Defence Department Confirms Chinese Troops Were on Canadian Soil Observing Winter Training Exercises

December 11, 2020 Updated: December 11, 2020

Chinese troops were in Canada to observe winter survival training exercises in February 2018, the Department of National Defence has confirmed, according to the Toronto Sun.

Internal government documents had previously shown that the department of defence cancelled winter survival trainings with China after the United States expressed security concerns and risk of undesired knowledge transfer to China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The documents, obtained through an Access to Information Act request by Rebel News, also showed that the foreign affairs department had pressured the defence department not to end the military engagements.

The Department of National Defence (DND) insists that the PLA representatives were in Canada only as observers and not for training purposes.

“We do not train with the PLA,” a DND spokesperson told the Toronto Sun. “However, based on an agreement signed in 2013, there has been the occasional, reciprocal granting of observer-status for non-sensitive activities, including winter survival exercises.”

The DND spokesperson acknowledged that prior to Canada’s arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States and the subsequent arbitrary detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Korvig in China, there were PLA soldiers at CFB Petawawa for the 2018 winter exercises.

“For instance, a Canadian Army delegation visited China in January 2018, while a PLA delegation visited Canada in February of that same year,” the spokesperson told the Sun, adding that “there have been no reciprocal observer-status activities in 2019 or 2020.”

Asked if observer status would cover senior officials at the colonel or general level of the PLA, the spokesperson said they would check “but the digging required might take quite some time.”

The government documents reveal that Global Affairs had warned DND against cancelling military engagements with China, saying it could be seen as a “retaliatory move related to the Meng Wanzhou case.” China has taken a hostile stance against Canada since the arrest of Meng in December 2018, including arresting two Canadian citizens in China and blocking agricultural imports.

The documents also show Global Affairs encouraging the DND and the Canadian Armed Forces to “pursue bilateral cooperation with the PLA.”

A spokesperson for Global Affairs told The Epoch Times in an email that Canada’s relationship with China “is complex and we are engaging with eyes wide open.”

“We will continue to be firmly guided by our interests, our fundamental values and principles, including human rights, as well as global rules and strategic partnerships,” Christelle Chartrand said.