One would wonder if Candidate 3, being taken to the Consulate under surreptitious provisions, was taken into one of these rooms, to have a discussion that would not be monitored by CSIS,” Burton said.
“And one would be very concerned about what kind of undertakings the PRC might have made, to such a candidate.”
The CSIS Intelligence Assessment of this case, dated October 31, 2022, concluded that “trusted contacts … are now implementing the Consulate’s desires.”