RCMP targets Québec Chinese community associations with baseless electoral manipulation claims

By Daniel Xie, The Canada Files, March 24, 2023

On March 9, 2023, it was reported that the RCMP had launched an investigation into suspected “police stations” operated by the Chinese government in the province of Quebec. organization. The RCMP claimed to have received 15 tips that allegedly confirmed the presence of Chinese police stations in Montreal. It is suspected by the RCMP that these “police stations” were used by the Chinese government to “imitate and influence” Canadians to adhere to Communist Party of China (CPC) dictates. The allegation originally came from the Spain-based Safeguard Defenders. Conveniently, the RCMP has no concern about the FBI, the NYPD and NSA’s openly stated operations in Canada. In fact, cooperation between the RCMP and the FBI resulted in the infamous arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

The Quebec-based Chinese Canadian community organizations targeted by the RCMP were: the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal (SFCGM) - a family center in Montreal, and the Sino-Quebec Centre (CSQRS) in Brossard.

The SFCGM helps integrate Chinese-Canadian immigrants into Quebec by providing services such as language programs and assistance with citizenship process for newly arriving Chinese immigrants. In addition, they also provide multiple important community services for both youth and families. Similar services for new immigrants, youth and families, were also provided by the CSQRS  in Brossard.  Neither organization have tangible links to Chinese police activity.

The RCMP investigation has drawn outrage from the Chinese Canadian community in Montreal and Brossard. As reported by Global News, immigration and human rights lawyer Walter Chi-Yan Tom criticized the investigation for publicly naming both organizations. This is because openly naming the targeted organizations makes Chinese Canadian immigrants reluctant to approach them. This would both isolate the two organizations and lead to growing stigmatization of Chinese Canadians. Similar concerns were expressed by May Chiu, former head of Chinese Family Service and current coordinator for Montreal’s Chinatown Round Table. Chiu states that already funders are concerned about the two organizations and many services provided by both organizations are at risk as anxious funders may seek to cut funding.    

For their part, both the Sino-Quebec Centre (CSQRS) and the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal (SFCGM) have offered to collaborate with the RCMP regarding their investigation. At the same time, they have also been critical of the conduct of the RCMP towards both organizations. Both organizations stressed in their statement the importance of a presumption of innocence before guilt. They also urged the media to be careful about how to handle the allegations levied against both organizations, especially in light of growing Sinophobia in the wake of COVID.

Not long after the start of RCMP investigations, it was reported by both the Toronto Star and the Journal De Montreal that both of the targeted organizations have had their funding being cut off by the Quebec provincial government. Originally, the SFCGM received more than $3 million, while the CSQRS received more than $850,000. This funding was to be used for assisting the integration of new immigrants into Quebec. The official statement by the Quebec Minister of Immigration regarding the end of funding was that both organizations did not meet the obligations they had to follow for programming from 2016 to 2020 after a 2021 audit. As the Journal De Montreal noted, the Quebec Minister of Immigration has not clarified when exactly after the audit the funding was cut off, or if the funding was cut off very recently in response to the allegations.  


RCMP’s relations with Chinese Institutions in Canada

RCMP investigations against the Chinese community organizations in Montreal were not the first time organizations representing the Chinese-Canadian community in Canada were targeted under trumped-up claims of being fronts organizations for the Chinese government. In 2014, CSIS targeted Confucius Institutes (CI) as being used to spread pro-China propaganda or carry out spying operations in Canada despite little evidence proving their claims. The shutting down of Confucius Institutes on these trumped-up charges in Canada has been a key priority for Canadian anti-China hawks. Hysteria regarding CIs led to a number of Canadian local school boards cutting off cooperation with them over the course of the 2010s, while New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government had fully cut cooperation with CI’s by the start of 2023.

Both the RCMP’s actions against Chinese community organizations in Montreal and earlier efforts at demonizing Confucius Institutes in Canada are linked to continuing efforts escalating the ongoing Cold War against China. The current round of escalation revolves around claims that the CPC influenced Canadian politics in a direction palatable to Chinese interests despite little evidence proving these claims. Justin Podur’s article for The Canada Files explains the broader context around Chinagate.


Safeguard Defenders and a critical question: who is actually engaging in foreign interference?

