Submission to Canada’s Foreign Interference Commission by Ivan Pak

 

I am writing a personal submission to the Foreign Interference Commission in Canada in response to the public invitation to the commission.

I am invited to make a written submission. I appreciate the Commission welcomes contributions from all public members on their experiences, observations, and ideas on foreign interference in Canada’s federal electoral processes and democratic institutions.

 

Introduction

My name is Ivan Pak. I was born in China, and moved to Hong Kong with my parents in the 1980s. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a UK university in the 90s. My family immigrated to Canada in 1996, one year before CPC took over HK.

As an immigrant, my family and I have always been grateful to Canada for welcoming us with open arms.

In 2019, I participated in the 43rd Federal election as a candidate for the People’s Party of Canada. I believe that the core value of democracy is to protect all Canadians’ freedom of speech and charter rights. I felt privileged to be able to run for public office and contribute to this great nation, even as an immigrant with no prior resources or political experience. Despite being a political newcomer, I was given the same right to be a candidate as anyone else.

 

Unfounded Accusations and the Harmful Consequences of Misreporting

In 2020, someone from my involvement in the Chinese community reached out to me regarding an article written by Global News journalist Sam Cooper. I was invited to an online meeting to discuss the concerns some Chinese community members had about the article. Mr. Cooper’s article, in tone and effect, indiscriminately labeled (every overseas Chinese) including all Canadians of Chinese ethnicity as agents (warriors) of a foreign country. Such inaccurate reporting fosters mistrust and hatred towards Chinese Canadians and, I believe, contributes to the pandemic-related racism we now face. For example, in his article, Mr. Cooper cited import data from China’s customs as evidence that Chinese Canadians were organized by the CCP to stockpile PPE from Canada. The real facts might suggest the opposite. During the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, I sent a box of masks to my relatives out of concern for their health and safety, as PPE was in short supply there. I declared the package in the PPE category on the Canada Post declaration form. Many of my community friends did the same to help their families and relatives who were so helpless during the pandemic outbreak. This act of humanitarianism was likely counted in China’s customs import data. Does this make me a spy for China? Since my encounter with Mr. Cooper, I have been unfairly labeled as pro-CCP in the media, without any evidence provided by people like him. Mr. Cooper initially reached out to me on X.com but eventually blocked me after a few message exchanges.

In the wake of the pandemic, there has been a disturbing spike in anti-Asian hate crimes, particularly targeting Chinese Canadians.

In 2021, in response to the alarming rise of racism against Chinese Canadians, especially after a Caucasian couple in Richmond was caught on camera making racial slurs against a coffee shop employee of Chinese heritage, I became an active advocate for the anti-discrimination and anti-racism movement. I co-founded the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crime Advocacy Group with Dr. Ally Wang and Mr. Daoping Bao. We had met while founding another anti-racism organization, the Maple Leaf Anti-Racism Association. Both organizations aim to combat racism and discrimination in Canada. Our advocacy work has received tremendous support from the community.

As soon as I began my work advocating against racism and discrimination, I was unfairly labeled as a pro-CCP activist. This baseless accusation led some members of the community to distance themselves from me in public, and a friend even informed me that they could not be photographed with me at any events. It is unbelievable that such a serious allegation against me lacks any factual foundation or evidence. So-called “investigative” journalists like Mr. Sam Cooper have not conducted proper investigations; instead, they have treated gossip, rumors and sometimes lies as truth. Mr. Cooper appears to believe that individuals with good relationships with the Chinese government should be excluded from community advocacy and that their voices against racism should be silenced. This approach is a direct attack on our democratic principles and must be called out for what it is: an attempt to undermine the fundamental values of fairness and freedom of speech that are central to our society.

Some individuals have controversially claimed that those advocating for the rights of visual minorities, specifically Chinese Canadians, are merely pawns of the CCP. This accusation often stems from statements made by the Chinese government urging overseas Chinese to stand against racism. However, this line of reasoning is deeply flawed and misrepresents the essence of advocacy work.

