This comes after an investigation found that foreign students from China were threatened and used as pawns in a scheme by the Chinese consulate in Toronto to nominate preferred candidates for the 2019 Canadian Parliament.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has admitted that the People’s Republic of China tried to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 elections, but says those activities did not affect the election results.
He announced on Monday that he would appoint a special rapporteur to decide whether an investigation should be carried out. The move comes as opposition politicians and ordinary citizens have pressured the government to carry out an investigation.
The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, the agency responsible for investigating threats to national security, says 11 different ridings were targeted.
The Global News investigation focused on one riding in particular — Don Valley North, a suburb of Toronto. Since this riding normally elects representatives from Trudeau’s Liberal Party, the meeting to nominate a candidate is crucial.
In 2019, Han Dong won the Don Valley North nomination. However, Global News described it as a “branch in China’s election interference network”. He is a Canadian citizen who immigrated to Canada with his family at the age of 13 in the early 1990s.
Although only Canadian citizens can vote in the election, nomination meetings are open to both temporary and permanent residents as long as they are party members and live in the riding.
The report claims that the Chinese consulate brought two busloads of international students to attend the nomination meeting. They were given fake addresses that indicated they were on horseback.
To ensure they voted for the right candidate, international students had Dong’s name written on their arms, Global News reported. Students were threatened if they did not participate.
“The consulate told them to vote for Dong if they want to keep their student visa status,” Global News’ Mackenzie Gray said.
After the nomination meeting, the security service met with senior Liberal Party officials and urged them to cancel the selection. “CSIS was concerned that Han Dong was connected to the People’s Republic of China’s foreign interference network in Canada,” Global News said, citing an unnamed source.
However, the Liberal Party nominated Dong as their candidate and he won the riding in both the 2019 and 2021 elections.
Dong denied that foreign interference interfered with his selection. “My nomination in 2019 was open and followed the rules,” he said.
“The consulate told them to vote for Dong if they want to keep their student visa status.
Former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley is one of the citizens calling for a public inquiry into allegations of voter influence. “Canadians need to be able to trust that the electoral process is not being influenced by a foreign government,” he said.
Christian Leuprecht, a national security expert and professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, supports the idea of a public inquiry.
“Legislative changes regulating the selection of candidates by equestrian associations and the register of foreign agents must be a top priority before the next federal election,” Leuprecht said.
He notes that the vulnerability of local equestrian associations being exploited by foreign state and non-state actors is not new, citing examples from the past 40 years.
“However, political parties are quite reticent about legislation to curb such behaviour,” he said. The difference in this case, he noted, is that previous cases involved aggressive organizing by Canadian citizens — not foreign actors trying to undermine national institutions.