Federal Election 2021
Trudeau says he accepts MP’s choice to leave Liberal caucus amid meddling allegations
Then-Provincial Liberal candidate Han Dong celebrates with supporters while taking part in a nomination event, in Toronto, Thursday, May 22, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
By Stephanie Taylor in Ottawa
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he accepts Han Dong’s decision to leave the Liberal caucus after an allegation he spoke to a Chinese diplomat about delaying the release of two Canadians.
Trudeau sidestepped a question Friday about whether he believes the allegation, saying only that Canadians should watch Dong’s “strong” speech for themselves.
He said at a news conference alongside U.S. President Joe Biden, who was visiting Ottawa, that he fully accepts Dong left the Liberal caucus “to vigorously contest these allegations.”
The prime minister also added that he and Biden discussed foreign interference, and said it is “unacceptable,” whether from China or from other countries such as Russia and Iran.
Dong, a Toronto MP, announced he would sit as an Independent on Wednesday night, telling the House of Commons that he would defend himself against “absolutely untrue claims” regarding his alleged involvement in Chinese interference.
Global News published a report that night, citing unnamed security sources who alleged that Dong spoke about Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who at that time had been detained in China for just over two years, with a Chinese diplomat in Toronto in February 2021.
The two Canadian men had been detained by China in December 2018, just over a week after the RCMP arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Global News alleged that Dong told China’s consul general in Toronto that releasing the men would benefit the Conservatives, but also that showing some “progress” in the case would help the Liberals.
The Canadian Press has not independently verified the allegations.
The MP said he met with the diplomat but disputes any suggestion he urged China to delay releasing Kovrig and Spavor, telling the House of Commons he did nothing to cause them harm.
Kovrig and Spavor were treated as honoured guests when Biden addressed the House of Commons on Friday.
Members of Parliament and others who packed the gallery gave the men no fewer than four standing ovations. It was their first time in public together since returning to Canada in September 2021.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters it was moving to see Kovrig and Spavor, whom he described as “two courageous men who survived unimaginable hell.”
Poilievre added: “I was very heartened that everyone in the chamber gave them such a warm welcome.”
The Tory leader declined to weigh in on the allegations against Dong, but repeated his position that holding a public inquiry is the only way to get to the bottom of China’s alleged meddling in Canadian affairs.
He noted that all opposition parties agree on that — and pointed out that even Dong himself voted in favour of a motion that called for a public inquiry, the day after he left the Liberal caucus.
“So for his sake and for everybody’s sake, and most importantly, for the sake of the truth, the prime minister has to end his cover up and call a full public inquiry,” Poilievre said.
Trudeau has not ruled out the possibility of calling a public inquiry, but he has said that any recommendation to do so will have to come from former governor general David Johnston, who was recently appointed to probe the issue as a special rapporteur.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 24, 2023.
O’Toole says CSIS told him he was focus of Chinese misinformation, suppression effort
Conservative member of Parliament Erin O’Toole speaks in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. O’Toole was speaking on an opposition motion regarding the public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference and being informed by CSIS that he is a target of China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative MP Erin O’Toole says Canada’s spy agency has told him he was the target of Chinese interference intended to discredit him and promote false narratives about his policies while party leader.
Rising in the House of Commons on a question of privilege Tuesday, O’Toole said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service briefing revealed a range of actions against him.
They included Chinese Communist Party funding to create misinformation, the use of groups and the WeChat social media platform to amplify the mistruths and a campaign of voter suppression against him during the 2021 general election, he said.
The former Conservative leader said the threats against him and members of his caucus were not flagged to him by the government or security agencies at the time.
They were also not communicated to the Conservatives through the federal task force intended to help safeguard the integrity of the 2021 election, he added.
O’Toole said the Liberal government’s inaction amounted to a violation of his privileges as an MP and leader of the Opposition.
“The briefing from CSIS confirmed to me what I suspected for quite some time, that my parliamentary caucus and myself were the target of a sophisticated misinformation and voter suppression campaign orchestrated by the People’s Republic of China before and during the 2021 general election.”
