The campaign to strip politicians, Senator, of standing at Canada’s Foreign Interference Inquiry

Written by: Aidan Jonah 

Pictured from left to right: Ex-Liberal MPP and Markham’s Deputy Mayor Michael Chan, Senator Yuen Pau Woo, MP Han Dong.

There is an escalation of previous united efforts of the Globe & Mail, Sam Cooper and anti-China diaspora factions to force David Johnston out as Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference in retaliation for rejecting the idea of a public inquiry to investigate foreign interference (instead then focusing on open public hearings). Now, this united front is destabilizing the mandate of Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, by campaigning to strip politicians and a senator of their Intervenor Standing at the Foreign Interference inquiry beginning in January 2024.

In these efforts, we see echoes of similar lines to those utilized while targeting Johnston, whose recommendations Trudeau had promised to follow before his resignation. This May, the anti-China diaspora factions had rejected Johnston’s plan tohost a series of country-wide open hearings for diasporas to speak on their concerns on the ‘foreign government intimidation’ they face”. Now these same factions, allied with MSM figures, are seeking to strip politicians and a senator of their Intervenor Standing, purportedly to avoid “intimidation” of witnesses, but in reality, aim to prevent themselves, as witnesses in the inquiry, from facing critical questions from politicians and a Senator whose reputations have been dragged through the mud.

MP Han Dong, ex-Liberal MPP Michael Chan, and Senator Yuen Pau Woo have faced a new wave of vitriol since Justice Hogue confirmed that Dong, Chan and Woo had been granted intervenor standing at the upcoming foreign interference inquiry. While Dong and Chan face just the same old claims of causing “concern” for anti-China diaspora group factions, Woo has also faced extremely serious rhetoric and accusations a level beyond this.

Canadian ‘reporter’ Sam Cooper is the main man leading this charge. Cooper’s reporting mainly consists of what CSIS and other North American intelligence community members allege, intelligence reports he obtains or the voices of anti-China political figures favourable to CSIS narratives. Cooper is getting sued by MP Han Dong for defamation and slander around his shoddy reporting on MP Han Dong (an exit from Global News soon followed, though Cooper’s exit wasn’t publicly connected to the lawsuit).

In the vein of Cooper’s reliance on the word and reports of this intelligence community, consider  Canada’s Deputy Minister of Affairs, David Morrison’s statement that: “Intelligence is not truth.” There is a major difference between intelligence agencies making allegations in reports (which may be referenced in intelligence briefings by other agencies) or via leaks, and prosecution of supposed Chinese interference in Canada, which would require evidence strong enough to hold up in court, something which has yet to be presented.

Cooper has also called for an anti-racketeering law (a RICO law) in Canada to crack down on pro-Palestine protests, claimed these protests are supported by foreign actors and says ‘someone needs to be accountable for their education’ of University students who support Palestinian liberation.

Cooper vs Senator Woo

Cooper first called for Chinese Canadian organizations against McCarthyism to be prevented from suing Canada’s Attorney General in regular courts – under the guise that their resistance is “CCP lawfare” – they should only be allowed to sue in special ‘national security’ courts. Then Cooper indirectly compares Senator Woo to a person he says is a ‘transnational gangster’, Paul King Jin, in that when Jin “got standing at the Cullen Commission it chilled witnesses”, an eerily similar point to the anti-China diaspora factions who suddenly said they had “concern” and felt uncomfortable because of Dong, Chan and Woo. Cooper finished his poll question by ‘asking’ if “the upcoming FI Commission [should] be concerned of “PRC lawfare”, and then said Senator Woo is “my top concern on CCP lawfare and CSIS has filed”.

In response to Cooper’s statement that Woo is Cooper’s “top concern on CCP lawfare”, Senator Woo said:

 “I don’t know what ‘CCP lawfare’ means but it seems he is calling me a foreign agent.  That is a baseless and outlandish claim to make of a Canadian senator.  If he is not prepared to defend this claim, he should retract it.”

On Cooper’s indirect comparison of him to Paul King Jin, Senator Woo said this “is another outlandish claim that Mr. Cooper should immediately retract if he is unable to defend it.”

