Inquiry into Chinese interference necessary, no matter where lumps land
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The Globe and Mail published a column by an unnamed national security official Friday headlined “Why I blew the whistle on Chinese interference in Canada’s elections.”
The writer, according to Globe editor David Walmsley, is “the backbone” of the newspaper’s coverage surrounding Chinese government interference in Canadian elections alongside their allegation that governmental officials — in particular, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — knew about it.
In the column, the writer paints him or herself apolitically: “I swore an oath. Not to party or person, but to my country, to its democratic institutions and to my fellow Canadians.”
And the individual claims, in an effort to explain his or her actions, “I had hoped that by providing the public with information I believe to be in the interest of all Canadians, we as a country would begin a much deeper conversation about what it is that we expect of our government.”
Patriotic nobility aside, it’s worth noting that the same could be said by anyone claiming to be a revolutionary.
Leaking information to media is not a “personal complaint against our political leaders or a partisan issue,” the security official continues.
“I will take my lumps for my part in this… knowing that while what I have done may be unlawful, I cannot say it was wrong.”
The writer ends with a reminder for the federal Liberals: “I am not the first in our public service to have grappled with such an enviable ethical dilemma in recent years. Not so long ago, our former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould faced one that was even more acute.”
So much for being apolitical, but here come the lumps.
Wilson-Raybould, as if anyone could forget, alleged that in 2018 Trudeau’s office tried to influence her in the prosecution of Quebec-based global engineering firm SNC-Lavalin on fraud and corruption charges involving allegations of approximately $48 million in payments made to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011.
After her resignation from cabinet, Trudeau expelled Wilson-Raybould (and friend and ally Jane Philpott) from the Liberal caucus.
Since March 2, Canadian security officials have been trying to figure out who has been leaking information to media on Chinese election interference. So, no doubt, the Globe source is probably running out of time.
The conclusion of the Jody Wilson-Raybould story, though, is perhaps the most interesting possibility of this story. In 2019, Canada’s conflict of interest and ethics commissioner Mario Dion issued a report vindicating Wilson-Raybould, claiming that Trudeau “improperly pressured” her.
It’s a good reminder that, when it comes to whistleblowers, politics is definitively involved but there’s usually some measure of truth, too.
Coincidentally — or not — the Canadian Security Intelligence Service released a statement at about the time the Globe published the whistleblower’s column, saying that the Chinese government is the “greatest strategic threat to (Canada’s) national security.”
The Chinese Communist Party running the government “uses all the state power at its disposal,” the CSIS statement says, “to carry out activities that directly threaten the national security and sovereignty of the country.”
For weeks, Justin Trudeau has been very adamant that there will be no inquiry into Chinese election interference, pointing out that there are Parliamentary methods and committees that have already done this work and found that while there is some interference, not enough to garner extreme measures.
This is not about whether interference happened, but how much.
No one really knows.
Over the past few weeks, evidence has emerged that Chinese officials directly funded 11 candidates in the 2019 federal election. Reporters have also uncovered that Chinese officials have influenced parts of the Ontario provincial legislature and a B.C. municipal election.
There also the case of Chinese individual donations to the Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal faculty of law and alleged coercion of officials at Wealth One Bank.
Potential Chinese influence has even reached Indigenous circles, such as when the pro-Beijing Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations helped purchase a 2019 truck for Orange Shirt Society founder Phyllis Webstad to promote the Every Child Matters movement; the truck is adorned with a CACA sticker.
With public pressure rising, Trudeau last week appointed former governor-general David Johnston as the “special rapporteur” who will investigate and determine if an inquiry into Chinese interference in Canadian elections is necessary.
Essentially, Johnston will be investigating whether an investigation is necessary.
One wonders what would garner an inquiry if not a foreign government that “uses all state power at its disposal” to become “greatest strategic threat to national security,” but I digress.
As Jody Wilson-Raybould showed the Canadian public, though, the whistle was justified. This is why an inquiry into Chinese interference and influence in Canadian elections and society is necessary.
So that the lumps — now clearly on the way — come to who earned them.
Niigaan Sinclair is Anishinaabe and is a columnist at the Winnipeg Free Press.