Madam Speaker, in listening to the debate last night and today, which has been quite something, I am at a loss for words as to how to frame what we are hearing from the other side and the costly coalition down the way. They are scrambling to the defence of the one member of the government who continually stands up to speak to this very important issue. How did we get here?
For months, Canadians have been hearing, through leaked security reports to the media, about Chinese interference or foreign interference in our previous elections and nominations. Then, within the last week, we found out that there was a foreign operative from Beijing, by the name of Zhao Wei, who took it upon himself to find out about a sitting member of Parliament in the House, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
The member for Wellington—Halton Hills is very respected on all sides because he is a very reasoned leader. He is very passionate and very articulate. He is measured in his responses, measured in his debate, and he has garnered respect on all sides. However, this foreign operative endeavoured to find out the whereabouts of this sitting member of Parliament's family in China and perhaps here.
Why was that? It was to make an example of him because of the way he voted and the motion he put forward on China's human rights atrocities and its record on human rights as it applies to the Uyghurs, a section of China's population who are being persecuted. Horrible acts are being committed against them. All that he was doing was standing up for this minority, and this Chinese operative decided to target him and his family to make an example of him.
Two years ago, in September 2021, a CSIS report came out identifying this, and this government did nothing. As a matter fact, up until yesterday, Zhao Wei was still in this country affording the privileges and rights that many Canadians do not even have. He had diplomatic immunity to say anything and to do anything. Indeed, the lone speaker from the government would want Canadians to believe that the Prime Minister, his ministers and his cabinet knew nothing about this.
I want to read something from CSIS a report entitled “Mission Focused: Addressing the Threat Environment”. Under the heading of “Duties and Functions”, it reads that they are to:
Investigate activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada and report on these to the Government of Canada.
Take measures to reduce threats if there are reasonable grounds to believe the security of Canada is at risk.
Provide security assessments on individuals who require access to classified information or sensitive sites within the Government of Canada.
Provide security advice relevant to the exercise of the Citizenship Act or the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Conduct foreign intelligence collection within Canada at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Minister of National Defence.
However, the report continues with what CSIS, in its own words, can do. It reads:
CSIS may collect foreign intelligence; that is, intelligence relating to the intentions, capabilities and activities of a foreign state. However, foreign intelligence may only be collected from within Canada at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Minister of National Defence, and with the consent of the Minister of Public Safety.
These assessments or reports are relied upon and provided to the Government of Canada. The report goes on to say:
In 2022, CSIS produced over 2,500 intelligence [reports]. These are relied upon by Departments and Agencies to help inform policy making and to support evidence-based decisions. Separately, CSIS may also take measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada.
I offer that into the record because there are only two choices here. Either the Liberals and the government do not care about the safety of parliamentarians, the families of those who serve, and the stress and mental health of those in the chamber trying to do their jobs daily, or they are negligent in their duties with malicious intent. They are either grossly incompetent or grossly negligent. That is right. We have two choices here. That is it.
They allowed a threat against a sitting member of Parliament and his family, then they allowed this person, who sent that volley across the bow of the ship and threatened a sitting of Parliament, to stay in the country for two years. They will also have us believe that, seven days after they found out about it, the Prime Minister acted swiftly. If the leader of our country does not know about these threats, he does not care about them, which is crazy to believe. As I said, there are two choices here: They are either grossly incompetent or grossly negligent.
For over two years the government has sat on knowledge that a member of this House and his family have been under threat. For over two years, it has done nothing about it. If we go around this chamber or anywhere on the site of Parliament, there are signs about our security. If we see something, we say something.
Now, we have top secret CSIS security reports that are being leaked to the media. Why is that? It is because, as we heard through other testimony on foreign interference, CSIS has been providing these reports and nobody is acting on them, so whistle-blowers from within are trying to find a way to raise the awareness of the threat levels in our country, whether they are threats of interference in our elections, threats against sitting members of Parliament or threats against Canadians of the Chinese diaspora.
We go out, as members of Parliament, and we meet with Canadians from all walks of life, and there are many times I have had a meeting with members from different diasporas, and they say, “Can we just go outside? I am going to turn my phone off, and I want to go outside.” This is real. They are worried about the foreign interference. They are worried about their country of origin listening in and finding out. They are being intimidated during elections as to who to vote for. These threats are real, and our colleagues across the way would have us believe that there is nothing to see here.
Originally, they said it was because they did not have the information. The government did not act because it did not have the information. It only found out about the threats and intimidation when it was revealed in a Globe and Mail story. What has transpired over the last week in the case before us today provides valuable insight into the Liberal government. What has happened to the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills is just another example. Two days after the story broke, the Prime Minister told Canadians that the CSIS document in question had not been circulated.
Can members believe that our leader, the leader of our country, is so woefully unaware? He is blissfully unaware, going merrily about his way in whatever he is doing, going to cocktail events and taking selfies, but he does not know about the threats against a sitting member of Parliament in the House. He told Canadians that the report by CSIS outlining the details of the threat to intimidate the member for Wellington—Halton Hills never left the building. On Thursday, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills caught the Prime Minister in this miscommunication. I say “miscommunication”, because it would be unparliamentary to call it anything like a “lie”.
According to the member, the Prime Minister's very own national security adviser called him directly to tell him that the intelligence assessment of July 20, 2021, was indeed sent to all relative departments, that in fact it did go to the Prime Minister's Office and it did go to the public safety minister's office.
I do not want to get into the machinations of the machinery of the government, but for those watching, the Prime Minister's Office also includes the Privy Council Office. PCO is the Prime Minister's department. He is solely responsible for it. Anyone who has worked in a large organization will understand the silo effect, each part working on its own projects, its own agenda with one large body overseeing everything, being the guy who sits in that seat right there.
