Written Submission to The Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference Commission


Submitted by a concerned Canadian of Chinese heritage

(Submitted 2024-07-09)

I thank the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference (PIFI) Commission for accepting, reading, and considering my submission. It is my duty and responsibility as a Canadian citizen to address the deep concern about foreign interference in Canada and some of the severe problems in our ongoing public and policy discussion about measures and mechanisms of effectively combating the FI.

My name is X, aka, Y at workplaces. I’m currently a freelance writer using the pen name of Z for English and Chinese writings on issues that matter to Chinese Canadians. I request that all my names above NOT be disclosed to the public in this Submission and my privacy is protected. This is due to my deep worry and fear of possible oppression, insult, and harassment from sources of foreign countries and some groups at home weaponizing the PIFI to stigmatize and smear fellow Canadians who have different focuses and views.[1]


Who Am I?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every newcomer to Canada in possession of a good future, must be in want of a new life.[2] Our 2021 census reports that there are 8.36 million newcomers, aka foreign-born population or immigrants, in this dynamic and diverse country, representing 23% of the total nation’s population.[3] Having a new life in Canada is arguably the dream of every newcomer, and so is mine.

I’m one of these newcomers to Canada. My “non-anglicized Chinese” name is often seen and labeled by some as a foreign name in Canada. Indeed, I was born in a foreign country – the People’s Republic of China, but I am a proud Canadian of Chinese heritage.

My wife and I finally chose to make Canada our home because we were convinced this was and still is a wonderful and welcoming country full of opportunities, freedoms, and peace. My family landed in Canada and started a new journey nearly from scratch when my son started Grade 1 that year.

After over two decades of endeavoring in and contributing to Canadian society, I have become a proud Canadian and am also proud of my Chinese heritage.[4] Despite the new life that my family has gone through from surviving to thriving, we are grateful for enjoying the rights and freedom we otherwise would not be able to enjoy if not coming to Canada. However, recent growing incidents and sentiments of anti-Asian and anti-Chinese made us worry about the future of our son and his future son in this country.


Involvement in Canadian federal elections.

As soon as we took the Oath of Citizenship, we knew we had our Canadian duties to fulfill, including casting our ballots in federal, provincial, and municipal elections.

Our votes often go to preferred candidates respectively in our electoral district. More specifically in the 2021 general election, we felt strongly that it was the pivotal moment for Canada going forward. My wife could not bear the smell of drugs from the streets and surroundings. I worried so much about the drastic rise in anti-Asian and anti-Chinese hate crimes and the dreadful blaming of the Chinese community for bringing the COVID-19 virus to Canada.[5] My son was beginning his professional career and believed job security and affordable housing were among the most important for young people. Guess what? We voted for different parties that we hoped to address these issues we cared about. 

It was the domestic issue that mattered the most to us. It was the Canadian political party’s campaign platform that influenced us the most to understand how these domestic issues would be addressed. It was our very own judgment that decided our voting behavior in the 2021 general election.

I should have no hesitation nor reluctance in recognizing that many members of the Chinese community, including myself, use WeChat as an information source and a communication solution. I’m following the WeChat public account of the Government of British Columbia, and the one of the Shanghai Municipal Government. I subscribed to the WeChat account of “Canada_in_Shanghai” – an official account of the Canadian Consulate General in Shanghai, as well as the one of the Consulate-General of PRC in Vancouver.

In addition, I should also point out that WeChat is only one of the sources or solutions for many users. For example, I have watched Peter Mansbridge, Adrienne Arsenault, Ian Hanomansing, and Andrew Chang for many years.

To me, it is a stigmatization and insult if someone calls out that my vote was influenced by foreign actors or proxies through WeChat misinformation. I would argue strongly that this type of irresponsible and senseless accusation undermined my rights and freedom to participate in the Canadian democratic process. It is more worrisome that it could undermine the same rights and freedom for many users of WeChat or alike in the future who are qualified and have a passion for participating in this democratic process as an elected MP, a candidate, a voter, or other forms.

I am a strong believer that every vote counts because I agree with what was stated in the Commission’s Initial Report —— “our electoral system is based on the principle of fairness among voters: every vote counts equally, and is treated as having the same value, weight, and potential effect.”[6]


What do I know about foreign interference in federal elections or democratic processes?

I have heard a lot about foreign interference in this country, mainly from the Canadian intelligence community’s warnings, massive media reports, politician rhetoric, rights group claims, and other concerned citizens, as well as the Commission’s Initial Report.[7] All these sources gave me the melancholy impression that FI and foreign government actors or proxies seem ubiquitous in Canada.

