‘I’ve confirmed the serious, grave details’: Chong briefed on foreign targeting of family

OTTAWA – The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) has at last briefed Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong following a 2021 top-secret report stating the MP and his family abroad were targeted for sanctions by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Speaking with the Advertiser by phone on Tuesday morning, Chong said he hadn’t been briefed by CSIS since reporting published by the Globe and Mail on May 1.

That article stated Chong and his family members in Hong Kong had been targeted by the PRC, with the help of Chinese consular official Wei Zhao in Toronto.

The move followed Chong’s successful 2021 motion to recognize China’s treatment of Muslim minorities as genocide, and along with it sanctions from Beijing.

By the afternoon of May 2, Chong had met with a top security official for a full briefing and to ask questions of the official.

“I spoke with the member for Wellington-Halton Hills to ensure that he got a briefing from our top security official to ensure that he gets all the information he needs,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on May 2 in the House of Commons.

The Globe reported that Chong had met with CSIS director David Vigneault, the prime minister, and national security advisor Jody Thomas on May 2.

According to the Globe, Vigneault briefed Chong, confirming the newspaper’s May 1 revelations.

Responding to an email from the Advertiser seeking to confirm the meeting details, Chong’s office said the Globe’s reporting is “accurate.”

The Prime Minister’s Office would not confirm meeting details to the Advertiser, and Public Safety Canada – CSIS falls under the department’s purview – deferred the newspaper’s questions to CSIS.

Trudeau faced accusations of inaction from Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre during Question Period on May 2, but the prime minister said the notion that the feds had done nothing was false and “irresponsible.”

Poilievre pushed back, repeatedly accusing the government of sitting on the CSIS intelligence, but Trudeau argued Poilievre had it all wrong, without providing specific details to counter the Conservative leader’s sentiments.

Though Trudeau told the House “a core part” of CSIS’ mandate is to provide briefings to MPs and take action when there’s a threat, Chong told the Advertiser on Tuesday morning that CSIS had never briefed him about a “specific threat to me or my family.”

He has previously been briefed on general security matters.

Chong stood in the House to a loud applause on May 2 and asked Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino when he or his office was first made aware “that a PRC diplomat, Mr. Wei Zhao, was targeting me or my family.”

Chong told the Advertiser “it would be shocking” if the ministers of Foreign Affairs and Public Safety, along with the prime minister, were not informed of the CSIS intelligence.

But Chong – and at least seven other Conservative and Bloc Québécois members who asked the same question at least 14 times – did not get an answer from Mendicino.

“The Conservatives continue to pose the same question, they’re gonna get the same answer,” Mendicino said.

“At the very core of the premise of those questions is the suggestion that somehow this government doesn’t care about the Honourable Member for Wellington-Halton Hills — nothing could be further from the truth,” he asserted.

Chong later raised the question of whether privileges afforded to parliamentarians to conduct their business without impediment had been breached by interference from Zhao.

“I’ve confirmed the serious, grave details in the Globe report, including that an individual in Canada, Mr. Wei Zhao, accredited by the Government of Canada, was involved and conducting these intimidation operations,” Chong said.

“The fact remains that this intimidation operation was was launched and was in direct consequence of my motion in this House concerning the treatment of Uyghurs.”

“This house must take this issue very seriously,” Chong added, pleading to House Speaker Anthony Rona, “as the guardian of our rights and privileges to send a clear and unambiguous signal that this sort of conduct on part of the PRC is simply unacceptable.”

Parliamentarians stood voicing concern and support for Chong.

NDP MP Heather McPherson said, “I think all of us in this House are shocked.”

On behalf of the Bloc, Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe said, “The member can count on our support, and light needs to be shed on this matter.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called Chong an “exemplary member” of “quality” and “integrity.”

She said it’s “an outrage that any foreign government would target him and his family.”