Preventing Chinese Espionage in Canada Is Not Akin to ‘Anti-Asian Racism’

For the Canadian government and Prime Minister Trudeau to dismiss legitimate concerns over PRC interference in our elections as ‘anti-Asian racism’ is nonsense

This piece first appeared in the Epoch Times Canada on August 8, 2023.

We Canadians are an apologetic bunch, aren’t we? We seem to say sorry at every occasion, whether or not that occasion demands an apology. I suppose this contributes to our global reputation as a “nice” country.

Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely issues for which we must ask for forgiveness. Our treatment of First Nations for decades is one such item. Residential schools, exclusionary policies, and other sins need to be acknowledged and retribution sought.

There have also been times where governments have engaged in behaviours and developed policies which can only be described as fundamentally racist in nature. The internment of Ukrainians in World War I (my maternal grandfather, who emigrated to Canada during that war, may have been one such victim) and those of Italians and Japanese in World War II are good examples of actions that targeted citizens because of their lineage and not because of what they had done (or were planning to do). While it is seldom a good strategy to judge past events through the lens of modern norms, and these were war years after all, there is little doubt that these decisions had racist overtones.

Another similar policy was the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 which effectively banned all Chinese immigrants from Canada for 24 years. This was during the “yellow peril” scare of the late 1800s and early 1900s and was fed by a belief that those from China (and Japan) were undesirable immigrants to Canada. Then-prime minister Stephen Harper issued an apology for these restrictions in 2006, making symbolic payments to surviving head-tax payers and to the spouses of deceased payers. This was the right thing to do.

More recently, the government of Justin Trudeau has been making noises and issuing warnings of a new wave of “anti-Asian racism” in Canada. The context for these statements was a spate of news reports of secret intelligence demonstrating that the People’s Republic of China had blatantly tried to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections to ensure that MPs more “sympathetic” to China’s wants would be elected (or, more accurately, that candidates known to be hawkish on China were NOT successful in their election bid).

Even when two scientists were dismissed from Winnipeg’s National Microbiology Lab the PM tried to deflect opposition questions by accusing MPs of racism. Incredibly, Trudeau and his cabinet seem to think that wise intelligence concerns are really driven by intolerance for people of a different race.

In this the government is mixing apples and oranges. That anti-Asian sentiment exists is not in doubt; racism is a problem everywhere, including in Canada. But the concern over PRC espionage and foreign interference in our democratic process is not racist—it is legitimate. That the Liberals are trying to prevent inquiry into what the government did or did not do is shameful.

And PRC spying efforts here may get worse.

recent announcement by China’s State Security Ministry that Chinese citizens should join counter-espionage work, including creating channels for individuals to report suspicious activity as well as commending and rewarding them, has caught the attention of many. On the surface, this could be interpreted as nothing more than sage internal advice whereby a nation’s citizenry merely helps national security agencies to identify spies in their backyard. Indeed, all intelligence services rely crucially on assistance from ordinary fellow residents.

But this is the PRC we are talking about, a country that has become much more aggressive on the world stage over the past few years and which sees no problem in doing what it has to do to ensure its interests (monitoring and harassing dissidents abroad is a prime example). We would be naive to think that Chinese living abroad are not being targeted by Beijing’s security organizations to pitch in to help the “motherland.”

Luckily for us, CSIS and the RCMP are mandated to investigate these kinds of threats to our national security. But unfortunately, they are both under-resourced to do so, given the breadth of their responsibilities. It is unclear whether steps are being taken to address this shortfall (especially by a government that has been shown to ignore intelligence anyway).

Ensuring that state secrets, sensitive technology and knowledge, and the safety of our residents are not compromised by the PRC—which I unnecessarily remind readers is NOT an ally of Canada—should go without saying and receive the full support of the government.

Accusing our protectors of racism for asking the right questions is so Canadian. And it needs to stop.

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.