Is China buying Canadian politicians?

CSIS director Richard Fadden on CBC
CSIS director Richard Fadden on CBC

With the first of this year’s two G20 summits set to kick off tomorrow (half hour later in Newfoundland), big black shiny busloads of politicians from around the globe are descending on Toronto for a few days of intense protester dodging (it really is an under-rated sport). And just a day before Hu Jintao’s 5.0-magnitude landing in Ottawa, CSIS announces that China’s infiltrating Canadian politics at all levels.

CSIS, for the non-Canadians in the house — and for a good number of Canadians I imagine, is the Canuck version of the CIA (why we didn’t name CSIS the CI-eh is a grand mystery to me) and they are famously tight lipped. In fact, with few big budget espionage movies about the secret underworld of Canadian spies, most Canadians are probably pretty surprised to learn we even have an intelligence agency that spies on people.

So, when CSIS speaks, Peter Mansbridge’s The National listens, and this week has been full of segments about the agency, including this bit where CSIS director Richard Fadden explains that several countries are fostering “agents of influence” in Canadian politics.

The segment above is pretty short, and only touches on it briefly, but Peter Mansbridge then sits down with Fadden and talks directly about those comments (link to the whole interview, starts around 15 minutes in) in a lengthy interview. Fadden lays out that, “at least one, possibly a couple countries, take very very long-range view in their efforts to influence Canada.

“You find somebody, usually in your diaspora, somebody who has a connection back to the homeland, and you start developing a relationship.” He goes on to say that often this starts in universities, through social clubs that are sponsored through the country’s embassy. This leads to grooming through the use of free travel to the country, and eventually creates a relationship so that when a situation arrises that affects “Country X”, they call up their “friend” and ask them to take a particular view. He falls short of calling it treason, but rather just asking them to “shift decision-making and public opinion in the direction for that particular country.”

And while Mansbridge asks point-blank if Fadden is talking about China, the director rather cheekily dodges a direct accusation by saying that some reports came out several months ago, and he felt they were accurate, and he “believed” China was one of the countries mentioned in those reports.

Fadden also didn’t accuse any politicians or public servants by name, but I’m betting there are a few folks in Richmond, BC, that are now sweatily second-guessing that slight “click” during their phone calls to the +86.

At the end of the day, is anyone really all that surprised? Canada is a country of immigrants and so is pretty fertile ground for foreign nations to use that dual national loyalty/identity to their advantage. My guess is that Fadden is using The National to stir up a bit of action to seal the deal on a handful of “agents” that they are just not quite able to pull the trigger on.

As for China — fair play to them. I mean, it’s dirty and the outcome undermines the fundamentals of a system built around elected representatives. But that’s not really something they put a lot of stock into anyway, so not something they are under any obligation to adhere to ethically in my opinion. That said, I do hope CSIS and the RCMP string the guilty up as a lesson to all dirty politicians in Canada — the only downside is that Canadian news, desperate for anything that even smells like big-budget action and intrigue, is sure to blow it all way out of proportion and cover it with a fish-eyed lens (Helena Guergis anyone?).

Additional analysis from the Globe & Mail’s security expert Colin Freeze (h/t Hao Hao Report)


On an aside: Way to go CBC for putting so much content online. I never watched The National when I lived in Canada, nor did I pay much attention to the CBC. But being abroad so long, I’ve come to depend on online content for all my infotainment needs. If you’re Canadian, and not aware of it — you can get all sorts of CBC podcast (audio and video) here. Just slap them into the podcast section of your iTunes or whatever and you’re set. I watch a number of them, but the two regulars are: The Hour and The National. The National is pretty full-on Can-Con, but The Hour might be of interest to non-Canadians as well, as each podcast is a segment/interview from The Hour and George tends to talk to a pretty eclectic group of people in the public eye (Eddie Izzard, Slash and Richard Dawkins were a few favs).

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13 Comments
    • Profile photo of

      Canadians love to tell civil servants to “do as I say, or resign”. The retraction, I’m sure, is simply a protect his ass move.