Nevertheless, I have been confused by the mixed noises about FI in Canada and asked myself many questions.

  • Despite the Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s refusal to read the unredacted NSICOP report on FI, it seemed that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party leader Elizabeth May came to quite different conclusions after reading the same report. How could the general public, who has no privilege to read this report, make a clear observation and clever assessment of FI?
  • When highly classified intelligence information is not deemed for consumption by the general public, why could it be possible that someone in the intelligence services leak such unprocessed and unverified information to selected media? And how could these media act in such hysteria disclosing leaked information intentionally or unintentionally to destroy the professional reputation and political career of targeted individuals or groups who may have some type of connection or association with the PRC?
  • When such leaked-information-based media reports cannot be cross-checked and verified by others, why are there so many of our politicians and community groups, such as the Chinese Canadian Concern Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violations, rushing to jump into naming individuals and groups in the Chinese community as agents or proxies of foreign governments, and citing this type of media report as their evidence of accusation of someone who had different views?
  • When some of our politicians or rights groups make such accusations based on the above leaked-info-based media reports, some of our media friends rush into reporting about these stories of individuals or groups being accused. Is this the classical example of so-called “circular reasoning”?

It is unacceptable and intolerable to allow or neglect the FI’s existence and exertion in our elections and democratic processes in Canada. In the same vein, we refuse to label any Canadian as FI agents or proxies simply based on their different views or connections to their heritages.

As a Canadian, I’m grateful to this PIFI Commission for looking into this issue objectively and laying out a roadmap rigorously to prevent FI from happening anywhere, anytime, in any form to anyone in this country. Therefore, despite the above confusion, I’m still confident that Canada’s democratic system is safe and sound. Canada will prevail if we unite as one. 


How have you been affected by foreign interference in Canadian federal elections or democratic processes?

When talking about how an individual, a community, or an entire nation has been affected by FI in Canada, we have to realize and understand that impact could come from two ways, i.e., the damages to Canada and Canadians by FI itself, and dangers by our arbitrary and egregious reaction to FI from certain countries. Here are the reasons based on my limited observation.

  1. Canadians need to understand that the FI comes from both authoritarian regimes (for example PRC and Russia), and democratic regimes (for example India and USA, etc.). As a Canadian, I believe that there is no such thing on earth that the FI from democratic regimes is good for or no harm to Canada. Only flagging out one source over another could leave holes in our system combating FI coming from all sources. I hope the Commission will treat FI from all sources in the same serious manner.
  2. Canadians need to define and identify the real FI with a clear definition and convincing evidence. Without a clear definition and reliable evidence, we are likely at risk of repeating the same mistake of Josephy McCarthy’s “list of 205 names in hand — a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”[8]

When it comes to reliable evidence, my academic training and research experience remind me that there is a difference between fact-based evidence and opinion/information-based ones. I hope the Commission will keep a keen eye on such a difference while considering the real pictures and particulars of FI in our democratic processes.

Thirdly, while all Canadians must take FI seriously, we must also be aware that overreaction to and exaggeration about FI could result in unintended negative outcomes in our communities. When some media, groups, and politicians talk every day using leaked information about X, Y, and Z in certain diaspora communities being suspects of foreign entities’ actors or proxies, it seems the return of “Four Horsemen of Calumny–Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry, and Smear.”[9] I sadly see members of Chinese Canadian communities are deeply divided, distrust, and dislike each other between regions of origin, between views of whether or not one should professedly declare his/her anti-ruling regime in Beijing, or between any possible natural connection or no connection to PRC.

Such division, distrust, and dislikeness often go beyond the Chinese Canadian communities. Many Chinese Canadians have become targets and victims of raising racism discrimination and hatred, now with the good cover of countering the FI from the PRC.

Overreaction to and exaggeration about FI could result in unintended negative outcomes in our democratic processes too. The mixture of the above division, distrust, dislikeness, and discrimination has created a deep chilling effect and widespread fears. Many members of the Chinese communities are scared away from participating in the Canadian democratic process. They are less likely and unwilling to take part in debating public policy issues, standing for elections, supporting legitimate candidates, voting in elections, protesting against injustice, etc.

