"When I look... at the subtle but intense influence of China on Canadian institutions — parliaments, provincial governments, local governments, universities, the intellectual community, the policy community — it makes me deadly worried," said Australian professor Clive Hamilton, author of Hidden Hand: Exposing How the Chinese Communist Party is Reshaping the World (co-authored by Mareike Ohlberg), speaking to Canada's National Post in 2019. "I've met some very well-informed Canadians who aren't sure Canada will be able to extricate itself from this situation."
Hamilton, who "blew the whistle on Australia says Canada is in even worse trouble."
"I was pretty dismayed at the extent of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) influence in the federal Parliament. I should probably not say any more to stay on the right side of the libel laws... My response is to ask what are the authorities doing about this...? I think that's the real measure of China's influence."
Four years later and Canadian authorities are doing little to nothing about China's interference in Canada. Despite leaked intelligence reports about Chinese interference in Canada's last two federal elections in 2019 and 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to hold a public probe into the matter.
Investigative journalist Sam Cooper wrote in August:
"China's election interference and political influence in Canada has been enabled by Beijing's covert 'takeover' of Chinese-language media, plus sophisticated, massively-funded schemes targeting mainstream outlets and seeking to control 'key media entities' according to intelligence documents.
"These clandestine operations have involved threats against journalists, the documents say, but also inducements, such as benefits offered by Vancouver's Chinese Consulate to cultivate 'key editors, producers and high-ranking managers.'"
According to Tasha Kheiriddin, a Canadian political columnist, the passivity of Trudeau's Liberal Party is "permitting China to colonize Canada."
"The erosion of our sovereignty by foreign powers, notably the Chinese communist government, contributes to many... problems. On housing: Chinese money laundering inflated Canadian property values for decades and helped push home ownership out of reach for today's buyers. On drug addiction: China is the main source country of fentanyl found in Canada, paving the way for thousands of overdose deaths. On the economy: China has targeted a host of Canadian industries for control, from lobsters to lithium."
According to Hamilton, the CCP has a hold on Canadian elites, which explains why China's interference is allowed to continue in Canada.
"The CCP's basic strategy of overseas influence and interference is to capture elites in politics, business, media, think tanks, universities, and cultural institutions. It deploys a range of techniques including flattery, financial inducement, exploitation of anti-racist and anti-American sentiment, bribery, and honey traps... Key figures in the Liberal Party have long historical ties to the CCP, not least through business connections..."
David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China from 2009 to 2012, said that Canadian elites only see an imaginary China.
"They see the China of the very powerful rhetoric of the Communist Party. I've often said that Chinese leaders are what I call CEO whisperers, they're very, very skillful when meeting foreigners, particularly senior foreigners.
"China inspires a kind of excessive affection in people and an excessive sense of wonder and a desire not to apply the usual sort of critical thinking skills, and people are seduced by it."
China has reportedly openly been trying to influence Trudeau for the past 10 years, according to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). One unnamed CSIS source said that the CCP had its eyes on Trudeau well before he became prime minister.
According to columnist Tristin Hopper, writing in Canada's National Post:
"Trudeau's family has always had a weird relationship with the People's Republic of China. As prime minister, Pierre Trudeau [Justin Trudeau's father], paid semi-regular visits to the country and often hauled his children along...
"So in 2016, it didn't take all that much for the People's Republic of China to utterly flatter Justin Trudeau during his first official visit to the country. China's premier Li Keqiang made sure to offer praise of Trudeau's father within seconds of their initial meeting...
"Trudeau, meanwhile, framed the whole thing as a kind of family reunion — and made sure to note that he had brought his own kids along. 'The friendship and the openness towards China that my father taught me, I'm certainly hoping to pass on not only to my children but to generations of Canadians in the future,' he said."
In his book, Hamilton writes that Trudeau, during his first election campaign in 2016, visited the homes of "wealthy Chinese-Canadians for private fundraising events. Some of the hosts had close connections with the CCP and had been actively promoting Beijing's takeover of islands in the South China Sea."
The influence of the CCP is so pervasive that Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, "is pulling double duty as an official adviser to the Chinese government" according to a report in the Toronto Sun.
In August, Guilbeault traveled to China to participate in a meeting at the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), which was established by China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment. According to the organization's own website:
"... chaired by China's Executive Vice-Premier, CCICED serves as a high-level advisory body with a mandate to conduct research and provide policy recommendations to the Chinese Government on environment and development."
Guilbeault, a cabinet minister in the Canadian government, is, unbelievably, an Executive Vice Chairperson of CCICED.
China, according to Rob Hueber, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and associate professor of political science at the University of Calgary, is a real threat to Canada's sovereignty. "Recent Chinese actions and announcements are pointing to Beijing's determination to have a military capability in the region that will exceed that of Canada," Hueber wrote in August.
"Earlier this year, there was major news-media coverage of a series of Chinese high-altitude balloons (HABs) that flew over North American airspace, as well as Chinese monitoring buoys that floated (or were deployed) into Canadian waters.
"What has not received as much attention is a research paper, published in 2021, in which Chinese scientists explain their success in developing Arctic-resilient underwater listening systems. The paper says the listening systems are for peaceful purposes, but the actual ramifications of the HABs, buoys and research systems are inescapable. China is refining its means of monitoring the Canadian North...
"China, will very soon enjoy a major advantage in monitoring Arctic waters, especially under the surface, and it will have confidence that Canada has little ability to see what is going on or do anything about it. Factor in the overwhelming evidence of Beijing's efforts to target and interfere in our political system – and our reluctance or inability to respond to these actions – and the larger threat to Canada's very sovereignty comes starkly into view."
Robert Williams is a researcher based in the United States.