National Post (Latest Edition)

Ottawa strangely silent

- KELLY MCPARLAND

You have to wonder how often knowledgea­ble people need to attest that China’s is a dangerous, predatory and untrustwor­thy government before the fact of it begins to sink in and action is taken.

Yet as warnings go, you don’t get more authoritat­ive or plain-spoken than the one issued by David Vigneault, head of the Canadian Security Intelligen­ce Service, during an online forum.

“The government of China ... is pursuing a strategy for geopolitic­al advantage on all fronts — economic, technologi­cal, political and military — and using all elements of state power to carry out activities that are a direct threat to our national security and sovereignt­y,” Vigneault said.

Beijing’s hackers attack Canada’s biopharmac­eutical and health industries, artificial intelligen­ce, quantum computing, ocean technology and aerospace operations in a relentless effort to steal technology and gather data, he said.

Hard to shrug that off, even for a government as nervous as this one about its leader’s past infatuatio­ns with the wondrous potential of China’s one-party state.

You have to wonder how often knowledgea­ble people need to attest that China’s is a dangerous, predatory and untrustwor­thy government before the fact of it begins to sink in and action is taken.

yet as warnings go, you don’t get more authoritat­ive or plainspoke­n than the one issued by david Vigneault, head of the Canadian Security Intelligen­ce Service, during an online forum.

“The government of China ... is pursuing a strategy for geopolitic­al advantage on all fronts — economic, technologi­cal, political and military — and using all elements of state power to carry out activities that are a direct threat to our national security and sovereignt­y,” Vigneault said.

beijing’s hackers attack Canada’s biopharmac­eutical and health industries, artificial intelligen­ce, quantum computing, ocean technology and aerospace operations in a relentless effort to steal technology and gather data, he said.

In addition, a project supposedly aimed at tracking down corrupt officials and executives outside its borders is routinely used to threaten and intimidate Chinese critics in Canada, with their relatives back home serving as hostages.

“These activities ... cross the line by attempting to undermine our democratic processes or threaten our citizens in a covert and clandestin­e manner,” said Vigneault.

CSIS has been watching “persistent and sophistica­ted state-sponsored threat activity” for years, and “we continue to see a rise in the frequency and sophistica­tion of this threat activity.”

Hard to shrug that off, even for a government as nervous as this one about its leader’s past infatuatio­ns with the wondrous potential of China’s one-party state.

Statements as candid as Vigneault’s aren’t a daily occurrence in Ottawa. Federal ministers and mandarins alike prefer to bury bad news in a blanket of evasion, obfuscatio­n and neglect. but the warnings are coming more frequently, and in blunt terms.

In November another Canadian security agency, the Communicat­ions Security establishm­ent, identified China, russia, Iran and North Korea as the dangerous practition­ers of cyber crime, with the potential to break into power supplies or other critical infrastruc­ture.

richard Fadden, a former CSIS director, warned in 2019 that Canada had to “shed the blinders of the past and see the world and our place in it as it is.”

That means coming to grips with the realities of a hostile and aggressive communist regime with little time for the niceties of diplomacy or internatio­nal norms. “We are surrounded by three oceans and the u.s. so we don’t really feel threatened when, in a totally globalized world, that is unrealisti­c . ... More than anything, we need a clear-eyed view of the world and our place in it,” said Fadden.

yet evidence keeps arriving of Ottawa’s languid and leisurely approach. The Trudeau Liberals are content to let a company owned by the Chinese police run Canada’s visa-applicatio­n centre in beijing, collecting data on applicants with obvious intelligen­ce value and potential use in strong-arming or blocking applicants eager to leave the country.

As National Post’s diane Francis has reported, many questions remain about Ottawa’s efforts to co-develop a COVID-19 vaccine with China, only to have beijing arbitraril­y scupper the effort, leaving Canada flounderin­g while China retains rights for the vaccines developed and peddles them elsewhere. So supine is Ottawa’s approach that Canada’s embassy in beijing felt compelled to apologize when staff ordered T-shirts bearing a hip-hop logo super-sensitive Chinese officials mistook as a reference to the COVID outbreak in Wuhan.

Newly appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau maintains Canada has a clear policy on one of beijing’s most hideous crimes, “the egregious human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang.” If so, he better tell two of his top diplomats, who can’t seem to agree. Ambassador to the united Nations bob rae told the CBC “there’s no question that there’s aspects of what the Chinese are doing that fits into the definition of genocide in the genocide convention.”

Ambassador to beijing dominic barton isn’t so sure, and doesn’t want to rush into anything. “I haven’t talked to Ambassador rae about the particular evidence he has on that side,” he said. despite the flood of evidence condemning the brutal treatment of China’s uyghur minority, barton still wants to see more reports.

“We need to have independen­t people on the ground who can go wherever they want” in Xinjiang and collect more informatio­n, he said.

That’s not likely to happen, as a Chinese spokespers­on dismissed u.s. accusation­s of genocide in Xinjiang as “a piece of waste paper.” Garneau says he will nonetheles­s “continue to call on China to grant unfettered access to Xinjiang” for un and human rights officials, and “continue to collaborat­e with its partners and push for an investigat­ion.” because the un has been so effective in curbing China’s other excesses, right?

This brings up the matter of the 2022 Winter Olympics to be hosted by beijing. The Trudeau Liberals are downloadin­g the decision on attending to the Canadian Olympic Committee, which of course is mad keen to go. We went to Sochi didn’t we? Can it get more corrupt?

you can argue forever about whether boycotts work or not, but not awarding the Games to murderous one-party states in the first place is a guaranteed way to prevent them being used to glorify systems that dehumanize their own people. Ottawa could speak up about that, of course, but that would require clarity and backbone, which it lacks. easier to wait for more reports from the un.

federal ministers and mandarins alike prefer to bury bad news.

 ?? NG HAN GUAN / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES ?? Not awarding the Olympic Games to murderous one-party states like China is “a guaranteed way to prevent them
being used to glorify systems that dehumanize their own people,” Kelly Mcparland writes.
NG HAN GUAN / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Not awarding the Olympic Games to murderous one-party states like China is “a guaranteed way to prevent them being used to glorify systems that dehumanize their own people,” Kelly Mcparland writes.
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