EXCLUSIVE: CSIS Warned PM’s Adviser of Beijing’s Targeting of MPs, Contradicting Adviser's, Special Rapporteur’s Accounts

EXCLUSIVE: CSIS Warned PM’s Adviser of Beijing’s Targeting of MPs, Contradicting Adviser's, Special Rapporteur’s Accounts - A second national security adviser to the prime minister got a warning in 2021 from the nation's spy agency that Beijing was targeting MPs, a classified document obtained by The Epoch Times shows, but he didn’t brief it up. Additionally, this detail was not included in the special rapporteur's report on foreign interference.

EXCLUSIVE: CSIS Warned PM’s Adviser of Beijing’s Targeting of MPs, Contradicting Adviser's, Special Rapporteur’s Accounts

EXCLUSIVE: CSIS Warned PM’s Adviser of Beijing’s Targeting of MPs, Contradicting Adviser's, Special Rapporteur’s Accounts

A second national security adviser to the prime minister got a warning in 2021 from the nation's spy agency that Beijing was targeting MPs, a classified document obtained by The Epoch Times shows, but he didn’t brief it up. Additionally, this detail was not included in the special rapporteur's report on foreign interference.

The Epoch Times has obtained, through the access to information regime, a partly redacted Top Secret limited distribution briefing note the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) sent to a handful of government officials in May 2021, advising them it would conduct defensive briefings with the targeted MPs.

“CSIS will be conducting defensive briefings to Members of Parliament, Michael CHONG and Kenny CHIU to sensitize both on foreign interference threats posed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC),” CSIS said in an emailed note from May 31, 2021.

Mr. Chong received the briefing, but he stated earlier this year it was generic in nature and didn’t warn about threats against him or his family.

“The PRC maintains an active interest in MPs CHONG and CHIU. CSIS assesses that [redacted] of PRC Foreign Interference (FI) threat actors,” added the CSIS note.

Mr. Chiu would end up losing his riding of Steveston-Richmond in B.C. a few months later. China experts have said a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Beijing played a role.

The “Top Secret//Canadian Eyes Only” CSIS document had warned the government before the election that Mr. Chiu’s riding is of “high interest” to the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The existence of this document was already brought to light by former special rapporteur David Johnston in his May report, who said it had been sent to top officials at Public Safety Canada.

However, Mr. Johnston didn’t mention the note had also been sent to the prime minister’s National Security and Intelligence Advisor (NSIA), who is responsible for briefing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on national security matters. The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Johnston for comment via his Rideau Hall Foundation but didn’t hear back.

“CSIS sent an issues management note (IMU) to the then Minister of Public Safety, his Chief of Staff, and his Deputy Minister in May 2021, noting that there was intelligence that the PRC intended to target Mr. Chong, another MP, and their family in China (if any),” wrote Mr. Johnston.

The document obtained by The Epoch Times now confirms that the NSIA, who was Vincent Rigby at the time, was indicated as a recipient of the CSIS note.

However, Mr. Rigby told a House of Commons committee in June that he was not aware of the note and that he had heard about it “through the newspapers” in “recent weeks.”

“I do not recall receiving that,” he said. The Epoch Times reached out to Mr. Rigby for comment but didn’t hear back.

The federal government and its agencies came under scrutiny earlier this year after a leaked intelligence document from July 20, 2021, reportedly said that an MP’s family who may be located within Beijing’s jurisdiction could be targeted by the communist regime.

The Globe and Mail, which reported on the document in May, said a national security source indicated that the MP was Mr. Chong, who has taken strong stances against Beijing’s rights abuses, and has family members in Hong Kong.
Mr. Trudeau says he was never briefed on the matter and that he also learned about the Chinese Communist Party's targeting of MPs from the media. He initially said CSIS had determined the information was not worth being briefed to higher levels, but this proved incorrect.
Mr. Chong filed an order paper with the government, which revealed that CSIS had provided the July 20, 2021, briefing to the senior leadership of three federal departments, including the acting NSIA at the time, David Morrison, on Aug. 17, 2021.

Mr. Morrison told a parliamentary committee in June that at the time he was focused on the Afghanistan conflict, and took the decision not to brief the prime minister on the matter. The ministers of the three federal departments who received the CSIS document also said they were not briefed on the issue.

That assessment is titled “PRC Foreign Interference in Canada: a Critical National Security Threat” and is dated July 20, 2021, according to government records.

Threat Activities

The May 31, 2021, Issues Management Brief (IMB, and not “IMU” as stated by Mr. Johnston) was sent by CSIS via the secure email system to four intended recipients.

“CSIS would like to share the following information,” wrote the redacted sender in the email body. “Please note that the distribution is confined exclusively to: DM [Deputy Minister] Public Safety, Minister Public Safety, MIN PS CoS [minister’s chief of staff], and NSIA.”

The note says that “CSIS judges that CHONG and CHIU are of immediate interest to the PRC Mission given their involvement in the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights as well as their respective positions in Parliament.”

Mr. Chong had a few months earlier sponsored a motion in the House of Commons to define Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur minority in northwest China as a genocide. Mr. Chiu had tabled a private member’s bill to establish a foreign influence registry.

