Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

The RCMP says it is “aware” of interference by foreign actors in Canada and is working to combat it, but would not confirm whether it is investigating allegations that China tried to interfere in the 2019 federal election.

The statement comes after Global News reported last week that Canadian intelligence officials had warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that China had allegedly targeted Canada with a massive foreign interference campaign — including the financing of a secret network of at least 11 federal candidates in the 2019 campaigns.

“The RCMP is aware of foreign actor interference activities in Canada from foreign state actors. There are various methods and techniques to combat interference by foreign actors within the mandate of the RCMP,” an RCMP spokesperson said in a statement to Global News on Friday.

“For operational reasons we cannot talk about it at length, however, if any criminal or illegal activity occurs within Canada that is determined to be supported by a foreign country, it is within the mandate of the RCMP to investigate that activity.”

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Global News reported Wednesday that a prominent businessman in Toronto’s Chinese community is the subject of two separate investigations involving foreign interference, both related to a series of briefings and memos Canadian security officials allegedly gave to Trudeau beginning in January.

Canadian security intelligence has investigated Wei Chengyi for his alleged role in a secret scheme that facilitated the transfer of large funds intended to advance Beijing’s interests in Canada’s 2019 federal election, the sources said.

According to RCMP sources, national security investigators are also investigating Wei for possible links to several properties in Toronto and Vancouver allegedly used as “police stations” by the so-called Chinese government, believed to be secretly hosting agents of China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS). )

Click to play video: 'Toronto businessman in focus of probe into 2019 Canadian election meddling.'

Toronto businessman in focus of investigation into interference in Canada’s 2019 election

The RCMP has confirmed it is investigating these so-called “police stations” in Toronto and Vancouver, which have followed media reports of their alleged activities.

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But the force’s comments that it was aware of foreign interference come amid a week of questions in the House of Commons about what action the government may have taken in response to an intelligence briefing reported by Global News.

Liberal MP Pam Damoff, who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety, answered these questions from the Conservatives in recent days.

On Tuesday, she responded to a question from Conservative MP Michael Chong about allegations of Chinese election meddling, saying “the RCMP and our intelligence agencies are investigating, and Canadians expect us to do the work that’s needed and take steps, which we are doing.”

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Damoff’s chief of staff, Sarah Thomas, clarified to Global News later that day that the lawmaker was referring to “ongoing efforts by the RCMP, CSIS and other agencies to investigate attempted foreign interference in Canadian institutions,” not specific election allegations. in 2019

“The RCMP has confirmed it is investigating Chinese ‘police stations,’ recently made arrests in a case involving an alleged spy working at Hydro Quebec, and regularly investigates those who would threaten Canadian democracy,” Thomas said.

During questions on Friday, Damoff expressed frustration with the number of questions the Conservatives devoted to the issue of China’s alleged interference.

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“I am disappointed that the opposition continues to reinforce messages about foreign interference in this House for five days,” she said in response to questions.

“We should stand together to oppose this attack on our democracy.”

Click to play video: 'Foreign minister tells Chinese counterpart election meddling 'unacceptable'

Foreign Minister tells Chinese counterpart that meddling in elections is ‘inadmissible’

In a statement sent to Global News, Damoff’s office reiterated that she “dismissed” the opposition’s questions and accused the Conservatives of “repeatedly” reinforcing messages about foreign interference in the House of Representatives.

“An independent panel of intelligence experts confirmed that the 2019 and 2021 elections were not threatened by foreign actors,” the statement added.

“The RCMP and intelligence agencies are taking concrete steps to combat all incidents of foreign interference to ensure the integrity of Canada’s democracy and protect the safety of all Canadians.”

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Conservative questions have repeatedly asked whether intelligence briefings have been shared with election officials and whether the government names any of the 11 election candidates who are said to have received the funds.

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During a press conference earlier this week announcing charges against an alleged Chinese spy working for Hydro-Quebec, Insp. David Beaudoin of the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement team called interference by foreign actors “a topic and area of ​​police operations that has recently gained momentum.”

“We are increasingly active in that sphere because we believe that it is a topic that directly affects national security,” he said.

Members of Parliament agreed Monday to investigate allegations that China secretly funded some of Canada’s candidates in the 2019 election.

The motion called on the House procedure and affairs committee to extend its ongoing study of foreign election interference for four meetings, which Cooper said would allow them to “investigate” the allegations in the Global News report.

— with files from Global’s Sam Cooper, Rachel Gilmore and Amanda Connolly

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