Trudeau Says CSIS Info on Beijing Threats to MPs Never Reached Him

Trudeau Says CSIS Info on Beijing Threats to MPs Never Reached Him
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 19, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Spencer Colby)
Noé Chartier

After initially saying that the information on Chinese regime threats to MPs never left the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clarified on May 5 that it never made it to him.

During the Liberal Party convention in Ottawa, Trudeau was asked by reporters to react to information shared by Conservative MP Michael Chong the previous day.

Chong told the House of Commons that he had received a call from Trudeau’s National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas telling him that the 2021 assessment from CSIS on Chinese interference had been shared with departments, including with her office in the Privy Council Office.

The report spoke of Beijing retaliating against certain MPs for their stance against human rights violations in China.

Trudeau said it was “clear that that information never made it up to the political level in my office, to me, or even to the minister of Public Safety at the time,” which differed from a few days earlier, when he said the information had never left CSIS.

“On Monday morning, two days ago, we asked what happened to that information. Was it ever briefed up out of CSIS? It was not,” Trudeau said on May 3. “CSIS made the determination that it wasn’t something that needed to be raised to a higher level because it wasn’t a significant enough concern.”

Trudeau was asked on May 5 who told him that the information had never left CSIS.

“I get briefings regularly from various sources. I’m not going to go into details on that,” he answered.

The controversy stems from a Globe and Mail report from May 1 which cites a top-secret CSIS assessment on Chinese interference.

The assessment reportedly stated that a Chinese spy service had “taken specific actions to target Canadian MPs.” A national security source told the Globe that Chong was being targeted and that a Chinese diplomat in Canada was also involved.

Chong provided additional context to reporters on May 4 about the call from Thomas.

“She indicated that the prime minister did not receive this information, nor did his chief of staff,” Chong said.

He added that he should have been immediately informed at the time and that the implicated Chinese diplomat should have been expelled.

Chinese consular officer Zhao Wei is still accredited to work in Canada. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told a committee on May 4 that her department was evaluating the consequences of expelling him.