University of Montreal spokesman Jeff Heinrichs said in a statement Wednesday that when the pledge was announced in 2016, there was a greater economic and scientific opening in relations between Canada and China.
“The University of Montreal at the time had no indication of a possible link between this donation and political interference by a foreign country.”
daily Globe and Mail, citing an unnamed NSA source, published an article alleging that Chinese billionaire Zhang Bin was instructed by Beijing in 2014 to donate $1 million in memory of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, as part of a plan to influence his son Justin, then leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. The donation was apparently part of Beijing’s plan to influence Justin Trudeau, then leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
In 2016, Mr. Zhang and another Chinese businessman, Niu Jinsheng, donated $200,000 to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and promised to donate $800,000 to the University of Montreal, where the former prime minister studied law and taught law before entering federal politics.
The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation announced Wednesday that it will reimburse $200,000 for the donation.
Asked Thursday if the University of Montreal would do the same, Heinrich said the institution was considering its options “in light of the available information.”
The Canadian Press was unable to reach Messrs. Niu and Zhang for feedback.
News of the donations comes amid allegations of Chinese interference in Canadian elections. The Liberal government has come under pressure over the past few weeks after media reports citing unnamed security sources and leaked intelligence alleging Chinese interference in the last federal elections in 2019 and 2021.
National security agencies say they have witnessed Chinese interference attempts in the past two ballots, but they weren’t enough to affect the integrity of the election.
Revised policy in 2021
At the University of Montreal, Mr. Heinrichs said Wednesday that the law school had received a $550,000 donation to set up a scholarship named in honor of the two Chinese businessmen, but the final payment of $250,000 had not been received.
He said that the donors “have no say in the identity of the recipients of these scholarships, which were awarded on the basis of criteria consistent with those of the university.” Heinrich said the scholarships were last awarded in 2018 and were aimed at promoting exchanges between Canada and China.
Part of that donation, $50,000, Heinrich said, was meant to honor Trudeau Sr. — an artwork on the university’s campus. “The realization of this work of art is not planned at present,” he says.
Mr. Heinrich adds that the university revised its policy on accepting donations in 2021. “The University of Montreal conducts due diligence on the identity and motives of people offering to make large donations, including foreign donors,” he writes.
Mr. Heinrich points out that since 2016 the international context has changed a lot and that the university follows all the rules issued by the various levels of government regarding research activities in partnership with other countries, including China.
“Some of the programs our law school has implemented with Chinese partners have ended in 2019, including summer schools in China and the Chinese judges’ training program,” Heinrich said.
Relations between China and Canada have already deteriorated significantly since the University of Montreal announced its pledges in 2016.
A major dispute arose between Beijing and Ottawa in 2018, when Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in China on charges of “espionage”. A few days ago, the Canadian authorities at Vancouver Airport, at the request of the United States, arrested the CFO of Huawei Technologies, Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of the founder of the telecom giant.
millimeter. Kovrig and Spavor will be held for nearly three years in Chinese prisons. They were released in September 2021, after Ms. Meng reached agreement with US prosecutors on fraud and conspiracy charges related to US sanctions on Iran.
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