Canada’s opposition leaders say new “serious” allegations against a Liberal MP at the centre of Chinese influence allegations underscore the need for a public inquiry into foreign interference, with one calling for the embattled MP’s removal.
Global News reported Wednesday that Ontario MP Han Dong privately advised a senior Chinese diplomat in February 2021 that Beijing should hold off freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, according to two separate national security sources.
“These are serious reports of actions that threaten the core of our Canadian democracy,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said on Twitter.
“No more hiding. No more cover up. Open, public, independent inquiry now.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who renewed his own calls for an inquiry, went even further and said Dong should be removed from the Liberal caucus.
“These are extremely serious allegations,” Singh said on Twitter. “If true, the safety of Canadians was put at risk for political gain.
“Prime Minister Trudeau must remove Han Dong from Caucus and these allegations must be thoroughly investigated. There must be a public inquiry.”
Several other Conservative and NDP MPs chimed in to say the allegations warrant a full inquiry into foreign interference.
Other politicians did not mince words to describe how they felt after reading the report.
“I cannot imagine a more dishonourable action by a Canadian elected official,” said Brad West, the mayor of Port Coquitlam, B.C., and an outspoken critic of alleged Chinese interference and organized crime in Canada.
Both sources told Global News that Dong allegedly suggested to Han Tao, China’s consul general in Toronto, that if Beijing released the “Two Michaels,” whom China accused of espionage, the Opposition Conservatives would benefit.
At the time, the two Canadians had been in Chinese custody for over two years. However, it was widely perceived that they were jailed in retribution for Canada’s detention of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States.
Dong also allegedly recommended that Beijing show some progress in the Kovrig and Spavor cases, the two sources said. Such a move would help the Liberal government, which was facing an uproar over China’s inhumane treatment of Kovrig and Spavor.
Dong, who represents the Toronto-area riding of Don Valley North, was the one to initiate the discussion with the consul general, the two sources said, adding that Dong stipulated at the outset that it was both a personal and a work-related conversation.
In an emailed statement to Global News sent Tuesday, Dong confirmed that he had a discussion with Consul General Han, but disputed that he initiated it and also denies that he advised Beijing to delay releasing Kovrig and Spavor from prison.
“I raised the status of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and called for their immediate release,” he wrote.
“At every opportunity before they returned home, I adamantly demanded their release to Canada without delay. Any suggestions otherwise are false and are attempts to mislead you and your readers, and slander me.”
The Prime Minister’s Office said it only became aware of the two-year-old conversation following Global News’ inquiries about it.
PMO spokesperson Alison Murphy wrote that her office “only became aware that a conversation took place after Mr. Dong told us, following recent media questions.”
Murphy also suggested that the MP was not acting at the behest of his government. “At no time was Mr. Dong ever used as a ‘back channel.’”
As Global News reported last month, Dong was already the subject of a CSIS probe started in the summer of 2019, three sources said, because the service believed a “subtle but effective” election-interference network directed by the Toronto Chinese consulate had clandestinely supported Dong’s 2019 candidacy.
The network had targeted at least 11 candidates, three sources said, one of whom they allege was Dong.
Dong has denied all the allegations against him telling reporters on Tuesday he was not aware of his campaign ever receiving help from the Chinese government or its proxies in Canada.
More to come…
—With files from Sam Cooper
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