In December 2022, claims emerged from a Spanish based organization named Safeguard Defenders that China was operating 54 police stations in multiple countries. These police stations, the group claims, served the purpose of coercing Chinese nationals suspected of criminal activity to return to China. They are supposedly coordinated by the Chinese police in the city of Fuzhou in China.

Safeguard Defenders further claims that China has set up another police station in Vancouver on top of already operating three police stations in Ontario. Despite these wild claims, Safeguard Defenders has not offered any concrete evidence on where exactly police stations are being erected in Vancouver. While the Chinese government does have buildings providing services to Chinese people, they fill the role of service stations renewing licenses for Chinese expatriates in Canada. Despite the Chinese embassy in Canada noting their actual role in response to the accusations, the RCMP has decided to examine claims advanced by Safeguard Defenders. On November 23, 2022, the RCMP launched an investigation into the police service stations in the GTA.

As exposed by William Dere in The Canada files, Safeguard Defenders drew on multiple right-wing and anti-China sources such as the Epoch Times and the National Post to ferment their claims. Dere showed that Safeguard Defenders’ head, Peter Dahlin, previously founded the anti-China organization known as the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (CUAWG). Dere also exposes Safeguard Defenders role in boosting misinformation regarding China’s actions dealing with terrorism in the Xinjiang region along with CUWAG’s links to the National Endowment for Democracy. The Chinese government statement regarding service stations can be further corroborated by Chinese-Canadian media discussing instances of service stations assisting overseas Chinese who came from Fujian province.


What are the allegations?

The RCMP acts on information supposedly originating from Safeguard Defenders designating both Quebec-based community organizations as “overseas Chinese service centers”. In addition, the RCMP was targeting Brossard city councilor Xixi Li, who runs both community organizations. As noted by the Journal de Montreal, the RCMP claims that Xixi Li had significant ties to the Chinese government. These ties included both meeting with Chinese politicians while at a tour in China, along with her membership in the Gansu Province Overseas Friendship Association, which has been targeted as a “United Front” organization. Xixi Li’s supposed presence in a so-called United Front organization, according to Charles Burton of the anti-China Macdonald-Laurier institute, undermines Canadian democracy as said organizations are supposedly used by China to advance its’ interests.

The singling out of chinese-Canadian politicians like Xixi Li as part of a “United Front” is a favorite accusation employed in the anti-China playbook. As discussed by William Dere, the reality is that China’s state policy forbids foreign interference. Rather, any sort of “United Front” created during the “opening up” period under Deng Xiaoping is a call to mobilize all patriotic Chinese in the Chinese diaspora to help build a prosperous society in China and eliminate poverty.  An example of actual United Front work in China is the mobilization, under president Xi Jinping, of all sectors of Chinese society to eradicate poverty in China, with plans tailored to each household identified as impoverished. The success of this program saw the complete eradication of absolute poverty in China. The reality is that any formal or informal” United Front” within both China and the Chinese diaspora represents a desire to help China prosper, rather than an active conspiracy to undermine the Canadian government and other western countries.

Not only are rumors of “United front” work undermining the Canadian government utterly baseless, Li herself did not play any major role in the organization being targeted (the Gansu Province Overseas Friendship Association). When confronted with the allegations regarding her ties with the Gansu Province Overseas Friendship Association, Li would point out that her association with the Gansu Province Overseas Friendship Association was purely ceremonial. Furthermore, she has not kept any correspondence with the Chinese government since the outbreak of COVID.

Both community organizations have been accused by the RCMP of trying to influence the municipal elections in Montreal and Brossard. Namely, they were putting forward various municipal candidates and influencing municipal politics in favor of said candidates. Xixi Li was one of the candidates supposedly promoted by both organizations along with Michel Gervais for Mayor.

The evidence put forward claiming electoral interference in Brossard and Montreal by the Chinese government was extremely flimsy. This is because the investigation into Xixi Li’s candidacy involved digging into Wechat groups associated with both organizations endorsing various candidates. Simply endorsing candidates on social media or raising awareness of political issues is not enough to warrant the charges of political interference.

