If there is one thing we as Canadians have heard an awful lot about of late it is what has been termed “foreign interference.” This refers to efforts by foreign states to identify those in our land and use them to advance their own interests, or stifle any activity deemed not in those interests. And while several nations have been highlighted as behind this kind of effort, of late the number one country by far is the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The PRC has been accused, by Canada’s intelligence service CSIS, of intimidating immigrants and critics in Canada—Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong, etc.—and of trying to sway voters in a certain direction (i.e., favourable to China). These charges have been leveraged by Canadian security intelligence and law enforcement agencies for decades, to little result. Successive governments have not only ignored these threats to our democracy but even accused spies of “racism” for even raising the alarm. All in all a series of failures of imagination by senior government officials and politicians.
And if we thought we had heard enough about all this, now comes an arrest by the RCMP of a former officer, William Majcher, on charges of foreign interference. In a statement, the Mounties announced that the retired Mr. Majcher “used his knowledge and his extensive network of contacts in Canada to obtain intelligence or services to benefit the People’s Republic of China,” and “contributed to the Chinese government’s efforts to identify and intimidate an individual outside the scope of Canadian law.”
The usual bevy of “national security experts” have weighed in on what this means. That it involved a former RCMP employee is bad news for the force, already dealing with a number of scandals. Now we appear to have an individual who spent a career fighting to protect Canada who went on to play for the other side! What gives?
There are a few aspects to this story not being covered in the mass media. For one, it is far from clear that Majcher’s experience with the RCMP had any real bearing on what he would have passed on to the Chinese; hopefully, the court case will shed some light on what he did and what advantage it gave to our enemies.
Secondly, why would the PRC target him for “collaboration”? Did they have something on him, i.e., blackmail? Was it purely a financial transaction? (Other Canadians caught as “spies” did so for money alone.) Did the Chinese see his past as an asset? Did they think he could use his former authority to influence others? All very good questions.
What this suggests to me is that this was not a random approach by the PRC’s intelligence apparatus. Sure, we used to call Chinese intelligence methodology the “vacuum cleaner” model as it seemed to hoover up as much data as possible and go through the subsequent haystack later looking for needles. But on occasion they narrow their sights on someone they believe can give them more bang for the buck (or should that be the yuan?). Is that why Mr. Majcher came on their radar?
In the end we have yet another example of PRC interference in our affairs. Unlike many similar cases, we will most likely have a trial and, in the case of a conviction, a prison sentence (rather than simply PNGing, or expelling, a Chinese diplomat, although that tool is rarely used in Canada these days it seems). Still, more indication that China is not our friend and that our protectors—CSIS, the RCMP, and CSE—have to maintain vigilance, even if their intelligence/information is largely dismissed.
Kudos, then, to the RCMP! At least someone seems to care about keeping our country safe from foreign interference.