Advocacy for the rights of visual minorities in Canada, including Chinese Canadians, has a long and independent history. These efforts are rooted in the fundamental Canadian values of diversity, inclusion, and human rights, which are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The fight against racism and discrimination is a universal cause that transcends borders and governments. It is critical to distinguish between genuine advocacy aimed at combating hate and improving community welfare and unfounded claims of foreign allegiance.

Accusations that these advocates are acting on behalf of a foreign government lack concrete evidence and undermine the legitimate efforts to address real issues faced by the Chinese Canadian community. Advocacy against hate crimes is supported by a broad coalition of groups, including other minority communities and human rights organizations. This widespread support underscores the shared principles of justice and equality driving these efforts, rather than any foreign influence.

Furthermore, the principle of the rule of law, which states that individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty, must be upheld. Any allegations of foreign influence must be supported by solid and concrete evidence and subjected to thorough and impartial investigation. This approach ensures that justice is served and that the integrity of our democratic institutions is maintained.

It is also essential to recognize that effective advocacy builds bridges between communities and fosters greater understanding and solidarity. This stands in stark contrast to divisive rhetoric that seeks to paint advocates as foreign agents. Community engagement, transparency, and adherence to ethical standards are hallmarks of legitimate advocacy efforts, which operate within the framework of Canadian law and are subject to public scrutiny.

The accusations that those who advocate for the rights of Chinese Canadians are pawns of the Communist Party of China are baseless and distract from the real issues of discrimination and hate crimes. Supporting the legitimate and necessary work of advocates dedicated to promoting equality, justice, and the well-being of all Canadians is crucial. These efforts are essential to protect the fundamental values that underpin our diverse and inclusive society.

 

Promoting Voter Engagement and Democratic Values in Chinese Canadian Communities

A few months before the 44th federal election in 2021, the three of us, co-founders of the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crime Advocacy Group, were discussing the importance of raising election awareness. Noting that Chinese Canadians had one of the lowest voting rates in Canada, we decided to create another organization, the Chinese Canadian Goto Vote Association. Our organization is dedicated to strengthening democratic values and fostering responsible citizenship within Chinese Canadian communities while remaining strictly non-partisan.

Our activities and programs encompass a broad range of educational content related to democracy, governance, elections, political parties, the Canadian justice system, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, economics, civil society, human rights, and environmental issues. To maintain the integrity and independence of our organization, we established a bylaw during a directors’ meeting stating that any director who becomes a candidate for a political party in any election must resign from the board. This bylaw ensures that our organization remains free from political interference.

A campaign titled “Your Vote Matters!” was launched with the aim of increasing voter engagement. The campaign included several initiatives, such as distributing questionnaires to candidates, conducting street canvassing with signs, partnering with media outlets to host candidate interviews and publish their responses, and providing a Chinese-translated version of all party platforms on our website, ccgtv.org. The campaign received overwhelming support from the Chinese communities, with many individuals, including prominent community leaders, volunteering their time. However, none of these leaders were involved with the organization’s board.

 

2021 Federal Election Involvement with CCGTV

During our street canvassing events, we distributed “Your Vote Matters” signs to supporters, who kept them after the events. Some of our supporters took the initiative to visit additional locations around the city, where they eventually met candidates who were also campaigning. They took photos together, highlighting their engagement. While CCGTV did not endorse any candidates during the election, we respected our supporters’ right to back any candidates or parties they chose.

Some media outlets, such as the Breaker News, have wrongfully reported on this incident, alleging that CCGTV is part of a CCP disinformation campaign against Conservative candidate Kenny Chiu. Although many supporters of our organization hold different views on certain candidates, we, as an organization, have never endorsed any candidates. Our mission remains focused on increasing voter engagement and education within the Chinese Canadian community while maintaining a strictly non-partisan stance.

As part of our campaign to raise election awareness, we partnered with Rise Weekly, a Chinese language media platform, to engage candidates for personal interviews. Rise Media sent invitations to all major federal parties, and most responded positively, indicating they would send a candidate to participate. However, despite our efforts, the Conservative Party declined to engage in this initiative.

Rise Media arranged for me to interview Liberal candidate Josh Vander Vies. Please see the attached poster as evidence. Unfortunately, Josh later withdrew from the event. As a result, we were able to interview Brea Huang, another Liberal candidate, and invited Parm Bains, yet another Liberal candidate, to join the interview.