The sources of these WeChat messages not disclosed, while the messages only existed in various WeChat groups and were not circulated by either organization on Facebook or Twitter. Consequently, nothing can be pinned on direct manipulation from either the community organizations or the Chinese government.

Nevertheless, hysteria over WeChat being a front for nonexistent Chinese interference has been a favorite accusation of anti-Chinese politicians and media personalities. For instance, former Ontario Conservative MP Kenny Chiu blamed interference via WeChat for his 2021 electoral defeat. Already, the allegations being deployed against Li are being uncritically accepted as fact by Brossard mayor Doreen Assaad, who accused Sino-Quebec citizens of getting Li elected and called for her resignation. Assaad also claimed that executives at Sino-Quebec were working to get Li elected using WeChat as a tool to mobilize supporters. These accusations were uncritically made without even considering the lack of concrete evidence.

The allegations targeting both organizations were called into question by organizations representing the political rights of Chinese Canadians in Canada. This includes the Canadian Constitution Defenders (CCD).

On March 9, the CCD sent out a public response in support of both targeted organizations and Xixi Li. According to the CCD, actual experiences of Chinese Canadians in the two community organizations show that they had a positive experience with both, rather one where they were cohered. As such, Xixi Li was elected to office because of her contributions to her community rather than any manipulation from outside forces as claimed by the allegations. They note the role Safeguard Defenders had in manipulating the RCMP and the media into targeting the two community organizations and call into question the evidence. The CCD points out that unless Safeguard Defenders was spying on Canadians and gained evidence in this way, they cannot make such wild claims about Chinese police stations and electoral influence. Rather than uncritically swallow allegations put forth by Safeguard Defenders, the RCMP should instead investigate and verify both Safeguard Defenders’ allegations first, in cooperation with both community organizations.

A week after the witch-hunt against both the Sino-Quebec Centre in Brossard and The Service à la Famille Chinoise launched, various Chinese-Canadian organizations held a rally on March 19, 2023, in support of both Li and the two organizations.  The rally was organized by various progressive groups representing Chinese Canadians such as the Canada-China Friendship Promotion Association (CCFPA),  Chinatown Roundtable, Progressive Chinese of Quebec, Movement for Peace Quebec, as well as the CCD. It was held during the centenary of the 1923 Chinese exclusion act excluding all Chinese immigration in Canada.

According to an anonymous female CCFPA organizer involved in the rally, Sinophobic rhetoric has been spreading like a virus through manipulation by the media, with the unfounded allegations targeting “Chinese police stations” spreading from Vancouver to Montreal. The organizer observed Sinophobic stereotypes emerge among her customers in her workplace alongside Sinophobia in the media. She notes her customers recently mocking Chinese Canadians as operating as a “secret police” on Canadian soil. This was not the first time customers have made these offensive jokes. They have spread jokes about her being a spy following the espionage accusations levied against Dr. Yuesheng Wang at Hydro Quebec. The organizer places blame at the desire of anti-China hawks in politics and the media for Sinophobia in their desire to march in lockstep with the US against China. She notes that marching in lockstep with the US has deprived Canada of many beneficial economic ties with China. An example of this is how the banning of Huawei forced Canadian telecoms like Telus to pay $1 billion to replace Huawei gear.

The organizer notes that a goal of the rally was to speak out in one voice that Chinese Canadians must be seen as Canadians, deserving of their rights to live as Canadians rather than under fear and exclusion. Speakers at the rally called into question many of the allegations deployed by the RCMP. The rally was supported by Canadian senator Yuen Pau Woo, who delivered a message read by a young speaker at the rally. Woo’s message, according to the interviewed organizer, gave the rally’s participants hope that the witch hunt can be stopped. In Yuen Pau Woo’s message, he praised the organizers for standing up for the right of Chinese Canadians to the rights of due process and the presumption of innocence. Woo’s statement condemned those who spread and further condemned the media for “trampling these rights” and uncritically regurgitating said rumors.  Woo said these people spread rumors and heighten divisions between Chinese Canadians and the rest of Canada.


