Beijing Attempted to Buy Canadian Locations For ‘Spying Operations’: CSIS

CSIS director says Beijing has tried to purchase locations near sensitive, strategic assets in Canada for the purpose of intelligence gathering.
Beijing Attempted to Buy Canadian Locations For ‘Spying Operations’: CSIS
David Vigneault, Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), prepares to appear before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC), studying the intimidation campaign against Members of Parliament, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 13, 2023. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

The head of Canada’s spy agency says previous attempts by the Chinese regime to purchase locations in the country for collecting intelligence have been blocked by the government.

“We have seen in the past, acquisition of land, acquisition of different companies ... when you start to dig a little bit further, you realize that ... there is another intent,” said Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault in an interview with U.S. network CBS.

“And we have seen and blocked attempts by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to acquire locations near sensitive, strategic assets of the country where we knew that the ultimate purpose was for spying operations,” he added, without providing additional details.

Mr. Vigneault appeared on CBS’ program 60 Minutes on Oct. 22, alongside the four other heads of defensive intelligence services in the Five Eyes alliance, which include the FBI, UK’s MI5 or Security Service, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).

The five leaders had appeared publicly together for the first time last week during an event organized by FBI Director Christopher Wray.

In a bid to counter the multidimensional threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), they launched the first Emerging Technology and Securing Innovation Security Summit in California’s Silicon Valley.
“There is no greater threat to innovation than the Chinese government, and it is a measure of how seriously the five of us and our services take that threat that we have chosen to come together to try to highlight that, raise awareness, raise resilience, and work closely with the private sector to try to build better protection for innovation,” Mr. Wray said during a fireside chat at Stanford University on Oct. 17.

The FBI director told CBS his agency has approximately 2,000 active investigations pertaining to the Chinese regime’s attempt to steal information.

“We have seen efforts by the Chinese government, directly or indirectly, trying to steal intellectual property, trade secrets, personal data—all across the country,” he said. “We’re talking everything from Fortune 100 smaller startups.”

Blocked Investments

Mr. Vigneault’s comments to CBS did not provide details on which locations were of interest to the CCP, but the Canadian government has intervened in several Chinese projects in recent years.

Ottawa ordered three Chinese companies to pull their investments out of three Canadian critical mineral companies in November of 2022.

“While Canada continues to welcome foreign direct investment, we will act decisively when investments threaten our national security and our critical minerals supply chains, both at home and abroad,” said Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne at the time.

In 2020, Ottawa blocked the takeover of the TMAC Resources gold mine in the Canadian Arctic by state-owned Chinese company Shandong Gold Mining. The mine is located in Hope Bay, Nunavut, across from Victoria Island.

Two years prior, the federal government blocked the sale of construction company Aecon by a Chinese state-controlled entity. Concerns had been raised about China gaining access to Aecon’s government contracts, especially those relating to the nuclear power industry.