“CHONG has also been personally affiliated with many efforts to highlight the PRC’s threat activities targeting Canada, and CHIU is the MP of a riding of high interest to the PRC,” says the note.

CSIS added that the threat was multi-pronged and involved a Chinese spy service. “CSIS [redacted] in the two MPs from multiple PRC threat actors, including the Ministry of State Security (MSS).”

The document doesn’t provide additional details on the threat actors, but after the Globe and Mail broke the story, Global Affairs Canada declared persona non grata Chinese Toronto consulate official Zhao Wei for his involvement in targeting MP Chong.

Minister Defends

Earlier this year, Mr. Blair, public safety minister at the time and now defence minister, said he had never received the May 2021 CSIS note, since his office doesn’t have a secure email terminal. He also blamed CSIS for not giving him a formal briefing and said on June 1 its director had “determined this was not information that the minister needed to know.”
CSIS “had Top Secret information that they felt that I should see, and clearly, the process that they had in place to bring it to my attention was not complete, and did not bring it to my office's attention and that’s now been remedied,” Mr. Blair added on July 11.

The month prior, CSIS Director David Vigneault had defended the information-sharing process while testifying before a House of Commons committee.

“My understanding of how the information flows from an agency to the minister is that this is sent to the department—in this case, the Department of Public Safety,” he said on June 13.


There was also apparently a breakdown in communication in the office of the NSIA.

Vincent Rigby was the NSIA when CSIS sent its May 31, 2021, Issues Management Brief alerting about the PRC targeting MPs, taking the extraordinary step of naming the individuals and closely limiting the distribution of the note.

Mr. Rigby testified before the House of Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC) on June 8, in the context of its study on the targeting of MP Chong.

He served as NSIA from January 2020 to June 2021 and said that having been “once part of the system,” he accepts his “share of responsibility” in what he called the “failing” in the national security community, such as a “lack of security culture and strategy to shortfalls in information sharing, governance and transparency.”

Mr. Rigby said in his opening remarks that the July 2021 CSIS assessment on Beijing interference had been produced and distributed after his departure from the role. “But I am not surprised that this intelligence was not raised to the political level,” he said. He didn't mention the CSIS Issues Management Brief.

Mr. Rigby gave the sense that foreign interference was one among many other threats keeping him busy, and he said he had discussed the topic with the prime minister “on at least one occasion formally” during his mandate.

Mr. Rigby also said he didn’t remember that “specific piece of intel” when asked by Conservative MP Michael Cooper if he had seen the Privy Council Office’s (PCO) Daily Intelligence Brief of Feb. 21, 2020, which said there was a “subtle but effective” PRC intelligence network in the 2019 federal election.

He also said he had not briefed the prime minister on that item.

Conservative MP Luc Berthold criticized Mr. Rigby for not paying more attention to reports of Chinese Communist Party agents funding candidates.

“I understand that one can read a lot of information, but when it comes to a direct attack on democracy, I don't understand why it didn't raise certain questions, why the situation wasn't dealt with on a political level and why we aren't sounding the alarm,” he said.

Mr. Rigby said he read 5,000 to 7,000 documents, with the vast majority of them mentioning threats to the democracy of Canada.

“There was a pandemic going on, so if—and it's if, I don't know if I missed these documents or not—I missed a document or two, I will take full responsibility for that,” Mr. Rigby added. “But for someone outside the system who's never been in that kind of work to suggest, I'm really surprised that you didn't pick this up, it's easy to say, it really is, and I would suggest walk a mile in the shoes of the NSIA.”

PCO, which hosts the office of the NSIA, told The Epoch Times that current NSIA Jody Thomas told Mr. Chong that “information relating to Members of Parliament had been disseminated to national security departments, including the Privy Council Office (PCO), but that this information was not raised with Ministers or the Prime Minister.”

Ms. Thomas was in contact with Mr. Chong after the information was reported by the Globe and Mail in May.

PCO added that the NSIA receives intelligence documents from various departments and agencies on a daily basis. “While the NSIA may flag certain documents for further dissemination within PCO, the Prime Minister’s Office, and/or to other Deputy Heads, in this situation, the documents in question were not.”

The immediate successor to Mr. Rigby as NSIA, Mr. Morrison, who is now deputy minister of foreign affairs, also testified on June 13 before the PROC on the Michael Chong case.

He was in the role when CSIS distributed its intelligence assessment on Chinese foreign interference in July 2021. “It was not a memorandum for action, it was a report for awareness,” he said in explaining his decision on why he had not briefed the prime minister on it.
These issues of breakdown in communications and not seizing upon intelligence on Beijing targeting MPs are likely to be examined by the public inquiry into foreign interference that was launched on Sept. 18.

The Liberal government initially resisted holding an inquiry but opened the door after the June resignation of Mr. Johnston as special rapporteur who was under pressure from the opposition. All the major parties have now agreed on the terms of reference of the inquiry and its commissioner.

Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue, a Quebec Court of Appeal judge, is required to submit an interim report by the end of February 2024 and a final report by December 2024.