NDP MP Jenny Kwan speaks to reporters about her briefing with CSIS where they confirmed that she was a target of foreign interference, in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Monday, May 29, 2023. It took about an hour for Jenny Kwan to be briefed by Canada’s spy agency and not even a second for her to decide it won’t let her bend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
By Mickey Djuric in Ottawa
The briefing with Canada’s spy agency, warning Jenny Kwan that she is a target of foreign interference by China, took roughly an hour.
It took less than a second, she says, for her to decide that she wouldn’t let Beijing weaken her resolve.
The Hong Kong-born member of Parliament has been outspoken against human-rights violations by the Chinese Communist Party and often advocates for the country’s Uyghur Muslim minority.
Kwan said in an interview with The Canadian Press that that’s what made her an “evergreen” target of the Chinese government, which has had its eye on her since before the 2019 federal election.
She said she received a briefing from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service last week. She was not able to divulge the details of the intelligence they shared due to security laws.
But she did not notice the interference when it was happening, she said.
“My takeaway from that briefing is this: No matter what foreign interference is being done to me, I will not relent on the work that I’m doing,” said Kwan, who is a New Democrat.
She said she was left with a sense that the fight for human rights is more important than ever, especially as the 34th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown approaches on Monday.
“It’s not something that I had when I was in Hong Kong. My parents did not enjoy it. My grandparents did not enjoy it,” said Kwan, adding that she is adamant she won’t be silenced or intimidated.
The 1989 crackdown in Beijing saw tanks roll into the city and hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy student protesters killed.
Mabel Tung, chairwoman of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, said many people in Hong Kong will be marking the day in private.
That’s because the city’s freedoms have shrunk since Beijing imposed a tough national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in 2019. Since then, Tiananmen-related statues have been removed from universities and books about the event have been pulled off shelves.
“There is an active approach to erase this history,” said Kwan, who emigrated from Hong Kong when she was nine.
She participated in a pro-democracy march with Tung last weekend in Vancouver to remember the protestors killed in the massacre. Many Hong Kong diaspora members wore masks so their family members back home were not punished.
“We encourage people to wear masks, wear sunglasses and wear a hat so that their faces will not be identified. They’re really scared that they can be recognized,” Tung said.
“People don’t want to be put in jail for anything that is not a crime.”
Kwan said she marched for the parents who cannot light a candle outside their homes to publicly honour their dead children because it would be deemed a violation.
“I hope those of us outside of Hong Kong and China would find the courage to speak up and let the people of Hong Kong we stand with them and that our voice is an extension of their voice,” Kwan said.
She acknowledged that there’s a risk to continuing to speak out while she is being targeted by Beijing.
“People might distance themselves from me or they’re worried what implications this has and how it could affect them,” Kwan said.
“Those are definitely real concerns, but I cannot allow for anything to deter me from doing this work. If I’m afraid to speak up, what does that mean for everyday people?”
Tung said the many ethnic Chinese people in Vancouver are happy that Kwan is defending their freedoms.
“We know we’re not alone. This person is with us to walk this road together,” Tung said. Still, she admitted that she worries about Kwan’s safety.
But the MP is unshakeable in her belief: “I will not bend. Too much is at stake.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2023.
Cyberattacks hit military, Parliament websites as India hacker group targets Canada
The federal government is coping with apparent cyber attacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa. Hands type on a keyboard in Vancouver on Wednesday, December, 19, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
The federal government is coping with apparent cyberattacks this week, as a hacker group in India claims it has sowed chaos in Ottawa.
The Canadian Armed Forces said that its website became unavailable to mobile users midday Wednesday, but was fixed within a few hours.
The military said the site is separate from other government sites, such as the one used by the Department of Defence and internal military networks. The incident remains under investigation.
“We have no indication of broader impacts to our systems,” said a statement from spokeswoman Andrée-Anne Poulin.
Meanwhile, various pages on the House of Commons website continued to load slowly or incompletely on Thursday due to an ongoing attack that officials say started Monday morning.
The Commons administration said it was facing a distributed denial-of-service attack, which is when bots swarm a website with multiple visits and cause it to stop loading properly.
“House of Commons systems responded as planned to protect our network and IT infrastructure. However, some websites may be unresponsive for a short period,” spokeswoman Amélie Crosson said in a written statement Thursday morning.
“The House of Commons IT support team, in collaboration with our partners, have implemented mitigating measures and restored services to appropriate service levels. The IT team is still continuously monitoring for such activities.”
She added that the Commons administration is helping their Senate colleagues “to provide guidance and support them to restore services.”
Elections Canada also experienced roughly an hour-long denial-of-service attack starting around midnight early Wednesday, Ottawa time.
“This website does not host any sensitive data or information. It is separate from our main website, elections.ca, and is hosted by an external service provider. It is in no way connected to the network that supports elections.ca,” the agency wrote in a statement.
“Our systems are monitored in real time both internally, and by the Canadian Cyber Security Centre, enabling us to quickly detect any anomalies on our platforms and systems. They are aware of the incident.”
That centre is under the umbrella of the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s signals-intelligence agency.
