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Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet called on March 1 for an independent public inquiry into Beijing foreign interference and said it’s outlandish to equate concerns about the issue with racism.
Blanchet said he found the reasoning of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on racism to be “ridiculous” and noted the government has the duty to protect citizens of Chinese origins who are targeted by Beijing.
“There is a sort of reflex, under any circumstance, to use the word ‘racism’—it’s as though the word ‘racism’ is the glutamate of politics. If it doesn’t taste anything, we’ll say the word ‘racism,’” he said in French during a scrum in Ottawa.
He added that if this logic applied equally, one would be racist to criticize Russians for invading Ukraine.
Opposition parties are calling for a public inquiry after anonymous national security sources have been steadily leaking details to the media in recent weeks about Chinese regime interference.
The latest allegations reported by Global News named Liberal MP Han Dong as a “witting affiliate in China’s election interference networks.”
The Liberal Party reportedly ignored warnings from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in 2019 and let him run as party candidate in the Don Valley North riding.
Dong, now a second term MP, has called the allegations “inaccurate and irresponsible.” Dong was not present for votes in the House of Commons on sensitive China issues.
When Trudeau was asked to comment on those allegations, he first raised the issue of ethnicity and alleged racism.
“One of the things we’ve seen, unfortunately over the past years, is a rise in anti-Asian racism linked to the pandemic, and concerns being raised or arising around people’s loyalties,” he said on Feb. 27.
Blanchet calls for an inquiry overseen by a commissioner chosen by Parliament and not the government. He also cast doubts on the validity of other government efforts to tackle interference.
The Bloc Leader commented on the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol (CEIPP), which is tasked with issuing public warnings about elections interference but didn’t in the last two contests.
The Protocol reportedly didn’t detect foreign interference that would impact Canada’s ability to have free and fair elections.
Blanchet said the CEIPP has a “deficit in credibility” since it is not public, and he also questioned the independence of the review into the Protocol which released its report on Feb. 28.
Blanchet noted the “proximity” of its author Morris Rosenberg with the prime minister, having previously served as CEO of the Trudeau Foundation.
During Rosenberg’s time at the helm, the foundation received a $200,000 donation from a Chinese businessman with ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The Foundation announced on March 1 the money would be returned.
“I think there’s a foreign power—which in terms of geopolitics, economy, military, and even in terms of information technology resources—is much more powerful than Canada, and it’s interfering, we need to intervene and yes it is foreign, so we’re not talking about people from Drummondville here,” Blanchet said.
Leaders from the Conservative Party and the NDP have also called for a public inquiry.
The opposition parties are also seeking to have Trudeau’s Chief of Staff Katie Telford testify before the Commons committee studying foreign interference.