I was recently told by an excellent young Chinese Canadian who speaks fluent English, Cantonese, and Mandarin that he was seeking a party nomination for the upcoming provincial election. He became so disappointed and discouraged because his attempt for the nomination was blocked as a result of a secret informer telling the party that this young person had some kind of association with the CPC. Even for my Submission, I have to request anonymity due to such fear.

The passage of Bill C-70 imposes a heavy compliance burden on Canadian businesses, community organizations, and individuals. The real impacts are yet to be seen, but it is foreseeable that many Canadians will have to take a rational risk-averse approach which is likely to undermine their rights and freedom to participate in Canada’s democratic process to some extent.

Overall, combating FI in Canada is a serious business, and every Canadian has the duty and responsibility to do his/her job. Equally important, Canada should prevent someone from using it as a weapon to stigmatize and smear other Canadians who have different views. Every Canadian should stand up to defend every right and freedom that our Charter protects.


What else would you like the Commission to know or consider?

I would like to share some of my personal experiences related to the FI. In recent years, I often received phone calls in Mandarin that claimed calling from the Chinese embassy or consulates, and sometimes from the Chinese public security departments in a Chinese city. These calls threatened me that I had been involved in some kind of criminal offense and asked me to make a large sum of penalty payments to avoid further legal actions. After some research and speaking to some community members, I learned that most (if not all) of these calls and claims were scams. But there are many Chinese community members, young or senior, becoming victims of these scams targeting the Chinese-speaking population in Canada.

In addition to scams, there are also real threats to some Chinese Canadians from the PRC authorities. I knew a horrifying story of a mother and her daughter who happened to have some connection with my co-worker before. They went to China for summer break some years ago on their Canadian passports. After arrival, they were told not to leave China until the husband, who was on some kind of Beijing-wanted list, turned himself in. They were not allowed to return to Vancouver as originally planned and the daughter missed the new school season. The daughter further suffered severe emotional trauma from such a terrifying experience. Ultimately, they sought assistance from the Canadian government representatives in China, and our officials should have more details of such cases.

Finally, I sincerely hope the Commission further considers the following:

  • “An attack on one Canadian is an attack on all.” The Government of Canada should do more to effectively protect every Canadian from threats from outside and inside.
  • “I’m Wong, not wrong.” Being Singh is not a sin. Mr. Wright is not always right. The presumption of innocence should always be protected.
  • “Agree to disagree.” Canada’s foreign policy may follow the recent Western geopolitical logic that “if one is not anti-China enough, one must be pro-China.” This logic should never apply to individuals who have the freedom to say or not say what others are saying. Canadians of Chinese heritage do not deserve a political litmus test in addition to the Oath of Citizenship.
  • “Forgive, but do not forget.” The tragedies that happened to Chinese Canadians in 1923 and to Japanese Canadians in 1942 should not happen again to any Canadian.
  • “With great power comes great responsibility.” Some Canadians, like lawmakers, have greater power than others. The greater power does not give a reason for pride and prejudice, but the responsibility.
  • “Canada has the future for all.” Canada can truly thrive only if every Canadian can thrive. Canada can truly thrive only if every generation can thrive.

I thank the Commission again for accepting, reading, and considering my submission.

(The End)

[1] A recent media-reported submission of the Chinese Canadian Concern Group on the Chinese Communist Party’s Human Rights Violations to the Commissioner of the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference demonstrates such an alarming example of calling out individual names of Canadians as part of the CPC interference in Canada. According to the Group, my name, among many other Chinese Canadians’, was mentioned because I criticized then-sitting Mayor Kennedy Stewart and supporting the major challenger Ken Sim in my early writings during Vancouver’s 2022 election. In the eyes of the Group, these names are associated with the CPC’s interference. This made me trembling with fear, but it is not right in Canada.

[2] Please allow me to borrow and imitate the opening statement from Jane Austen’s book – Pride and Prejudice

[3] Focus on Geography Series, 2021 Census – Canada (statcan.gc.ca)

[4] I understand the term “diaspora” has been used in academic, media and governmental writings for long time. However, I find it is more accurate now to describe my identify as a “Canadian of Chinese heritage”. Many members of my community share the same feeling that a Canadian is a Canadian, and not a foreigner with a Canadian passport.

[5] I was one of many people in the Chinese Canadian community who felt so hapless and helpless when this happened to our community daily, unfairly, and unjustly.

[6] Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions – Initial Report (May 2024) (foreigninterferencecommission.ca)

[7] Ibid.

[8] McCarthyism – Wikipedia

[9] Margaret Chase Smith: A Declaration of Conscience, June 1, 1950.