Breaking Canada-China science connections as prologue
The death throes of Canadian multiculturalism began on February 2023 over China-Canada science connections. Canada’s Innovation Minister said Canadian universities shouldn’t do research with China’s military, as 50 of them have since 2005. “I am not happy and it’s unacceptable,” Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said, quoted in a February 2 Globe and Mail article “Ottawa vows to curb research with Chinese military scientists”. Champagne reminded Canadians that there are new national-security reviews for scientists since 2021—also designed for China. Michael Chong, the foreign affairs critic with the Conservative party, called for a ban to all research collaboration with China’s military.
One Canadian research fellow said that “Everyone recognizes the importance of academic freedom but Canadian researchers should be thinking within their souls, not partnering with Chinese researchers who maybe are helping to develop military equipment.” What will these Canadians find in their souls?
It didn’t take long for Champagne to give these souls a nudge, announcing the ban Michael Chong had asked for on February 14. “Grant applications that involve conducting research in a sensitive research area will not be funded if any of the researchers working on the project are affiliated with a university, research institute or laboratory connected to military, national defence or state security entities of foreign state actors that pose a risk to our national security.” In case you were wondering, the shifty category of “foreign state actors that pose a risk to our national security” does not include the U.S., UK, or Israel—military research with these partners continues, of course.
Indeed to try to substitute “the US” or “Israel” for China anywhere in this story would render it incomprehensible. When a group of Palestinian students started a lecture series asserting that Israel was an apartheid state, it was denounced by every mainstream Canadian politician including Trudeau himself and official parliamentary motions. As this very story unfolds a disabled, Black NDP candidate, Sarah Jama, is under attack for criticizing Israel when she was a student activist. Israel, apparently, might be a “foreign state actor”, but no one thinks it “poses a risk to our national security”—on the contrary, Canadian politicians must be vetted and disqualified if they are critical of Israel.
Chinese Canadians must prove they are loyal to Canada and not China; Canadian politicians must prove that they are with Israel and not the Palestinians.
The Globe and Mail didn’t stop with mere government declarations. They got quotes from CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, and also a report from a “US strategic intelligence company Strider Technologies Inc” that stated that “Researchers at 50 Canadian universities… have conducted and published joint scientific papers from 2005 to 2022 with scientists connected to” China.
No questions asked about why a U.S. strategic intelligence company is studying Canada-China research connections for these guardians of Canadian sovereignty.
Fife, Chase, and their CSIS source break the 2021 election story
On February 13, Robert Fife and Steven Chase published a story in the Globe and Mail “CSIS warned Trudeau about politician’s alleged ties to China.” In this story, the reporters cite “two national security sources” making accusations against a Canadian Liberal Party politician Michael Chan, saying that CSIS “has a dossier on Mr. Chan that contains information in the 2019 and 2021 federal election campaigns and meetings with suspected Chinese intelligence operatives.” This dossier made by the intelligence agency has now been entered into the public record. Chan fired back hard: “Your own statement to me about a recent briefing by CSIS to Prime Minister Trudeau, serves only to ignite xenophobia and cause continued, unwarranted and irreparable damage to my reputation and the safety of my family,” he said.
CSIS has never interviewed me regarding their false and unsubstantiated allegations. However, I am aware that they have conducted intimidating interviews with my friends and acquaintances and then instructed them to keep their mouths shut.
That might have been the end of it, but the story has legs. What follows in Fife & Chase’s report—and in the growing scandal in Canada—is a narrative where every sentence begins or ends with the phrase, “CSIS believes”. Michael Chan met with Chinese diplomats, who CSIS believes are “suspected intelligence actors”; “security sources” told Fife & Chase that they had told the prime minister’s office that Chan should be “on your radar”. They briefed the prime minister on “foreign interference, tactics and Chinese tradecraft.”
Reporter Robert Fisk said, in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, that all newspapers should change their name to “US officials said”, since their reporting relied solely on unnamed U.S. officials using their newspapers to generate support for the war. Perhaps the Globe & Mail should change its name to “CSIS believes.”