Canada sanctions and aids US police and intelligence operations against suspected Political Enemies

While Canadian officials and anti-China hawks would declare China’s actions to be “illegal” meddling, they turn a blind eye to the US carrying out the actions they are accusing China of doing on Canadian soil. According to William Dere, the Canadian government has allowed the FBI to set up an office in Ottawa; following the 9/11 attacks the FBI sought to expand their foothold in Canada even further. In addition to allowing the FBI to operate in Canada, the Canadian government has both also allowed the New York City Police Department to set up an intelligence post in Toronto after 9/11, as well as the NSA to set up Canadian spy posts.

The RCMP has worked with US officials in arrests of targeted individuals. One of these individuals, tied to the escalation of the Cold War against China, was Huawei Deputy Board Chair and CFO [AJ1] Meng Wanzhou. Wanzhou was detained by FBI and RCMP agents unlawfully because the US sought to undermine Huawei. Wanzhou would be detained for extradition until the two Michaels (Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor) were returned to Canada. While the media portrayed the two Michaels as innocent victims of the CPC, they were spies undermining both China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.


CSIS, the RCMP, and the Media Hysteria around supposed municipal and provincial election interference by Chinese Canadian organizations

The spread of hysteria regarding Chinese police stations coincided with efforts by CSIS and various anti-China media personalities to spread claims about Chinese foreign interference in Canada. Further claims of election interference were also made by yet another anti-China reporter, Tom Blackwell, who claimed that the Chinese Council for Western Ontario Elections and the Confederation of Toronto Chinese Canadian Organizations were colluding to influence elections.

Blackwell’s claims, as observed by William Dere in the article "Canada attacks China in Indo-Pacific Strategy while the media attacks Chinese Canadians’ democratic rights", relied on no actual evidence but rather made assertions on the basis that both organizations promoted Chinese-Canadian participation in electoral politics.

Recently, Ex-Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart claimed in a recent CBC interview that supposedly rogue CSIS agents had briefed the media and himself about supposed Chinese interference without approval from CSIS higher ups. It is possible that CSIS higher ups played a far more significant role in the anti-China campaign than Stewart would know. Drawing on ATIP responses from CSIS, Jonah exposed that CSIS kept in positive correspondence with two anti-China journalists from the Globe and Mail, Steven Chase and Robert Fife. In fact, after Fife uncritically reached out to them seeking information, CSIS provided this requested information, leading to Chase and Fife’s January 11, 2022, Globe and Mail article uncritically making claims of Chinese influence operations. Currently, Chase and Fife are spreading claims from “CSIS rogue agents” regarding CPC influence in Toronto alongside Cooper. Jonah further observes that not only were other journalists not given this information, CSIS has declined to comment on any links with Chase and Fife when Jonah requested ATIPs on CSIS emails to both. This all raises the possibility to Jonah that CSIS leadership is leading the campaign to spread anti-China hysteria using claims of electoral interference as pretext.

A deeper analysis of CSIS’ interest in Chinese interference reveals an anti-China agenda going back to 1996. During that time CSIS and the RCMP worked on a declassified study known as Project Sidewinder. Project Sidewinder made multiple absurd claims that the CPC and the triads were working to subvert Canada from within. This subversion supposedly took the form of Chinese influence on 200 companies, the exertion of on multiple politicians, and attempts to buy up real estate. These claims were seen as absurd even by the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which concluded in 2000 that the report was deeply flawed and that there was no evidence of interference by the CPC. Nevertheless, the claims advanced by Sidewinder would be uncritically endorsed by CSIS’ anti-China allies in the media such as Sam Cooper and Julian Spencer-Churchill.

In addition to launching witch hunts against suspected Chinese manipulation on the municipal and federal level, CSIS would also launch witch hunts against politicians on the provincial level.

Possible links between the CSIS leadership and the current anti-China witch hunt can be further seen in a 2010 interview for the CBC by Richard Fadden, then-director of CSIS. In that interview, Fadden expressed concern that various foreign actors were influencing Canadian politicians. He singled out several municipal politicians in British Columbia and ministers of the Crown (cabinet ministers) in two provinces whom are “under the general influence of a foreign government”. Fadden further claimed that out of suspected foreign governments, China is the most aggressive in funding “university clubs” tied directly to Chinese consulates. In Fadden’s baseless claims we can see the root of today’s anti-China witch hunt: demonizing various organizations run by Chinese-Canadians as part of a “United Front” linked to the CPC’s political goals.  