Cooper would follow up to say he has an “audio tape” of “Sen Woo promising to support listed United Front groups in BC”. The story based on this audio tape was released today by Cooper. The big ‘revelation’ of this story is that Senator Woo told the Canada Committee 100 Society, an organization that’s part of China’s United Front Work Department,  that he’d fight against ‘loyalty tests’, and fight against pressure on Chinese Canadians to hold mainstream Canadian views on Hong Kong, Tibet etc, and against attacks on individuals who are members of an organization that’s part of China’s UFWD. This is supposed to be damning enough to influence people to want Senator Woo to lose his Standing Intervenor status at the upcoming inquiry.

To back up his rhetoric against the UFWD and supposed malice towards Canada, and Senator Woo’s words promising to oppose smears against those who are members of an organization in China’s UFWD as supposedly being egregious, Cooper cites a July 2023 Canadian immigration ruling by Immigration and Refugee Board member Iris Kohler. The problem for Cooper is that the ruling cites exactly zero evidence showing UFWD spying or malice towards Canada, while other references to supposed UFWD characteristics/activities, come via the claims of an unnamed “Australian think tank”, or articles which are referenced as exhibits the public can’t immediately access when checking references.

There are two deep points of supposed China interference in Canada. One is on point 47 of the aforementioned ruling, where it said:

“In 2010, CSIS pointed out ‘that there were provincial cabinet ministers and other elected officials in Canada who had fallen under Beijing’s general influence’.[36]

But this reference almost certainly points to the 2010 claim of former CSIS Director Richard Fadden, who admitted he regretted his claims against politicians. As William Dere wrote for TCF:

“Back in 2010, then head of CSIS, Richard Fadden, engaged in “a drive-by shooting style of innuendos claimed that Chinese Canadian politicians including cabinet ministers and elected municipal officials in BC are under the influence a ‘foreign government’, i.e. China. No evidence against the unnamed politicians was ever produced but the damage was done.”

The other possible reference being made is to when “That same year, CSIS officials warned then-Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty that Ontario Liberal politician Michael Chan was being influenced by the Chinese government. The 2010 allegations would resurface in 2015 via a Globe and Mail report discussing said allegations.” However, “CSIS’ claims were dismissed by Dalton McGuinty as baseless, a sentiment shared by his successor Kathleen Wynne.”

Again, Canada’s Deputy Minister of Affairs, David Morrison’s statement that: “Intelligence is not the truth,” must be referenced.

Another deep point, which Cooper cites this time, is that Kohler stated: “A UFWD teaching manual ‘notes approvingly the success of overseas Chinese candidates in elections in Toronto’ in 2003 and 2006, and encourages UFWD operatives to work with these politicians.” This followed Kohler’s statement that “Canada’s political system is of interest to the UFWD”. 

But Cooper includes Kohler’s further note that tempers any wild ideas that may come from the manual: “There is no evidence the United Front Work Department ‘carried out espionage activities on these elected officials,’ Kohler wrote.”

So in the end, CSIS claims that were smacked down years ago and a UFWD teaching manual which only shows interest in the election victories of overseas Chinese candidates in Toronto, is referenced in a decision by Kohler, and then used by Cooper to justify CSIS’ recent claims of the UFWD as a malicious organization which engages in espionage and interference, which critics have pointed out hasn’t been tested in court. Cooper’s attempt to use the immigration ruling as a counterweight to this criticism, falls apart under scrutiny. Cooper would continue to cite intelligence reports and briefings, not tested in court, as his main thrust in ‘exposing’ supposed malign UFWD activities throughout the article. 

An alternative view of the UFWD was presented by Daniel Xie in a TCF article:

“The singling out of Chinese Canadian politicians like Xixi Li as part of a ‘United Front’ is a favourite accusation employed in the anti-China playbook. As discussed by William Dere, the reality is that China’s state policy forbids foreign interference. Rather, any sort of ‘United Front’ created during the ‘opening up’ period under Deng Xiaoping is a call to mobilize all patriotic Chinese in the Chinese diaspora to help build a prosperous society in China and eliminate poverty.  An example of actual United Front work in China is the mobilization, under President Xi Jinping, of all sectors of Chinese society to eradicate poverty in China, with plans tailored to each household identified as impoverished. The success of this program saw the complete eradication of absolute poverty in China. The reality is that any formal or informal ‘United Front’ within both China and the Chinese diaspora represents a desire to help China prosper, rather than an active conspiracy to undermine the Canadian government and other Western countries.”