On Monday, New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan said CSIS informed her last week she has been targeted by China since before the 2019 federal election over her advocacy for human rights in Hong Kong and for the Uyghur Muslim minority in China. She said she was not at liberty to discuss specifics of the targeting.
In addition, David Johnston, the federal government’s special rapporteur on foreign interference, said in his recent interim report there was intelligence indicating Beijing was seeking information about Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives.
But Johnston’s interim report found little evidence supporting O’Toole’s claim specific candidates lost in the 2021 election because of foreign interference.
He said it was unclear whether information campaigns against Conservatives were tied to a state-sponsored source, and there was a legitimate possibility that Chinese-Canadians did not agree with the Conservative’s hardline position on China.
In that case, it would not be foreign interference — it would be the “democratic process,” the report said.
Under a federal protocol, there would be a public announcement if a panel of senior bureaucrats determined that an incident – or an accumulation of incidents – threatened Canada’s ability to have a free and fair election.
There was no such announcement in 2021 or concerning the 2019 election. In both ballots, the Liberals were returned to government with minority mandates while the Conservatives formed the official Opposition.
Government House leader Mark Holland said Tuesday the federal Liberals still have faith in the man they appointed to investigate the issue of foreign interference in Canadian elections.
But Holland would not confirm whether the government could fire Johnston if an NDP motion calling for his ouster passes in the House of Commons this week.
The House debated a motion from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on Tuesday that calls for the government to remove Johnston as special rapporteur and to call a public inquiry.
Singh says he doesn’t want to attack Johnston personally, but is concerned there is a clear apprehension of bias undermining the work he can do because of his ties to the prime minister.
Opposition party motions are not binding and the government already ignored an earlier NDP motion calling for a public inquiry that passed in March.
That motion came just a week after the Liberals appointed Johnston to look into allegations the Chinese government attempted to interfere in the last two federal elections.
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre repeated calls for a public inquiry Tuesday and discounted Johnston’s role as a “fake job.”
“We need to take back control of our democracy from foreign forces, we need to put Canadians back in control of their lives,” he said.
Poilievre, who succeeded O’Toole as permanent party leader after the last election, said he would call a public inquiry if he becomes prime minister, reiterating his reluctance to view the classified section of Johnston’s report offered to party leaders.
“The prime minister’s plan is he wants to mark secret things that would otherwise be publicly debatable, but put things that would be in a grey area under the secrecy of the state, and then put them before me to prevent me from speaking publicly,” he said.
Singh said he will continue to push for a public inquiry but won’t end his confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberal minority government and trigger an election.
“I don’t see how it’s logical if the goal is to protect our democracy to then trigger an election when we’re worried about foreign interference.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 30, 2023.
Federal Election 2021
Former Trudeau Foundation CEO says she resigned after pushback on donation audit
Flags of Canada and China are shown in Beijing, China, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. The former CEO of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation says she resigned because some members of the board refused to recuse themselves for an independent forensic audit into a 2016 donation that she says was linked to China. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Lee/Pool Photo via AP
By Mickey Djuric in Ottawa
The former CEO of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation told a parliamentary committee Friday that she resigned from that position earlier this month because of a breakdown in trust on the organization’s board of directors.
Pascale Fournier said the tensions arose after she pushed for an independent forensic audit into donations made by Chinese businessmen — and received pushback when she insisted that some members of the board recuse themselves from any such investigation.
In a statement issued after Fournier’s testimony, the foundation said it strongly contests her version of events and is looking for an opportunity to schedule its own testimony in rebuttal.
Fournier and eight other board members announced their departure in a public statement April 11 that cited the recent politicization of 2016 and 2017 donations from Chinese billionaire Zhang Bin and another Chinese businessman, Niu Gensheng, that totalled $140,000.
The foundation created an emergency committee in February after the Globe and Mail reported, citing an unnamed source, that the donors had connections to the Chinese government.
Fournier told the House of Commons ethics committee on Friday that the report prompted her to review emails from before her tenure as CEO.
She said she discovered that the China Cultural Industry Association was communicating with foundation employees about omitting information on a donation tax receipt.
After Fournier discovered two different tax receipts associated with the same money, she said she sought to have the details examined by accountants and lawyers.
