As an international human rights and democracy advocate and 47-year resident of Markham, Marcus Kolga said he strongly urges the government to conduct a full investigation to clear the air regarding serious allegations of foreign interference and to restore confidence in democratic institutions, as well as the integrity of elections in Markham. – Steve Somerville/Metroland Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Recent allegations of election meddling reported in the media have deeply concerned many local residents in Markham, with Deputy Mayor Michael Chan among the politicians being singled out.

Chan denied the allegations, saying any supposed “unusual connections” being cited between him and Chinese diplomats are a result of the normal course of business. But some residents are calling for a federal investigation into the matter to “clear the air.”

According to unnamed sources from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) quoted in a Globe and Mail story in March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was warned to be cautious in dealings with Chan, who was alleged to have met with possible Chinese intelligence operatives during the 2019 and 2021 federal election campaigns.

In an email to Yorkregion.com, CSIS did not provide details regarding Chan’s specific case, stating the need to protect sensitive activities. It did confirm, however, that it had identified foreign interference in Canada and the “targeting” of Canadians by the People’s Republic of China. While it identified the Chinese Communist Party as “the most significant strategic threat to the security of Canada,” it added the threat does not come from the Chinese people.

“All Canadians, especially those living in Markham, should be very concerned about these allegations and demand that a federal investigation clears the air,” says social activist Marcus Kolga.

The 47-year resident of Markham said such an investigation would restore the integrity of democracy in Markham.

“The democratic choices that Markham residents make should not be cynically ignored or manipulated by morally corruptible political parties, candidates or elected officials,” he said. “The residents of Markham deserve better, and they need to be protected from all forms of political manipulation and fraud.”

This is not the first time Chan’s name has appeared on a list of Canadian politicians alleged to have close ties to the Chinese government, but Chan insists all his meetings with foreign officials were part of business and trade discussions between consular officials and Canadian politicians.

He denied the recent round of allegations in a statement on Feb. 21, saying, “linking of my name to baseless, slanderous insinuations and innuendo without the full disclosure of facts and sources has amounted to little more than an exercise in racial profiling that targets innocent Canadians.”

In contrast to Kolga’s demands for an investigation into foreign interference, Chan is calling for a full public inquiry into CSIS — including its activities, leadership and employees, as well as its relationships with select journalists — saying its employees have been “persistent” and “selective” when it comes to sharing purported intelligence information.

Chan says he has never been interviewed by CSIS regarding any of the allegations over the years and considers the Globe’s publication of the story “unjustifiably stoking fears of immigrants,” which will only create division and hate.

The City of Markham did not comment on the specific accusations, but city clerk and returning officer Kimberley Kitteringham said that fake news and misinformation have been the source of the reported election interference, both in Canada and abroad.

“External actors attempting to interfere with electoral systems is not new,” said Kitteringham in an email statement, adding “election interference almost always refers to the global politics of disinformation perpetuated by political and politically motivated actors trying to undermine public confidence in those voting systems and the processes around them.”

Markham-Thornhill MP Mary Ng did not respond to inquiries on the matter, but during a March 10 media conference regarding a Canadian Foreign Influence Transparency Registry, she lumped together questioning Chinese Communist Party interference with the Chinese Exclusion Act enacted in Canada 100 years ago.

“We have had an exclusion act in this country,” she said, “Chinese Canadians care deeply about Canada’s democracy, and they expect their votes will count.”

Gloria Fung, president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, welcomes a thorough investigation on Chinese government interference, stating an inquiry is neither racist, nor will it undermine the representation and enthusiasm of Asians to participate in Canadian politics as some claim.

She added that if there is a cloud of suspicion hanging over Chinese Canadians, it is the actions of foreign government proxies that have created it.

By Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 24, 2023 at 11:43

This item reprinted with permission from   Economist & Sun   Markham, Ontario
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