A hacking group named Indian Cyber Force claimed responsibility for the incidents involving the military and Elections Canada, and it appeared to have managed to infiltrate a handful of websites owned by small businesses in Canada.
The group made reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telling Parliament on Sept. 18 that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the killing of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had been wanted by India for years and was gunned down in June outside the temple he led.
The hacking group has posted multiple versions of a message riddled with spelling and grammatical errors onto websites of restaurants and medical clinics.
The affected sites show a message on a black background with green digits, similar to the film “The Matrix,” as warlike music plays.
The message described Canada as a haven for terrorists — a “heaven hub,” it said in butchered English — and similarly insulted Sikh separatists.
It also criticized Trudeau for “throwing something without any prove,” or proof.
The group claimed to have attacked Elections Canada and the Ottawa Hospital, though these sites appeared to be operating normally Thursday morning. The Canadian Press has asked those responsible for these web pages to confirm whether they have been affected.
The hacking group also claimed to have taken down the Global Affairs Canada website for travel advisories, but the department insists this hasn’t happened, and the group deleted that claim from its account on the social-media application Telegram.
News of the attacks came as questions abounded over Indian officials’ level of co-operation with Canadian officials over Trudeau’s allegations — and to what extent allies such as the United States were advocating on Canada’s behalf.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with India’s foreign-affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
Neither of them made mention of the controversy in Canada when they emerged briefly to pose for photos before their meeting began.
During a State Department briefing prior to that meeting, spokesman Matthew Miller refused to speculate on what the secretary would tell Jaishankar directly.
“What I will say, however, is we have consistently engaged with the Indian government on this question and have urged them to co-operate, and that engagement and urging them to co-operate will continue,” Miller said.
“We urge them to co-operate with the Canadian investigation.”
Miller flatly refused comment when asked about a television interview last week with U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen, who confirmed that Canada received intelligence from one of its Five Eyes security partners.
“I am not going to speak to intelligence matters from the podium.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.
— With files from James McCarten in Washington, D.C.
After briefing on intel, Singh says ‘clear evidence’ India involved in B.C. killing
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh speaks with the media on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, September 26, 2023 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Tuesday he received an intelligence briefing about allegations that the Indian government could be behind the killing of a Sikh gurdwara leader in British Columbia.
“I can confirm what the prime minister has shared publicly: that there is clear intelligence that Canada has that lays out the following case that a Canadian citizen was killed on Canadian soil and a foreign government was involved,” Singh told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.
“That intelligence is something that I think is very credible.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons Sept. 18 about “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in the June death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C.
The well-known activist belonged to a movement that advocated for the creation of an independent Sikh state in India’s Punjab province. India’s government had labelled him a terrorist but has denied any involvement in his killing, calling the allegations by Trudeau “absurd and motivated.”
The extraordinary allegation has worsened already rocky relations between India and Canada. India’s government has accused Canada of not providing evidence to back up its claim, while Trudeau and other other ministers have called on India to co-operate with investigations.
Singh said Trudeau first told him and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre about the allegations against India before sharing them publicly. Three days later, Singh received a briefing from Trudeau’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas.
Singh told reporters Tuesday that he was able to request the briefing on the matter because of the top-secret security clearance he obtained to review foreign-interference materials prepared by former governor general David Johnston, who had been named as a special rapporteur to explore that issue. Johnston has resigned from that role.
The former governor general’s report had concluded that Trudeau’s government did not knowingly or negligently fail to act on foreign attempts to interfere in the last two federal elections.
He had also recommended against calling a public inquiry into the issue. The Liberal government ended up tapping Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Marie-Josée Hogue to lead one earlier this month after months of outcry from, and discussions with, opposition parties.
Singh said that after reviewing the confidential material he had access to from Johnston, he agrees a public inquiry into foreign interference is necessary.
Poilievre has so far rejected getting the clearance needed to review the top-secret annex from Johnston’s earlier report.
Poilievre said Tuesday that he was offered a briefing similar to one B.C. Premier David Eby received on the matter.
He said he doesn’t believe the briefing will offer any more substantial details on the allegation and would only force him to be tight-lipped about whatever he learned.
The Conservative leader has called on Trudeau to “come clean” about the evidence behind the allegation against India, saying Canadians deserve more facts.
Singh said Tuesday he does not support that call.
“They’re matters of national security and so information cannot be released beyond the general statements that were released,” he said.
“There’s going to be a next step in the investigation and a prosecution and then information will be made public in an appropriate manner. … To do it early would jeopardize the investigation.”
A Canadian official told The Associated Press that the allegation of India’s involvement is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally.
The official said the communications involved Indian government officials and Indian diplomats in Canada and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance — Canada, the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The official did not say which ally provided the intelligence or give any details of the communications or how they were obtained. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
In an interview with CTV’s Question Period that aired on Sunday, David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, confirmed “there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the prime minister made.”
He said he does not generally comment on “private diplomatic conversations,” but added: “There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that’s as far as I’m comfortable going.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 26, 2023.
— With files from James McCarten in Washington and The Associated Press.
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