Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, March 2, 2024
The Observer

We need to talk about Canada

Foreign meddling in democratic elections in North America sounds like a familiar story. This time, however, we do not need to rehash the particulars of the Mueller Report and allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. No, this saga is playing out north of the border in Canada, and almost nobody in the U.S. seems to have noticed.On Feb. 17, The Globe and Mail, Canada’s “paper of record,” reported that leaked documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) uncovered a massive campaign by Beijing to sway the outcome of the 2021 Canadian federal parliamentary election. The CSIS leaks revealed that Xi Jinping’s regime wanted any result except a Conservative Party government. In fact, when Canadians voted, according to The Globe, Communist China got just what it wanted: a minority Liberal Party government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. One should not leap to the conclusion that His Majesty’s Government in Ottawa is but a marionette for the Xi dictatorship. The fact remains, however, that Beijing can — and did — exercise significant influence over the results of several constituencies against hawkish anti-China Conservatives, such as Kenny Chiu in Steveston-Richmond East, British Columbia.That same article from The Globe outlined how the Xi regime targeted Chinese immigrants in Toronto and Vancouver with disinformation against the Conservatives. CSIS quotes one unnamed Chinese diplomat as saying it is “easy to influence Chinese immigrants to agree with the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] stance.” Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole maintains that Communist China’s scheming cost his party as many as nine seats in the House of Commons, including in the crucial battleground of Toronto. CSIS, nevertheless, previously told a parliamentary investigative committee that Chinese interference did not undermine the overall integrity of the election. That point seems justified since even if O’Toole is right, nine seats would not have put him in office, but that is almost beside the point. Beijing did not undermine the entire democratic will of the Canadian people, but Xi Jinping’s cronies certainly had their thumbs on the scale. The CSIS documents do not suggest that Beijing wanted to turn Canada into some form of 21st-century Vichy France dancing to the tune of the Chinese Communist Party. Per The Globe, another unnamed Chinese consular official spelled out the regime’s reasoning behind the subterfuge campaign: “[The CCP] likes it when the parties in Parliament are fighting with each other, whereas if there is a majority, the party in power can easily implement policies that do not favour (sic.) the PRC.” Chaos, not conquest, was Xi’s objective.As such, Beijing’s minions set about trying to ensure such parliamentary discordance. The CSIS leaks reveal that Xi’s diplomats pressured Chinese communities in Canada to support the Liberals (or at least anyone other than the Conservatives), compelled Chinese students to volunteer for Liberal campaigns and funneled dark money into the coffers of approved candidates. While Canadians elected a minority Liberal government, Communist China did not manage to create all the in-fighting it sought. Mr. Trudeau’s coalition agreement with the left-wing New Democratic Party all but guarantees stability in Ottawa until the next federal election in 2025. Even if Beijing was not entirely successful, the CSIS documents ought to cause enormous concern not only in Canada but across the democratic West.It should be noted that the CSIS leaks did not take the entire world by surprise. Canadian Intelligence shared the information in question with the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand through the “Five Eyes” alliance, as well as with France and Germany. Still, I am certain that by now some readers have reached for YouTube tutorials on Canadian politics, while others are probably asking themselves “so what?” After all, what goes on up there is purely a Canadian affair, right? No.Canada is of enormous importance to American interests, and there is perhaps no country upon whom the U.S. depends more in international affairs. The Royal Canadian Air Force and the U.S. Air Force work in close conjunction through the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) to defend North America’s airspace – a relationship underscored by the recent balloon fiasco. As climate change opens Arctic sea lanes, the Royal Canadian Navy supports American efforts to check Russian and Chinese adventurism in that region. In both imports and exports, Canada is America’s largest trading partner. Canada plays a vital role in upholding the rules-based international order through organizations like NATO, as evidenced by the country’s steadfast support for Ukraine. No matter what, Canada is by America’s side, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.At a time when so much within the U.S. seems to warrant immediate American attention, we must not forget to look north of the border. Chinese interference in Canada’s elections should unnerve Americans too. Xi Jinping’s efforts to extend his grasp to Ottawa are not only an assault on Canadian democracy but also on North American security. The CSIS leaks demonstrate the extent to which Communist China will go to undermine freedom and American faith in our friends. In an ever-changing and uncertain world, the U.S. cannot afford to ignore such a flagrant assault on democracy in its backyard. It is in America’s interest to see Canada remain what it always has been: “the True North, strong and free.” As such, we need to talk about Canada.

Eoghan Fay

senior

Feb. 20

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.