These interviews included several candidates from various federal political parties, such as Jenny Kwan, the NDP candidate for MP. Ms. Kwan has been actively engaged in raising awareness about human rights issues in China and has been outspoken about her views on these topics.

Here is the video for this interview, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFwZB24cUBY&t=32s

Kwan was invited to participate in the interviews. CCGTV maintained a neutral stance throughout the event, despite the varying perspectives each candidate had about China. The Conservative Party of Canada was also invited but declined to participate. It is unreasonable to accuse CCGTV of being pro-CCP, as some individuals have alleged.

Neither Rise Media nor CCGTV aimed to promote Liberal candidates or favor Liberal candidate Parm Bains over Conservative candidate Kenny Chiu. In fact, during the 2019 election, Rise Media published an article featuring Kenny Chiu.

 

Questioning Allegations of Foreign Influence in Election Outcomes

Mr. Chiu has been vocal about his belief that China influence contributed to his defeat in the 2021 federal election. However, it is worth noting that Ms. Jenny Kwan, another prominent political figure with critical views of the CCP within the Chinese Canadian community, won the same 2021 federal election by a landslide. During a call-in interview on AM1320, a well-known Cantonese radio station in Vancouver, many callers expressed frustration over Chiu’s lack of local involvement. I distinctly remember when Chiu was asked about the rise of anti-Chinese racism in the community. He responded that Chinese people should reflect on their own behavior instead of criticizing acts of racism. The radio host was visibly upset by Chiu’s comment and questioned why the Chinese community should support him. It is obvious that Mr. Chiu’s defeat in the election was more likely the result of his absence in support of local issue such as racism and discrimination against his own ethnic group, the Chinese Canadians.

Mr. Chiu also claimed that during the election period from September 2021 to October 2021, there was a disinformation campaign against him in the Chinese-language media. He attempted to counteract this with a media blitz to set the record straight, but his efforts were unsuccessful, and his messages were not picked up or circulated by Chinese-language media outlets. This claim is questionable given that Rise Media invited all political parties to participate in non-partisan interviews hosted by CCGTV and Rise Media. This would have been an excellent opportunity for Mr. Chiu to address any disinformation against him, but his party or he chose to decline the invitation. It is hard for me to understand that while accusing his defeat was orchestrated by foreign influence with disinformation campaign against him, he refused to engage with the community to “set the record straight”. Is it because Rise Media was established by Chinese Canadian immigrants of China, and Mr. Chiu simply believes all Chinese from mainland China are potential or actual CCP representatives? This is the question always in my mind after hearing some of his radio interviews on AM1320.

 

Upholding Democratic Principles and Ensuring Evidence-Based Investigations

In addressing the concerns raised by individuals who claim to be victims of foreign influence in Canada, I believe it is crucial to emphasize the fundamental principles that underpin our democracy. At the heart of our democratic system lies the respect for freedom of speech, even for those whose views may differ from our own. This respect is essential in ensuring a vibrant and diverse public discourse.

Furthermore, the principle of the rule of law dictates that every individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This principle is not merely a legal formality but a cornerstone of justice that protects all citizens from wrongful accusations and ensures that any allegations brought forward are subject to thorough and impartial investigation.

In light of these principles, it is imperative that any allegations of foreign influence are supported by solid and concrete evidence. A thorough and unbiased investigation must be conducted to ascertain the validity of such claims. This approach not only upholds the rights of the accused but also strengthens the integrity of our democratic institutions.

We must guard against the dangers of misinformation and disinformation, which can distort public perception and undermine trust in our democratic processes. By ensuring that allegations are rigorously examined and substantiated by credible evidence, we can protect the fundamental values of democracy and maintain public confidence in our institutions.

In conclusion, I urge the Foreign Influence Commission to prioritize the principles of democracy, freedom of speech, and the rule of law in its deliberations. Let us ensure that justice is served through careful and evidence-based investigations, thereby safeguarding the democratic fabric of our society.

 

Ivan Pak

July 10, 2024

Vancouver, Canada