China’s ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu has been summoned by Ottawa over concerns about the regime’s alleged foreign interference in Canadian federal elections in 2019 and 2021, officials said at the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee (PROC).
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly was asked by Conservative MP Luc Berthold about whether her government has expelled diplomats for foreign interference activities in Canada.
“If there are ever Chinese diplomats that flout the Vienna Convention, then and there we will take action,” Joly said in response. “In the meantime, here’s what we’ve done: we have denied visas, we have castigated the Chinese ambassador on a number of occasions, we’ve made representations to Beijing directly, and we have attempted to protect Canadian staff on Chinese soil.”
Jennie Chen, executive director at Global Affairs Canada (GAC), also told MPs at the March 9 PROC meeting that Cong was summoned over concerns of Beijing’s interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections.
“Diplomatic representations were made to ambassador Tong by senior officials at GAC on Feb. 24,” Chen said.
“With respect to interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections?” asked Conservative MP Michael Cooper.
“Yes, that is correct,” Chen replied.
The Chinese ambassador has been summoned multiples times over the past few months in relation to a variety of other forms of foreign interference in Canada, including over the issue of alleged clandestine Chinese police service stations in Ontario and British Columbia, and more recently, over a surveillance balloon that trespassed the North American airspace last month.
A series of reports by the Globe and Mail last month, citing national intelligence sources, alleged that Beijing used its consulates, as well as politically motivated individuals and associations in Canada, to advocate on its behalf. The reports noted that Beijing’s foreign influence operation had two primary objectives: the return of a Liberal minority in 2021 and the defeat of Conservative candidates who are critical of the regime.
A former Chinese consul-general in Vancouver, Tong Xiaoling, has touted her role in defeating two Conservative MPs in 2021, according to a secret document leaked from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and reviewed by the Globe.
The Chinese embassy has denied allegations of interference in a March 4 statement.
Call for Expelling Diplomats
Subsequent to the Globe reports on Chinese interference in Canada, there have been mounting calls from the opposition to expel Chinese diplomats. During the March 9 PROC meeting, Joly was repeatedly asked by MPs why no diplomats were expelled, particularly in regard to Tong, who remained in Canada for several months until she departed from her position in July 2022.
“How was this person [Tong] in this particular position allowed to stay for eight months, despite the fact that concerns were raised?” asked NDP MP Rachel Blaney
“Has something changed? Is there a new rule that you’re implementing that is preventing this? Is it because they were already in the country? Do we have weaknesses in … removing people who should be removed from our country? Is it easier when they come in the door to prevent that from happening?
In response, Joly said, “There’s a higher level of awareness in the last months” in terms of granting visas to diplomats.
“I’ve instructed my department to never shy away from denying visa if it’s for a political operative, and therefore linked to the Communist Party of China,” she said.
Joly, however, confirmed that it is easier to prevent new diplomatic envoys from entering Canada, compared to expelling those who are already in the country.
The minister also confirmed that the federal government has denied one diplomatic visa to a member of the Chinese regime last fall.