Cooper’s main narrative in the article is that Senator Woo’s Intervenor Standing is a threat to the upcoming foreign interference inquiry. Charles Burton, a fellow at the MacDonald-Laurier Institute whose Managing Director recently said there’s been: “a benign neglect of Canada by Washington, thereby encouraging the belief in Ottawa that Canada can embrace China and engage in domestic diaspora politics, with impunity”, that the tapes obtained by Cooper “does call into question Senator Woo’s intervener status in the Inquiry.”

David Wong, “a former political candidate and Chinese community leader in Vancouver whose family was impacted by the Chinese Exclusion Act,” and Cheuk Kwan, Co-President of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, both oppose Senator Woo having Standing Intervenor status at the upcoming foreign interference inquiry.

To get in the mindset of Sam Cooper, see this tweet of his. He quotes an image of a tweet by Senator Woo, who was HQ Vancouver’s CEO in 2015, at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chinese-state-owned Poly Culture corporation and HQ Vancouver signed during BC Liberal Premier Christy Clark and International Trade Minister Teresa Wat’s trade mission to Beijing.” HQ Vancouver itself was “a $6.5 million partnership between the federal Western Economic Diversification agency, B.C. Ministry of International Trade and Business Council of B.C. to promote Vancouver as a destination for Asia Pacific corporate expansion.”

How did Cooper respond to such an image? “Hand in hand with the PLA and into Senate”. No evidence backing up this claim was provided. 

Meanwhile, CSIS’ claims based just on intelligence, not tested in court, are considered gold by Cooper, yet blunt US funding of groups that advocate for major shifts in Canadian foreign policy, and a Canadian think tanker begging for the US to impose its foreign policy demands on Canada, are of no concern to Cooper. Cooper’s mindset and reporting concerns are something to ponder certainly. 

University Senior Fellow targets Senator Woo

Another person targeting the three political figures granted Intervenor Standing is Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Science, Society and Policy & Graduate School of Public & International Affairs of the University of Ottawa. McCuaig-Johnston said

“Chinese diaspora who have been victims of China’s interference & intimidation are angry & upset that those accused of interference will be able to cross-examine them when those people should themselves be in the witness box.”

These individuals she was referring to include Senator Woo, MP Han Dong and former Ontario Liberal MPP Michael Chan. 

Senator Woo said in response: “I have not been accused of foreign interference by any credible source.  If Ms McCuaig-Johnston wishes to tar me in this way, she should provide evidence or retract her defamatory statements.” 

McCuaig-Johnston, it should be noted, has also called for crackdowns on pro-Palestine protests in Canada, having “reposted a call from Joseph Varner, an educator at America’s Military Academy and former advisor to Canada’s Ministry of Defense, calling for students standing in solidarity with Palestinian resistance to be ‘investigated’”. 

Ex-Liberal MPP Michael Chan and MP Han Dong did not respond to The Canada Files questions. 

Looking forward to the inquiry

Senator Woo says the attacks on him, Chan and Dong getting Intervenor Standing in the upcoming foreign interference inquiry are an extension of the undermining of David Johnston, to target Justice Hogue:

“The very people calling most loudly for an independent inquiry into foreign interference are those who will only accept a report that conforms to their biases, and which precludes hearing alternative views.  They undermined the Right Honourable David Johnston and it would seem have now begun a campaign to undermine Justice Hogue.”

A quote by the aforementioned Cheuk Kwan, included in Cooper’s latest article, gives credence to Woo’s claim: 

“’ Judge Hogue has no experience in the murky world of foreign interference,’ Kwan added. ‘I am aghast at the logic of her decision on standing, as well an intervener status to Woo, who she claims is a leader of the Chinese community across Canada.’”

To get crucial context about how CSIS’ campaigning and ‘leaks’ drove the initial creation of a Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference (David Johnston), before Johnston was pressured into resigning in retaliation for not calling for a full inquiry into foreign interference, which led to the eventual announcement of said inquiry this fall, read this article: “Government by CSIS” – June 1, 2023. 

  • The article was reposted from The Canada Files
  • Aidan Jonah is the Editor-in-Chief of The Canada Files, a socialist, anti-imperialist news outlet founded in 2019. Jonah has broken numerous stories, including how the Canadian Armed Forces trained neo-Nazi “journalist” Roman Protasevich while he was with the Azov Battalion, and how a CIA front group (the NED) funded the group (URAP) which drove the “Uyghur genocide” vote in parliament to pass in February 2021. Jonah recently wrote a report for the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council, held in September 2021. 

Voices & Bridges publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive discussion and debate on important issues. Views represented in the articles are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the V&B.