Chinese interferences and Chong-case, Trudeau’s NSIAs “don’t remember”

TORONTO – The “mystery” of Chinese threats to conservative deputy Michael Chong, who was allegedly targeted by Beijing (him and his family) for anti-Chinese positions, is becoming more complicated. Now, after “the omelette is done” (the federal government expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei on Monday, China reacted by expelling Canadian consul Jennifer Lynn Lalonde on Tuesday), all three national security advisers and intelligence officers who worked for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2021 told Global News they have no recollection of receiving a top-secret intelligence assessment prepared that year on Beijing targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family in Hong Kong. 

It is inevitable to ask how it is possible that the report of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which would have been sent to the desk of the Prime Minister’s senior national security official, went “unnoticed”. Chong told lawmakers he had been informed by the Prime Minister’s current National Security Advisor, Jody Thomas, that CSIS had sent a July 20, 2021 intelligence assessment to the National Security Advisor at the Prime Minister’s Office as well as to the “competent departments”.

“This report contained information that I and other lawmakers had been targeted by the PRC” Chong told the House in recent days, adding that “Trudeau’s adviser is aware of such threats from China”.

The role of the Prime Minister’s National Security and Intelligence Adviser – or NSIA (National Security and Intelligence Advisers) – is to manage the flow of intelligence gathered by agencies, turning it into information or advice for the Prime Minister and the employee of the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic agency that supports the office of the Prime Minister.

The summer of 2021 saw several changes to the NSIA office, beginning with the departure of Vincent Rigby in late June. David Morrison, who was already serving as the prime minister’s foreign and defense policy adviser, assumed the role from early July 2021 until early January 2022. Morrison himself has been temporarily replaced, in the same role, by Mike MacDonald (July 16 to August 3, 2021). But none of the three remember ever having seen any material concerning threats to parliamentarians. “Consequently, no materials describing such threats have been disclosed to the PMO”.

After Chong’s story first surfaced, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially said he was unaware of the report, saying the CSIS briefing had never left the spy agency to arrive on his table. “CSIS determined that it wasn’t something that needed to be elevated to a higher level, because it wasn’t a significant enough concern” Trudeau told reporters on May 3. A day later, however, Chong told the House of Commons that he had been informed that the briefing had indeed been shared outside CSIS, suggesting that this contradicted the prime minister’s initial claim. In response, Trudeau told reporters on May 5 that he had “shared the best information I had at the time”. Trudeau has since directed CSIS to inform the government of any threats made against officials or their families, whether or not they are considered liable.

The other events are those of the last few days: on Monday the federal government expelled Zhao Wei, a Chinese diplomat who worked at the embassy in Toronto and was allegedly involved in the campaign against Chong and other parliamentarians, declaring him “persona non grata” in Canada. And on Tuesday, China retaliated and expelled Jennifer Lynn Lalonde, a consul who worked at the Canadian Consulate General in Shanghai.

Beijing also denied reports of a campaign against Chong, his family and other Canadian lawmakers or that he ever interfered in the internal affairs of other countries. But Chong himself has repeatedly pointed to “evidence” of many other cases of Canadians and their families in China being targeted by the Communist Party of China. “My case is not unique,” he told Global News in an interview aired Sunday on “The West Block”. In short: the “mystery” continues.

In the photo above, Trudeau in a video posted by the Liberal Party on Twitter (@liberal_party)