Fife & Chase repeat a set of sinister phrases, all citing back to their source in CSIS who is leaking them “top secret” information—a cachet that adds undeserved weight to their assertions: “CSIS has repeatedly warned that China has been conducting foreign interference operations in Canada, including efforts to influence the political process.” They quote CSIS director-general of intelligence Adam Fisher: “They are not necessarily relying on trained agents. They use cutouts. They use proxies. They use community groups. They use diaspora organizations and community leaders,” he said. They quote Cherie Henderson CSIS assistant director of requirements “They will use whatever avenue they can to achieve their objectives”. The story’s sourcing is principally their unnamed CSIS leaker, backed up by official statements… also by CSIS officials. The total impression given by this set of quotes is that an informed Chinese Canadian who effectively pushes back against Canada’s belligerence towards China will automatically become a prime suspect for Chinese collusion.
Michael Chan protested to Fife & Chase that he is a “loyal Canadian”—a phrase with historical resonance for anti-racists. Chinese Canadians must prove their loyalty—ideally, by publicly denouncing the Chinese state.
Then, the bombshell on February 17, 2023. Fife and Chase again, in a report titled “CSIS documents reveal Chinese strategy to influence 2021 election.” This breathless story reports as if established fact that China was working for the Liberals and against “Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing”. The basis of Fife & Chase’s story is the usual:
The full extent of the Chinese interference operation is laid bare in both secret and top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service documents viewed by The Globe and Mail.
Fife & Chase call it “an orchestrated machine” run by the “Chinese Communist Party leadership in Beijing” to use Canadian organizations “while obfuscating links to the People’s Republic of China.”
From February on, the Globe and Mail with its reporting duo of Fife & Chase, its TV network, and its CSIS source, have worked to create a national media scandal. Let’s call this network CSIS-GM.
As with the 2014 Trojan Horse Affair in Britain or the Dreyfus Affair 100+ years ago in France, the flimsy basis of the accusations isn’t questioned. The Trojan Horse Affair and Dreyfus Affair were based on outright fake documents. In contrast, Fife & Chase and their paper, the Globe and Mail, are working with a secret faction inside CSIS in ways that will incite racist attacks on Chinese Canadians and they do not appear to care. If they cared, their standards for evidence would be much higher.
Since the CSIS leaker is anonymous, we don’t know his goal. Here’s a guess for what this CSIS-GM operation could accomplish: better Canadian state control and monitoring of contact between Canadians, especially Chinese Canadians, and Chinese people. The unelected and unaccountable CSIS retains its personnel and infrastructure regardless of who is in the Canadian parliament. With centralized control over Canada-China contacts, CSIS will make a better asset for its real master, the U.S., in the latter’s ever more aggressive and dangerous confrontation with China.
Interlude 1: A reminder of the major problem with Canadian elections
For Canadians worried about whether electoral outcomes reflect the popular will, there are some real questions. Why is health care being privatized when no Canadians want or voted for that? Why did the Green Party—a minor party nowhere near power—seem to self-destruct when a pro-Palestine candidate made a good showing in the leadership race?
Canada’s wealthy donors and corporate lobbies certainly have their say through electoral financing, though they have to work creatively around spending limits. More powerful, though, is the revolving door of corporate boards and the chance to own privatized businesses, with former Ontario premier Mike Harris in the Long-Term Care business, a Toronto public school board leader being part owner of a private school, former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino cashing in on legalized marijuana, etc.
The parties’ processes of vetting candidates also helps ensure a unanimity of ideology. When, for example, candidates with a pro-Palestine past (something that usually only happens on the left, ie., in the NDP, like the aforementioned Sarah Jama) become controversial, they are purged by the party apparatus. This has been going on for years and perhaps decades—I wrote about it in 2015.
Perhaps even more important is the intense concentration of Canadian media. The Canadian Media Concentration Research Project reported in 2021 that “The top six Canadian companies—Bell, TELUS, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor and the CBC— accounted for 69% of network media economy revenue last year; in contrast, the “big six” U.S.-based Internet giants’ combined revenue in Canada of $14.5 billion gave them a 15.3% market share.” What Canadians see and read come from six Canadian and six U.S. corporations, all of which share the same view of the world and of the place of various peoples in it. Good thing we’ve banned Chinese-owned TikTok, right?
