The February 1986 intelligence report warned that Beijing was using overt political tactics and covert operations to influence and exploit the Chinese community in Canada. It says China has been using new and possibly more powerful technologies to achieve these goals.
The Canadian Press used the Access to Information Act for a report titled China/Canada: Intervention in the Canadian Chinese communityProduced by the Federal Intelligence Advisory Committee.
Much of the document is kept secret on the grounds that its disclosure could harm the conduct of international affairs, the defense of Canada, or the detection, prevention or suppression of subversive or hostile activities.
The release of the heavily redacted report comes amid pressure on the Liberal government to launch an investigation into foreign interference in Canada after a series of media leaks about alleged interference from China.
The committee’s 1986 report “makes clear that this issue has been on the radar of Canadian intelligence for decades,” said Alan Barnes, a former intelligence analyst and now a senior fellow at Carleton University’s Norman Patterson School of International Affairs.
The Intelligence Advisory Committee was chaired by the Federal Coordinator for Security and Intelligence in the Privy Council Office, says Barnes, who recently discovered the title of the document during archival research.
“His reports were sent to a wide range of senior government officials,” he explains.
The 1986 report stated that the People’s Republic of China “continued its efforts to influence and exploit many large overseas Chinese communities to achieve its economic and political goals”.
“In Canada, as in many other Western countries, the People’s Republic of China uses overt political activities and covert intelligence operations…to achieve these goals,” the report added. New and potentially more effective technologies are being used to influence Chinese communities in Canada.”
– Not by chance
Chuk Kwan, co-chair of the Toronto Association for Chinese Democracy, was not surprised by the report. He claims to have been aware of Chinese efforts to induce individuals and groups to interfere in Canadian affairs since the early 1980s, although the activity was at a “very low level” at the time.
They knew what they were trying to do. he said in an interview.
Mr. Kwan believes Beijing has stepped up its efforts to influence Chinese communities in Canada following the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, in an effort to restore its badly damaged image.
Evidence has surfaced from time to time over the decades of Canadian intelligence officials taking an interest in China’s behind-the-scenes workings.
In recent years, the federal government and its security agencies have begun to point the finger openly at Beijing as being particularly active in foreign interference activities against Canada.
Chinese government officials have consistently denied any interference in Canadian affairs.
Media leaks from unnamed security sources about alleged Chinese attempts to interfere in the last two general elections have prompted federal liberals to clarify what Canada is doing in response to those attempts.
Opposition parties continue to pressure the government to open a full public investigation.
Mr. Kwan believes that while the investigation can help document the history of Chinese intervention schemes, it will primarily be “looking back” rather than “moving forward”.
The partial release of the Intelligence Report, 37 years after it was written, demonstrates Canada’s need to adopt an appropriate system for declassifying historical intelligence and security records after a specified period, Justice Alan Barnes.
He pointed out that Canada is the only member of the Five Eyes Organization – which also includes the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand – that does not have procedures to declassify historical documents.
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