That same year, CSIS officials warned then-Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty that Ontario Liberal politician Michael Chan was being influenced by the Chinese government. The 2010 allegations would resurface in 2015 via a Globe and Mail report discussing said allegations. CSIS’ claims were dismissed by Dalton McGuinty as baseless, a sentiment shared by his successor Kathleen Wynne. Around this time, pressure campaigns demonizing Confucius Institutes had began in earnest, with CSIS as an active participant.

Justin Podur notes that with the recent Chinagate allegations, CSIS has once again targeted Chan for perceived disloyalty. Podur also noted the difference began intelligence and evidence, something Canada’s MSM has failed to grapple with. This was carried out by spreading claims that Chan met with Chinese diplomats, claims that are uncritically eaten up by Fife and Chase. For his part, Chan has accused CSIS of intimidating his associates into making false testimonies against him linking him with the Chinese government. He has subsequently called for an inquiry into CSIS’ behavior in spreading false allegations and employing racial profiling in their anti-China witch hunt.  

The playbook introduced by Operation Sidewinder, targeting nonexistent Chinese influence on politicians on multiple levels of government, has been also uncritically followed by Robert Fife and Steven Chase. Recently, both have gone on to make claims about electoral manipulation in Vancouver. Fife and Chase claim that China’s Vancouver consulate interfered in the 2022 municipal election. This once again drew on information passed onto them by someone within CSIS and presented to Kennedy Stewart as simply the work of rogue agents.

These claims both spurred Vancouver politicians into calling for an investigation into electoral interference as well as influenced the RCMP into looking into the use of Chinese police stations for electoral manipulation. On December 11, 2022, Sam Cooper reported along with Stewart Bell on Global news that the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team was investigating for a second time claims for foreign meddling at the headquarters of the Wenzhou Friendship Society and in the surrounding neighborhood.

This was not the first time the RCMP investigated the Wenzhou Friendship Society. In 2018, the Wenzhou Friendship society. On October 16, 2018, the Toronto Star reported that the RCMP in Metro Vancouver were probing allegations that the Canada Wenzhou Friendship society used WeChat to manipulate municipal elections in Richmond, BC. The probe into the Wenzhou Friendship society found out that nothing the organization did warranted charges under the Criminal Code or B.C. Local Government Act. Furthermore, no one has come out to report being personally affected by the allegations.

The RCMP’s second investigation of the Wenzhou Friendship Society signifies the RCMP’s willingness to entertain claims advanced by CSIS and anti-China journalists linked to CSIS; this being despite the lack of actual evidence proving said claims and despite the previously mentioned 2018 investigation on the Wenzhou Friendship society already deeming them innocent of abetting any foreign manipulation.


RCMP targeting of community associations sets the stage for Further Sinophobia and escalation of Tensions with China

The RCMP’s targeting of Chinese community organizations in Montreal and Broussard sets the stage for the further escalation of both Sinophobia and Canada’s role in the Cold War against China. As discussed, the cases the RCMP has launched, on the basis of allegations of Chinese extrajudicial rendition and electoral manipulation, are not rooted in either tangible evidence or concrete proof. Rather, they are unproven rumors being spread around by CSIS and anti-China media personalities allied with CSIS. These very same media personalities raised no concern at all about proven cases of US intelligence agencies and police both operating on Canadian soil.

Already, opposition parties are pointing figures at Trudeau for not doing enough in responding to the overblown claims levied against China; this happening even as Trudeau himself has used the allegations to stoke anti-China sentiment in Canada. Backlash from the opposition raises the possibility of the Trudeau government being brought down by the Chinagate witch-hunt, leading to the rise of an even more Sinophobic government in power. This endgoal was something Jonah suspects CSIS of working towards in their spread of anti-China hysteria, for their political gain, and to assist the US drive for a hot war with China.

Through Chinagate, CSIS is pursuing its own political gain, while the RCMP plays along. Chinese Canadians are paying the price for these machinations.


Daniel Xie is a firm anti-imperialist, who writes about the need for an anti-imperialist and independent Canadian foreign policy. He serves as the Associate Editor of The Canada Files.


Posted March 26 2023