Canadians should “be careful” about reacting to allegations the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) interfered in Vancouver’s municipal elections last year, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, because the claims are based on “uncorroborated, unverified information.”
Leaked intelligence information reported on by the Globe and Mail March 16 said then-Chinese consul general Tong Xiaoling attempted to elect pro-Beijing politicians to Vancouver’s city council.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents reportedly said Tong looked to increase the ethnic voting percentage to elect a “specific Chinese-Canadian candidate.” The documents did not name any particular candidate. CSIS noted that the activity is consistent with CCP efforts “to have more ethnic Chinese individuals enter politics in Western countries, as they are seen to be easier to influence.”
“I think we have to be very, very careful when little bits and pieces of uncorroborated, unverified information get put out and people instantly react with perspectives and reactions that can undermine the ability of the duly elected mayor of Vancouver to do his job,” Trudeau told reporters in Guelph, Ont., on March 17.
Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim spoke out against the election interference allegations during a press conference on March 16, saying he’d be “as mad as hell as anybody else” if there is proof of interference.
Sim also claimed race plays a factor in the allegations, noting that he is Vancouver’s first mayor of Chinese descent and saying there would be “no conversation” about municipal election interference if he were a “Caucasian male.”
Trudeau told reporters on March 17 that the allegations undermine the confidence of Vancouver residents in the integrity of their elections, and also said Sim is “being attacked by allegations that are incomplete and leaked.”
“He can’t even really respond to [them],” Trudeau said of the interference reports.
The prime minister acknowledged that the allegations “need to be taken seriously,” but also said they are causing some individuals to “jump to conclusions” that are harmful to Sim and Vancouver’s election integrity.
“That’s why we have to be careful about respecting national security when we talk about allegations like this that are leaked out,” Trudeau said.
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre also commented on the Vancouver election interference reports on March 17 while speaking to reporters in the city.
Poilievre said that it’s difficult to comment on the allegations since he is outside of the city’s politics, but added that the CCP’s interference “across the country is an obvious problem.”
His comments came a day after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also called the allegations “deeply concerning.”
“As somebody who represents Burnaby, a neighbouring city [of Vancouver], the idea of a foreign government influencing our municipal election is deeply concerning. It should not be happening,” Singh told reporters in Toronto on March 16.
Noé Chartier contributed to this report.