And she said she wanted members of the board who were involved in the organization’s dealings at the time of the donations to recuse themselves from the process.
“Other members were saying, ‘Recuse yourself. We want an independent committee,’ and that was the heart of the tension,” Fournier said.
The Canadian Press reported earlier this month that the website of the China Cultural Industry Association says it adheres to the “total leadership” of the Chinese Communist Party and was formed with state approval. It lists Zhang Bin as its president.
But the Globe and Mail had reported that a different company called Millennium Golden Eagle International (Canada) was listed as the donor on a receipt.
The China Cultural Industry Association says Millennium Golden Eagle International is one of its executive board members and was created with the approval of China’s culture ministry. Zhang is listed as chairman of Millennium Golden Eagle International on multiple privately-run Chinese company registries.
The foundation, which provides scholarships and mentorship programs, took significant issue with Fournier’s comments in a statement released on Friday.
On behalf of its interim board of directors, Edward Johnson, one of the foundation’s founding members, said “we strongly contest several of the statements made during this testimony.”
Johnson said that the foundation contests some of the facts or their interpretation by Fournier — though he did not spell out any details — and “the reasons given to justify the resignations of the directors of the board.”
He said the foundation is in contact with the committee to set a date for its own testimony, and they “look forward to this opportunity to correct some of the statements and assertions which have been made.”
After Fournier’s resignation the foundation asked the federal auditor general to look into the donations.
But the auditor general’s office denied the request, saying auditing private donations or business dealings falls outside its mandate.
The donations to the foundation named after the current prime minister’s father were made in tandem with a $750,000 contribution to the Université de Montréal.
The Globe and Mail cited an unnamed source who alleged that the Chinese government orchestrated the donations in the hopes of influencing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The prime minister has repeatedly said that he has had no involvement with the foundation for about 10 years.
Later reports by Le Devoir, a Quebec-based newspaper, suggest that the donors intended for all of the money to go toward the university, and noted that the businessmen also made a $800,000 contribution to the University of Toronto in 2013.
The House of Commons ethics committee has been trying to get to the bottom of the matter as part of its broader study into foreign interference, amid accusations that Beijing meddled in the last two federal elections.
On Tuesday, the committee is set to hear from the foundation’s former CEO, Morris Rosenberg, who was Fournier’s predecessor.
Rosenberg also authored a report summing up senior officials’ efforts against foreign interference in the 2021 election.
He said on Friday that he continues to welcome an independent inquiry into foreign interference. Former governor general David Johnston, who was appointed to assess the government’s response to the issue, is tasked with telling the government whether an inquiry is needed by late May.
On Wednesday, the committee expects to hear from Alexandre Trudeau, the prime minister’s brother, who volunteered to testify.
He was a member of the foundation’s board of directors when the donations in question were made, Fournier said.
“It is no secret to anyone my brother has been deeply involved in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau foundation for many years, and he will answer questions as they are asked of him,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday at a news conference in New York City.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 24, 2023.
20 year old Red Deer man faces child pornography charges
United Conservatives jump out to early lead in tight Alberta election
‘Tragic accident’ blamed for recent death of giraffe at Calgary Zoo
Police looking for these 3 suspects after Super 8 Motel in Innisfail robbed early Monday morning
Business1 day ago
Peavey Industries LP, the Red Deer-based retailer, has announced the acquisition of long-term partner and fellow Red Deer stalwart, Guy’s Freightways.
International2 days ago
David Johnston plans to keep role, as House of Commons votes for him to step aside
National1 day ago
Firefighters from U.S., South Africa to battle Canada’s ‘unprecedented’ fires
National1 day ago
Bill 96: Quebec public servants now required to make ‘exemplary’ use of French
Sports2 days ago
Thunderbirds cruise past Blazers 6-1 to punch ticket to Memorial Cup semifinal
National1 day ago
Fifth day of fighting major wildfires in Nova Scotia could prove pivotal
Disaster1 day ago
CP NewsAlert: Firefighters from U.S., South Africa to battle ‘unprecedented’ fires
Education24 hours ago
Red Deer Catholic Regional School Board approves balanced budget and 2.9% student enrollment increase