Pierre Poilievre says he does not support a Conservative senator’s suggestion to raise money to sue “messy reporters” covering Beijing’s alleged foreign interference in Canadian politics.
Oh, a Conservative senator for Ontario appointed by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2013, was heard musing about raising funds to go after “unreasonable journalists” on a video posted to social media. The comments were first reported by The Canadian Press last month.
In the video posted to social media platform WeChat, Oh spoke about the “need to raise money to cover costs for (people affected) by all of these unreasonable reporters who try to smear Chinese and discredit Chinese,” according to The Canadian Press.
“We need to take legal action to deal with the messy reporters, newspapers and politicians,” Oh was reported to have said.
Oh was born in Singapore before immigrating to Canada in 1978. His Senate bio listed him as an entrepreneur and volunteer before being appointed to the Upper Chamber in 2013 under Harper. As a senator, Oh has been active on interparliamentary committees, including the Canada-China Legislative Association and the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.
Oh’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Global News, but in a statement, a spokesperson for Poilievre flatly rejected Oh’s call for crowdfunded lawsuits against journalists covering foreign interference.
Asked if Poilievre and the Conservative caucus supported Oh’s idea, Poilievre’s office responded with a flat “no.” Asked if Poilievre and the Conservative caucus believed reporters were attempting to “smear” Chinese Canadians in their coverage, the office added a second “no.”
“Canadians of Chinese origin are some of our most patriotic people. I stand with them against foreign interference and for democracy,” the brief statement, attributed to Poilievre, read.
Poilievre’s office did not respond to a follow-up question on whether Sen. Oh, who is a member of the Conservative caucus, will face any repercussions for his comments.
In his recorded comments made in Mandarin to a group identified as the Montreal Chinese Community United Centre, Oh expressed a desire for a “nationwide Chinese Canadians foundation” to counter perceived “smearing” from Canadian news organizations.
“Because you know all these journalists, these newspapers suppress us every day. One wave after another,” Oh was reported to have said.
“They will smear you by reporting a little bit of the facts about you, right?”
The issue of foreign interference in Canadian politics – particularly allegations of the Chinese Communist Party’s operations in the country – dominated the spring sitting in the House of Commons. It became a political headache for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after a series of news reports, including from Global News, suggested the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had been warning for years about Beijing’s attempts to covertly influence Canadian politics.
The stories led Trudeau to appoint David Johnston, a former governor general, as a special rapporteur on foreign interference. Johnston’s initial report, released in late May, confirmed that foreign interference operations were an urgent concern for the government to address – but took issue with some news reporting for having an incomplete picture of the intelligence around the issue. Johnston also advised against calling a full public inquiry – a demand made by the opposition parties – into foreign interference.
Johnston resigned from his post last month after the House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution asking for the former governor general to step down. Dominic Leblanc, one of Trudeau’s most trusted cabinet ministers, is now negotiating with opposition leaders on the terms of a public inquiry.
In 2020, the Senate’s ethics committee recommended Oh be censured for accepting an all-expenses paid trip to China in 2017. The committee found that Oh attempted “to mislead the Senate ethics officer” and withhold information about the trip.
Oh accepted the Senate ethics officer’s findings and told the committee he would do his “utmost” to keep personal and official travel separate.
– with files from The Canadian Press
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