Chinese interference in Canada: US on alert since the 1990s

TORONTO – The United States has conducted a covert investigation into national security threats posed by Chinese “operations” overseas, which has led to alarming conclusions about Canada, according to a new book written by a former RCMP and US government official  military intelligence, Scott McGregor, together with investigative journalist Ina Mitchell, entitled “The Mosaic Effect: How the Chinese Communist Party Started a Hybrid War in America’s Backyard” (in the pic above, the cover of the book). 

In the just-published book, authors state – as reported by the CBC –  that the American investigation, dating back to the 1990s, codenamed “Operation Dragon Lord”, had led to the conclusion that Beijing’s activities in Canada also represented a threat to security of the United States. The timeliness of that old episode will be underlined tomorrow, when one of the key intelligence figures of the time will testify before the Canadian parliamentary commission.

The book’s authors argue that current headlines about Chinese interference in Canadian politics are but a mere fragment of a larger story. And that bigger story, they say, was detailed years ago by intelligence officers in both Canada and the United States who tried and failed to get the attention of policy makers.

Intelligence officials had in fact warned of a tacit agreement, allegedly concluded between the Chinese government and the “triads” (Chinese mafia-like criminal organizations) before Beijing regained control of Hong Kong in 1997: the criminals remained ” in peace” and, in return, they provided services to the state, using money and coercive power. With the money, they bought companies, especially high-tech companies with access to sensitive technologies, and power through political donations. “Canada has known about these threats for twenty-five years and has allowed them to manifest,” said Scott McGregor, co-author of “The Mosaic Effect” with Ina Mitchell. Thoughtful threats that are also worrying for the United States, given the proximity of Canada and the transience of the borders.

However, the United States ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, throws water on the fire: according to him, the question of whether or not foreign electoral interference is taking place today is less important than whether it has been successful: responding to CTV today, he said he had seen no evidence that China’s alleged attempts to interfere in Canadian elections managed to influence the results, referring to the last two federal elections.

On the other hand, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) thinks differently, defining the activities of foreign interference by the Chinese government as “the greatest strategic threat to national security”. In a statement released to CBC/Radio-Canada on Friday, a CSIS spokesman said that this threat does not come from “the Chinese people” but from the Communist Party of China (CCP), which is implementing a strategy aimed at “geopolitical gains” on the economic, technological, political and military fronts. “To do so, it uses all state powers at its disposal to carry out activities that directly threaten the country’s national security and sovereignty” the spokesman said.