New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan said Monday (May 29) that Canada’s spy agency has confirmed her long-held belief she is being targeted by the Chinese government, as the prime minister granted the NDP’s wish to allow more party members to review top-secret intelligence.
Kwan said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spent an hour with her on Friday laying out the intelligence it possesses that 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.
But Kwan said she can’t divulge the nature of the alleged actions against her, nor has she noticed them happening.
“What CSIS confirmed with me is that I was a target and I continue to be a target,” Kwan said outside the House of Commons. “They use the term ‘evergreen’ meaning that I will forever be targeted.”
The news is further evidence of the need for a full public inquiry on foreign interference, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said. He said the NDP will put a motion to the House of Commons on Tuesday asking MPs to vote in favour of a public inquiry, as well as for the ousting of former governor general David Johnston as the government’s special rapporteur on foreign interference.
Johnston was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March to look at the intelligence collected about attempts by foreign governments, including China, to interfere in the last two Canadian elections, as well as whether the government’s protections against, and response to, such interference are sound.
Among the main opposition leaders invited to review the classified information Johnston used for his report, Singh is the only one to take up the government’s offer.
On Monday, a spokesperson for the prime minister’s officer confirmed it will agree to Singh’s demands before the briefing. They include allowing two other New Democrats to join him, reassurances in writing that he won’t be silenced, and a briefing from officials on how much he can and cannot legally say regarding top-secret information.
“Everyone can agree with the former governor general’s assessment that all leaders must work from a common understanding of the true facts,” spokesperson Ann-Clara Vaillancourt said in a statement.
“That is why the prime minister wrote to the opposition leaders offering for them to enter the security clearance process so that they may review the confidential annex of the (special rapporteur’s) report, and we have agreed to the NDP’s requests to facilitate Mr. Singh’s review.”
The Conservatives, who turned down the same briefing, have accused Johnston of being biased because he has old family connections to Trudeau. Singh said while he has not seen evidence that Johnston was biased, he believes the very appearance of any bias is reason enough for Johnston to be replaced.
Last week Johnston said a public inquiry was not warranted, in part because too much of the information is classified for national security reasons. Opposition parties agree that the elections were not compromised but several still say a public inquiry is the only way for Canadians to feel confident in their electoral system.
A source with knowledge of the matter said former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was also informed by CSIS he was a target during the 2021 federal election and that he continues to be.
On Monday, Clarissa Schurter, a spokeswoman for O’Toole, who is set to retire from federal politics next month, said the Ontario MP “will not be commenting at this time.”
Kwan said it is troubling that MPs were not given information about possible threats against them for years. A party official confirmed to The Canadian Press Kwan is not concerned about any physical threats to her safety or that of her family.
Kwan said MPs should be told immediately if CSIS has information about threats or tactics being used against them. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino issued a new directive earlier this month requiring that to happen.
Kwan squirmed as reporters tried to get more information about exactly how she was being targeted, repeating over and over she cannot say because the information is classified.
While she has long suspected she may be fodder for attempted interference by the Chinese government, she was not aware of any actions and those suspicions were only confirmed in the briefing on Friday.
“The short answer is, no, I didn’t know until this moment when I’ve been informed. Did I suspect that there might be something, especially in light of the information that’s coming forward? I did wonder. I can’t help but to wonder, because of my outspokenness.”
Kwan said she has no intention of backing down in her advocacy work, pointing out that in the last week she participated in two rallies including a photo exhibition marking anti-democratic events in Hong Kong and a democracy walk over the weekend.
“Out of this briefing it is more clear to me than ever that I will not be intimidated, that I will not be silenced in any way,” Kwan said. “Whoever is trying to put pressure on me in whatever way that they’re trying to do it, they will not succeed.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2023.
— With files from Stephanie Taylor
Mia Rabson and Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press