Senior Gov’t Officials Received CSIS Doc on Beijing Threats to MPs, Departments Confirm

Senior Gov’t Officials Received CSIS Doc on Beijing Threats to MPs, Departments Confirm
Conservative MP for Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong appears as a witness at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) regarding foreign election interference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on May 16, 2023. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

Three federal departments have confirmed that their senior leadership was provided with an intelligence assessment from Canada’s spy agency that highlighted the Chinese regime’s attempt to target MPs.

The information is highlighted in an order paper filed with the government by Conservative MP Michael Chong on May 5—four days after the Globe and Mail published a report on the classified assessment and identified Chong as a target of Beijing.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had initially said on May 3 that he had learned about the issue from the Globe report and that the information had never left the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Chong asked the government on what date and who at Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Privy Council Office (PCO), and Public Safety Canada (PS) received the document from CSIS.

The government provided its response on June 21, saying that GAC’s Intelligence Bureau received the CSIS assessment on July 2021. The document is titled “PRC Foreign Interference in Canada: a Critical National Security Threat” and is dated July 20, 2021.

“As with all intelligence products, the report was provided to the appropriate GAC senior leadership through secure and classified channels on July 21, 2021,” says the response.

Public Safety says it received it on the same date and that it was provided to the “appropriate PS senior leadership” the following day.

‘Never Notified’

Then-public safety minister Bill Blair, currently minister of emergency preparedness, has blamed CSIS for not being briefed on the matter when he testified before a House of Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee (PROC) on June 1.

Blair said CSIS Director David Vigneault had determined it was not information he “needed to know,” and he was “never notified of the existence of that intelligence, nor was it ever shared with me.”

CSIS had also taken the step to send an issues management brief to Blair in May 2021 to advise him of Beijing’s actions and its intent to provide defensive briefings to MPs, but that also didn’t make it all the way to the minister.

“I think the fact that we did an issues management note speaks to the notion that we wanted to highlight the information,” Vigneault told PROC on June 13.

As for PCO, it says it received the document on July 20, 2021, and it was included in the read package of acting National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the prime minister, David Morrison, on August 17, 2021.

Morrison had provided those details when he testified at PROC on June 13, while mentioning he had “no recollection of receiving it or reading it” at the time. He said his focus was on Afghanistan, which had fallen to the Taliban two days prior on August 15.

After eventually consulting the CSIS assessment, Morrison took the decision not to brief Trudeau on the matter.

“It was not a memorandum for action, it was a report for awareness,” Morrison said of the document.

Even though the CSIS assessment made it to the senior leadership of three relevant departments, the ministers say they were never briefed on the matter.


Former special rapporteur on foreign interference David Johnston wrote in his May 23 report that the failure to bring the information to ministers on this matter is “certainly the most prominent, but not the only, example of poor information flow and processing between agencies, the public service and Ministers.”

Trudeau had appointed the former governor general in mid-March instead of calling a public inquiry into foreign interference as requested by opposition parties. The NDP, which has a confidence-and-supply deal to keep the minority Liberals in power, passed a motion in the House calling on Johnston to step down.

Johnston initially resisted, saying his mandate came from the government, but eventually resigned on June 9, blaming the “highly partisan atmosphere.”
The Liberal government has shown some openness to holding an inquiry since, but no progress has been announced, with Trudeau saying opposition parties need to “buy in” to the process.