Can a concentrated media, careful ideological vetting, and a wealthy class that can offer the riches of Croesus to retired politicians who have done them good service have any influence on elections? Should Canadians worry about that? Never mind! Focus on Chinese interference, says CSIS-GM.
CSIS-GM accusations grow
Back to our story. By February 20th Fife & Chase, with the same CSIS sourcing—remember the phrase: “secret and top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service documents viewed by The Globe and Mail “, were describing an ever-more terrifying system of “ Chinese government espionage that employs blackmail, bribery and sexual seduction, with the country even enlisting the Bank of China in its foreign-influence activities.” What they called an “orchestrated machine”, three days later was a “a broad Chinese strategy to interfere in Canada’s democracy and gain influence over politicians, corporate executives, academics and vulnerable Chinese Canadians.” A national security expert, Akshay Singh, sounded a frightful alarm: “It’s about different levels of government. It is about academia. It is about civil society and it is about private enterprise.” The Chinese, it seems, were everywhere.
On February 21st, Fife & Chase’s reporting had won results. Their report that day, “Committee to probe Chinese interference in 2021 election”, described how a parliamentary committee would convene on Chinese interference. Opposition parliamentarians demanded the committee investigate the 2021 election based on Fife & Chase’s “shocking revelations.”
The same day the Globe and Mail’s editorial board began to drive the political line for the scandal. “Stand up to China, Mr. Trudeau.” The editors asserted that Canadians didn’t care about the spy agency leaking “top secret” information, but about the Chinese undermining democracy. Apparently the Globe and Mail editors thought Canadians valued precisely what the Globe and Mail had given them and Canadians weren’t suspicious at all of the CSIS leaker or the corporate media pushing the story. The paper collaborating with the spy agency to generate suspicion of all Chinese Canadians cast itself as the victim in the editorial because Trudeau had said the CSIS reports, whose “top secret” status was hyped up by the Globe and Mail to add energy to their story, shouldn’t have been leaked.
CSIS-GM counter Trudeau’s threat to investigate the leaker—with another leak
Fife & Chase stepped up the game again on February 28 breaking another story, again from their CSIS source:
The source said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service captured a conversation in 2014 between an unnamed commercial attaché at one of China’s consulates in Canada and billionaire Zhang Bin, a political adviser to the government in Beijing and a senior official in China’s network of state promoters around the world.
They discussed the federal election that was expected to take place in 2015, and the possibility that the Liberals would defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and form the next government. The source said the diplomat instructed Mr. Zhang to donate $1-million to the Trudeau Foundation, and told him the Chinese government would reimburse him for the entire amount.
The Trudeau foundation provides scholarships and has nothing to do with elections. It is named for the current prime minister’s father, who was also prime minister of Canada decades ago. The foundation returned the donation days after the story broke.
Interlude 2: A review of the difference between evidence and intelligence
Perhaps we should review the different standards of evidence. To meet the standards of a court of law, evidence has to be very good, since someone could go to jail based on it. To meet the standard of publication, evidence also should be good, since lives and reputations could be ruined. Intelligence agencies, meanwhile, are allowed to give their briefings in secret because they can then assess threats and probability freely without worrying about destroyed reputations or innocent people going to jail. They can produce reports that would be libelous (false and defamatory) if published but might be useful for a government scanning the horizon for threats to sovereignty. What they should not be allowed to do is hide behind anonymity to spread secret evidence, inciting racism against a whole group of people who, according to multicultural theory, are as Canadian as Fife & Chase or their CSIS leakers.
Some Canadian intelligence officials have tried to sound some warnings about the difference between evidence and intelligence, but the scandal keeps growing.
At any given moment, if the political climate is right for it, the publication of intelligence materials as established fact will be enough to cause a public scandal.