With the exception of possibly the finance department, PCO is the only organization in all of government that actually knows what is going on everywhere. In fact, each week all the deputy ministers from across the government descend on the Prime Minister's Office in Langevin Block to discuss what has transpired, what is coming up and how they are going to move forward. They strategize. Each week, all the political chiefs of staff from each department meet so they can inform the Prime Minister's Office on their files and how they are progressing.
The Prime Minister and the government want us to believe that they did not know, that they were not informed, that this information simply fell through the cracks. With all these people meeting each week, discussing issues of national importance, I find it extremely hard to believe that no one in this government would flag this issue, that not one person would say to the Prime Minister that he needed to know about this, that not one person would raise it.
As I said at the start, we should give them the benefit of the doubt. Gross incompetence or malicious intent, there are cases made for each. We have seen gross incompetence daily. We have all heard the rumours about files piled so high on the Prime Minister's desk that it is not inconceivable that perhaps he actually still has not seen the memo yet as it is not on this month's reading list. Maybe it is on next month's reading list.
The total control demanded by this PMO is unlike any in the history of government. Nothing gets signed or passed until the Prime Minister's Office has seen it or okayed it. Nothing gets done until the Prime Minister has given it the green light. Advice from the departments can sit for weeks and months in PCO and PMO and, because the Prime Minister is vacationing in the Caribbean, surfing in B.C., taking all-expense paid trips, things just seem to pile up. I mean, leading is hard.
We all heard the testimony of the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Katie Telford, in recent weeks. The Prime Minister reads everything. If that is true, if he reads everything, we know with certainty that the CSIS intelligence file was in his office. Would it not stand to reason that he actually read it, that he understood it and that he willfully chose to ignore it? That leads us to gross negligence. Why on earth would a Prime Minister put the lives of members of Parliament at risk? I will remind this chamber that the Chinese operative was going to “make an example of” a sitting member of Parliament. What does it mean to “make an example of” ? Why would any threat against a parliamentarian go unanswered?
Why would the government willfully ignore intelligence briefings from CSIS? It is because it did not suit their needs or their political agenda. That is right. If it was not incompetence, it was negligence. It is that simple. If we look at the political climate and the events that were transpiring around this time, we can see a pattern. We know that foreign actors were funnelling money to 11 Liberal candidates in the greater Toronto area, 11 sitting members of Parliament. That is a fact. CSIS has reported on that.
We know that the Prime Minister was planning a snap election at the same time. We know that, despite numerous warnings, the Prime Minister and his staff understood the security threats. We know that CSIS provided the information on the intimidation campaign against the member for Wellington—Halton Hills in 2021 and the government did nothing.
In its 2021 annual report to Parliament, CSIS said that foreign interference threats had increased. Canada's spy agency said efforts by foreign states to steal intellectual property from Canadian researchers and companies were “persistent and sophisticated” and contributed to a “mounting toll on the country's vital assets and knowledge-based economy.” It warned that foreign interference threats in Canada to shape public policy or harass dissidents, as well as espionage, “increase[d] in scale, scope and complexity”. In 2022, an unsealed indictment in the U.S. alleged that Beijing's overseas campaign to put pressure on Chinese nationals to return and face criminal charges in China included enforcement efforts on Canadian soil. That is right, through its use of illegal police stations operating in Toronto and Montreal, the Communist Chinese regime was using intimidation to influence Canadian citizens.
Prior to the 2021 election, constituents came to me and asked if it was real, was it actually happening in Canada that a foreign country had police stations in our country and was forcing Chinese Canadians to do their deeds through intimidation. I chalked it up as conspiracy and told my constituents that it could not be true, yet it is. Months after the government stood in the House and admitted, yes, it is and it had closed their doors, but these police stations are still open. They are still threatening Chinese Canadians.
I said at the beginning that if one sees something, one should say something. Can anyone imagine being from China and living here? They come here for a better life, and yet they are still feeling the undue pressure of the foreign government that they fled because they still have family there. They are still worried about persecution. They are still worried about intimidation. They are still worried about the threats of violence or whatever could happen to their families. Why would they say something when they see the leader of our country taking such a weak stance?
Talking about weakness, time and again we have seen the Prime Minister on the world stage being so weak. Literally weeks after Iran shot down PS752, a Ukrainian airline, killing 57 Canadians, there he was bowing to the same regime that killed those Canadians. The right thing to do is to send a message to these countries that we are strong, that regardless of our political beliefs, we will stand up for one another here.
There is something that we do not take into consideration, at least I did not when I signed up to be a member of Parliament, and that is the threats of violence, the increasing threats to our own safety and our families' safety. I have to say it is alarming. I can handle myself, but I worry about my family, always. The message has to be that regardless of which party we are with, if a country attacks one of us, it attacks us all, and it will not be allowed. When the government was challenged with that, its response was that it was kind of worried about what China was going to do. That is BS. I would like to say that word in full.
The government is so weak on such issues that matter to all Canadians. We can do so much better. Yesterday we had a motion before the House about setting up a foreign interference agency and having a non-partisan commission to investigate foreign interference, and the government voted against it. Yes, it has appointed a special rapporteur who has close connections to the Prime Minister. He might as well just sign the report right now and hand it in because we know what it is going to say. I am not besmirching our former governor general. I am saying the Prime Minister should have better guidance from those around him.
I will cede the floor with this. I am so troubled by the fact that all the government wants to do is impugn the reputation of a sitting member of Parliament that it could have protected in the first place.