TORONTO—CSIS Director Richard Fadden will appear before a parliamentary committee over the controversy he sparked last week with revelations that some Canadian officials are under the influence of foreign regimes.
In the blow-out that has followed, disturbingly little has been said about the vital security issues Fadden raised, said David Harris, former chief of strategic planning for CSIS. He’s uneasy that some of the outrage directed at Fadden over remarks he made in a CBC interview is masking the very real threat foreign influence poses to Canada’s national sovereignty.
“In fact, I would go so far as to turn the tables and ask any of the high-profile Canadians—or any of the high-profile political operators who have been most violent and absolute in denying what Fadden has said—what the basis is for these denials and why they can be so certain,” said Harris.
With Fadden facing a grilling by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Monday, Harris isn’t confident the matter will get treated with the seriousness it deserves.
“This seems to have become so politicized,” he said, adding he was astounded that politicians, with no evidence or specialized knowledge, could reject Fadden’s warning out of hand.
“Many qualified people before Mr. Fadden have pointed to precisely the tendencies of which he has warned.”
A variety of politicians at the federal and provincial levels have been particularly vocal in their displeasure with Fadden’s comments, calling them everything from baseless to irresponsible.
The CSIS head made the remarks in a rare television interview broadcasted on the eve of Hu Jintao’s visit to Canada. He suggested that some officials get entangled after free visits to their “homeland,” suggesting immigrant officials were more vulnerable to influence. He also said that officials were usually unaware they were being affected by their relationship with the foreign regime.
In the face of the uproar, Fadden later retracted much of the bite from his warning by reversing an earlier statement and saying CSIS had "not deemed the cases to be of sufficient concern to bring them to the attention of provincial authorities."
But while some MPs and at least one premier have been demanding that Fadden divulge details of suspected officials, Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former CSIS intelligence officer and head of the agency’s Asia desk, said that is unlikely to happen.
“He will never give that information. . . . The committee going and asking for it will be totally inappropriate. This is national security.”
Juneau-Katsuya said details of the information CSIS has collected, whom it suspects, and details of its investigations are precisely the kinds of intelligence foreign spy agencies try to get their hands on.
China's Clandestine Efforts
In the CBC interview, Fadden singled out China as a country most aggressive in recruiting political prospects at the university level, and said Chinese authorities organized demonstrations against the Canadian government in respect to some of Canada’s China policies.
Coincidentally, that same day, the Epoch Times obtained a tape recording of a Chinese Embassy official directing Chinese students to join welcome rallies for Hu Jintao during his visit to Ottawa before the G20 (read the report here ).
Liu Shaohua, the first secretary of the education section at the Chinese embassy in Ottawa, told the students they are to keep the embassy’s request a secret and that the protest is to counteract the efforts of Tibetans, Uyghurs, democracy activists, and Falun Gong practitioners urging Canada to raise human rights with the Chinese regime.
“This time, for you, all the expenses will be paid by us,” Liu said. “You do not talk about it outside. Do not talk about it to anyone except to people in this circle.”
Liu directed the students to report any absence from the rally exceeding four hours to him and passed the meeting over to Yuan Pinghua, whose name does not appear on Canada’s list of registered diplomatic staff.
Yuan went on to tell the students that their protest was a battle.
“Now, in a word, this is like waging war, so today we are mobilizing for war, having all of you raise your guard,” Yuan said.
He told the students that the embassy’s role in the welcome rallies was a “state secret” and revealing plans to the “enemies” would put the embassy in a “death-trap.”
Both men said all expenses for those attending the welcome rallies would be covered by the embassy. Those costs included transportation from other cities, hotels, and food.
Influence on Canadian Officials
Harris said such efforts by the regime “amount to foreign interference in the democratic life and well-being of Canada.”
“We know that politicians respond to public displays of feelings among the electorate and it’s the nature of the legislative beast in a democratic society to pay attention to such things.”
He said such displays also legitimize those views in the eyes of Canadians, in this case that the Canadian government should not criticize the Chinese regime’s various abuses.
“It is a multi-level manipulation of the democratic polity and its governors.”
Like other former Canadian intelligence workers, Harris is also concerned by the Chinese regime and its efforts to influence Canadian officials.
“One of the ominous and one might say insidious considerations with influence operations is that one can find increasingly some of one’s national elites compromised and therefore being rendered less and less likely to stand up to the threats.”
An example of just that occurred last spring when Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien returned from a trip to China and cancelled a proclamation for Falun Dafa Day (read the report here).
Former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan went to China as a city councillor and said he had been treated like “an emperor.” Later, as mayor, he took court action to remove signs and a hut that had been erected outside the Chinese consulate for eight years as part of an appeal for Falun Gong.
Chen Yonglin, who defected to Australia while Consul for Political Affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Sydney, Australia, said influencing officials in regards to Falun Gong was a top priority for the Chinese regime.
He said one official had been caught in a “honey trap,” seduced by a young Chinese woman and later blackmailed with the indiscretion, and forced by the regime to regularly advance its objectives.
Harris said that in the face of strong evidence that the Chinese regime makes concerted efforts to influence Canadian affairs, it is unreasonable for critics to offhandedly disregard the threat Fadden points to.
“I don’t know how they could conclude so boldly that an experienced intelligence official, on this account, is wrong,” he said.