Time for honest answers
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There are some things that simply should not be political. In fact, there comes a point when politics can’t be counted on to find the truth.
After a series of different leaks from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), it’s abundantly clear the spy service had reason to believe family members of a Canadian member of Parliament — Conservative Michael Chong — had been targeted by the Chinese government. (Chong had been a sponsor of a bill condemning the Chinese government’s treatment of ethnic Uighurs.)
That situation is untenable: if a foreign government is targeting Canadian citizens, let alone elected representatives at the highest levels of government, action must be taken.
The federal Conservatives, understandably, want to maximize whatever political gain they can from this situation. Leave aside for a moment that the latest session of Parliament seems to be a full-time effort by the Conservative opposition to blame all problems on the Trudeau Liberals.
The Liberals, meanwhile (and also perhaps understandably), want to minimize the issue for their own political gain. So they’re scrambling: half-answers, incomplete explanations and far-fetched scenarios abound, especially about why a Chinese diplomat at the centre of the case hasn’t been told to leave Canada.
Anyone could easily get lost in the political fudgery about who knew what — and when. And who did what, and when. (Frankly, it’s not clear if the prodigious and recent leaks from CSIS aren’t somehow part of that political game.) We have to focus on the fine print.
CSIS found evidence of a foreign government targeting the family of an MP in 2021 and detailed it in a report.
The Trudeau government said it didn’t get the report, or know about the threats, because the spy agency felt the threats weren’t serious enough for the report to make its way up the chain of command to the prime minister. Until, that is, when the threats were reported in the Globe and Mail on Monday, and when, in the federal Liberals’ version, they masterfully took immediate action.
Once again, events get cast in their best or worst light, depending on which party you’re in. Then, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told a Parliamentary committee that taking action against political interference by the Chinese had to be looked at through a pragmatic lens.
“We’re assessing the consequences that we’ll be facing in case of diplomatic expulsion, because there will be consequences,” Joly said. “Economic interests, consular interests and also diplomatic interests will be affected.”
That sounds like caving in to a bully who’s been caught in bad behaviour.
But the narrative got further overturned when Michael Chong pointed out in the House of Commons that he had been told by Trudeau’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas, that one of her predecessors did, in fact, have the 2021 report and that it was shared with other senior federal officials.
Even at that point, the twists and turns weren’t over. Outside the House, dealing with questions from reporters, Chong said Thomas had also told him that neither Trudeau or his chief of staff, Katie Telford, had received the report.
It is abundantly clear that Canadians are not going to get straight, honest answers from any side in Parliament. Too much is wrapped up in political gamesmanship and self-serving party politics.
Should politicians be accountable? Yes.
Does that mean we should let any side draft their own account of what’s happened? No.
An investigation should be done independently, with witnesses under oath, separate from the political football field.
And let the chips — and the reputations — fall where they may.
» Winnipeg Free Press