      I, personally, don’t think he’s under any obligation to reveal all the details of their investigations. I mean, if it was a police detective saying, “Yes, we’re tracking a rather large drug trafficking ring in Montreal, but we can’t reveal the details just yet…” it wouldn’t result in calls of “tell us who they are or resign!”

      But meh, I’m hoping your right. On an international scale, Canadian news seems pretty petty and reactionary. I mean, people are being massacred by evil regimes around the world, and we bump that news to shine a journalistic flashlight on minor political scandals and what the PMO is serving for breakfast. But I guess there’s greatness in the banal when it comes to stability of a country.

  1. “As for China — fair play to them. I mean, it’s dirty and the outcome undermines the fundamentals of a system built around elected representatives. But that’s not really something they put a lot of stock into anyway”

    That is the crux of it, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be fair play at all if these actions are against the interest of Canada or its people. By implying that Chinese-Canadians and “china” are one and the same, you undermine our place as citizens of Canada. I believe very much in Hobbe’s idea of the socials contract.

    “Each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole”

    when someone is or becomes a Canadian citizen he/she should be a indivisible part of the whole under the supreme direction of the general will and Canada being a democracy we have the chance to shape that direction by debate and consensus WHATEVER our opinions and when day is done, agree to abide by the outcome.

    I realize that in real life it might not work this way and it is always troubling to ask these questions in a multicultural society where the meltingpot theory isn’t pushed. Especially when some new immigrants stay around only long enough to get citizenship then move back to their respective country. But to work on the premise of disloyalty is deeply hurtful and damaging.

    Cases like Maher Arar, or Omar Khadr are prime examples. The Canadian government tacitly allowed them to be treated in a way no anglo-canadian would ever be treated.

    • Profile photo of

      That is the crux of it, isn’t it? It wouldn’t be fair play at all if these actions are against the interest of Canada or its people. By implying that Chinese-Canadians and “china” are one and the same, you undermine our place as citizens of Canada. I believe very much in Hobbe’s idea of the socials contract.

      Emphasis added to draw attention to something that irritates me whenever the topic turns to race. I don’t think we can have a balanced conversation about race and how it places into a nation when it is immediately put into an us/them framework. That said, I certainly didn’t get the opinion that Chinese Canadians are being treated as defacto “Chinese nationals in Canada”, nor do I think I implied that in my post/comment. I think the only angle of possible racial generalization is the fact that I’m willing to bet the countries responsible for this “penetration” of Canadian politics aren’t hitting up anglo-Canadians. So, I suppose they are challenging their target’s sense of national identity and duty. They are relying on, preying on really, the fact that there are dual senses of national identity at play — at least in the targets we’re talking about here — whether you believe in a social contract or not.

  2. Chinese Business in Canada can be very discriminate . If you our a Western person looking for a job with a Chinese Canadain company. I wish you luck. They sooner take a new Chinese Canadian person and pay them under the table. This person in turn doesn’t pay any tax for working in Canada.
    Another thing is were I live in Canada they all still speak Chinese in Puplic and some refuse to speak English or they do not know how to speak English . I still wonder how they can come to Canada and on a work visa ? Many have benn here for years illegally working and sending money back to mainland China. The Tax man is very interested in these people and so is the Immigration dept. They live in a freinds house , every Chinese I know has a visitor from China living with them and working at some sort of job where they can hide and become unnoticed for a very long time.

  3. oh for got to answer the Question ? Are Chinese Business buying Canadian . YES in more way than one. It is all about money for a Chinese Business man and having two or three sex partners is common in China and in Canada. The ladies for the must part our the same Money and a hosue and more money. They call it FACE,,look at me driving my very expensive car. Our just walking down the street with my new Iphone and my Gucci watch. I wish these people would get a real life. Many Chinese families are dysfunction.

    • I think they cal this creating FACE.. looks good the fancy car and rolex watch, yea,,I will bit , this guy is worth a million dollars

  4. Marxist ? The political and economic philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in which the concept of class struggle plays a central role in.
    I like a NO Party Government.

  5. Progressivism is a political attitude favoring or advocating changes or reform through governmental action. Progressivism is often viewed in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies, interesting

    I like a no party movement but semi democratic

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