In the case of this CSIS-GM operation, this is bigger than an intelligence agency leaking their threat assessments to a corporate media monopolist to challenge an election outcome.
The end of Canadian multiculturalism
There’s more at stake because Canada has a history of Chinese Exclusion, of anti-Chinese racism, and a recent history of multiculturalism which is now coming to an end.
Beginning in the 1970s (with the current prime minister’s father) multiculturalism was the framework for integrating immigrants into Canada and has always carried both an anti-racist and a sinister element. It is based on the belief that people from any country of origin could become as “Canadian” as the British colonists who seized it in the name of the English Crown. The resulting Canada would be a “mosaic of cultures”, not a melting pot that pressures people to sever ties with the old country and assimilate as happens in the United States.
On the sinister side, the multicultural idea is used to try to lower the special status of First Nations down to the level of any other part of the mosaic and hide the fact that they retain sovereignty over the land. If Canada is to be a mosaic, immigrants would have to be invited by First Nations on their terms, not by the state that stole their land.
Canadian multiculturalism is also used to weaponize diasporas for campaigns against their home countries, wherever those home countries are in the crosshairs of the U.S. These diaspora communities of the mosaic are assumed to have homogeneous politics as regards foreign policy: their visible leaders and their community media are of course vocally against the Chinese government, but also pro-US sanctions and wars, anti-Communist, against Palestinian sovereignty, etc.
Multiculturalism was strained by the War on Terror decades as Canadian police and informants infiltrated Muslim communities and entrapped them in terror plots the same way the FBI did in the U.S., but Canada didn’t go as far as the UK did with its Trojan Horse Affair. Sinophobia in Canada has a much deeper tradition, with race riots in British Columbia and the Chinese Exclusion Act.
CSIS-GM are working towards an open parliamentary inquiry on Chinese interference. This would be like the McCarthy inquiry for Canada. And as James Bradley noted in his book The China Mirage, McCarthyism in the U.S. did indeed begin as an anti-China initiative. So we’re back full circle. A simple protectionist measure has been debated: expelling Chinese diplomats. The problem with that, Canada’s foreign affairs minister said, was that China would then expel Canada’s diplomats, which would “harm Canada’s ability to have ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground in China.” (that’s from a March 10th report by… Fife & Chase). What a colonial dilemma for poor Canada, who needs to maintain its “eyes and ears” to spy and interfere in China and cannot risk losing this access even to protect Canadians from alleged Chinese spies and interference!
After last weekend’s removal of the Toronto MPP Vincent Ke from the caucus of the Ontario Tories—under the pressure of unnamed intelligence sources pushing against all in Canada who were born in China, or have Chinese connections, through the instrument of willing media operatives—a respected reporter on party politics, Chantal Hébert, could not help but call this what it is. Canada’s latest yellow-peril purge was becoming a “witch-hunt,” she told CBC (as it operates in Quebec), “and not just a political witch-hunt but a witch-hunt to which the media is contributing.”
“At what point,” she joined a usually servile media corps in asking, “does one stop being an investigative journalist and start being the secretary of a source that dictates to us things that we don’t verify . . . ?” In other words, even journalists who accept as given the need for a new Cold War patriotism against China are starting to feel some palpable unease. “Think on it well,” Hébert warned her colleagues:
we know where it starts, but do you know where it ends?
If the Globe and Mail and CSIS get the national scandal they are working to generate, it will be the end of multiculturalism in both its positive and negative aspects. Minorities, starting with Chinese-Canadians, will be made to understand just how conditional the multicultural embrace really is. As both living standards and educational institutions in China continue to improve (ending Canada’s joint research will have absolutely no negative effect on China’s progress), Chinese people will increasingly avoid Canada. Chinese firms will be kicked out of the Canadian surveillance capitalism market so that work can be done by American and Israeli firms. Maybe that, and not some narrow partisan advantage gained by questioning the government’s electoral legitimacy, is the desired endgame of this campaign.
Whatever the real CSIS-Globe and Mail game is, it is a dangerous one that is already out of control. Chinese Canadians are the target—but the whole thing will not end well for Canada.