As We Dither Over a Public Inquiry, Beijing Continues Its Subterfuge in Canada

Canada really needs to up its game when it comes to pushing back against foreign (read: China) interference in our affairs.

This piece was first published in the Epoch Times on June 13, 2023.

Canada is not that big a deal on the world stage.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a proud, loyal Canadian and love my country. It is just that we don’t really matter that much on the global scene. Our economy is the 10th largest in the world, which isn’t bad but could be better. When it comes to population we rank 39th. Defence? We come in at 20th out of NATO’s 31 members. Meh.

Yes, we do have a good reputation around the planet—who doesn’t like Canada and Canadians—but I am not so sure anyone really sees us as a threat or a place worth targeting. Sure, we get our share of Russian trolls and others, but so does anyone. Canadian elections? Why do these matter to anyone (including Canadians: only 62 percent bothered to vote in the last federal election, the fifth lowest in our history as a democracy).

In this regard, then, why would anyone seek to undermine our elections? Vote interference is alas very rampant in many nations—candidates not allowed to run, votes stolen or not counted, results altered, etc.—but I do not recall ever having to worry about outsiders meddling in ours. Until the People’s Republic of China decided to throw its hat in the ring (or better put, seek to sway the results in 2019 and 2021 at the very least).

Why would the PRC do this? Are we a threat to them? Do they worry about Canada’s economic heft? (Fact: China’s economy is 12 times ours and they send 10 times the value in goods to us than we do to them.) Is our military poised to invade anytime soon?

I believe it is clear that the answers to each of these questions is no. The reasons why China took the time to try to sway our vote in the last two federal elections remains thus a mystery. Unless…

It seems obvious that the rationale behind these efforts is tied to the inability of the PRC leadership to brook any criticism of any kind towards their regime. Whether it is their actions in Xinjiang Province or Tibet or Hong Kong, their harassment of dissidents such as the Falun Gong, their thinly-veiled sabre-rattling against Taiwan, their cozying up to Russia (I could go on but you get the point), any perceived protest in any of these matters elicits an immediate response. Just ask Australia (when the Aussie government asked for a probe into the origins of COVID-19 China responded with trade sanctions).

This is why China has circled Canada on its hit list. It had concluded that a continued Liberal minority government was more likely to be in its interests than one from the Conservative side of the House, which it concluded would raise the aforementioned issues. Hence, it used subterfuge to ensure it got the result it wanted. Whether or not it succeeded—by the way I fail to see why the Trudeau government is so adamant that China’s interference did NOT affect the election: what is this belief based on?—is beside the point. The fact that it did what it did is the key issue here.

Whatever happens moving forward—public inquiry or no public inquiry—it is highly likely that Beijing will keep doing this. To date it appears to have gotten away with it, with only one diplomat having been expelled from Canada. The regime probably thinks, correctly, that this matter will go away as the dog days of summer come around and Canadians spend their time at the cottage or on the beach. If so, why would it not keep these underhanded activities going?

Xi Jinping and his minions are like their autocratic buddies all over the world (Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc.) Criticize me and my gang and we will imprison/kill you if you are from within, or slap trade sanctions on you if you are from the outside. Furthermore, Canada’s Chinese diaspora, many of whom fled here for safety, can expect the pressure to continue. They are the ones who will suffer more so than the average Canadian.

What is next? It is hard to say. The debate over the next steps after the inadequate David Johnston report drones on and on. We do not appear to be anywhere near progress on having intelligence used by senior officials to help make better decisions and policies.

All the while China sits back and smiles, and thinks of more ways to influence Canada and Canadians to its, and not our, benefit.

O Canada!

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.