Opposition MPs are calling on Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair to appear at committee at the “earliest possible opportunity” over a new report alleging he took months to approve surveillance measures against an important Liberal Party-connected figure in Toronto.
“Canadians need to know why it took so long for the Minister to sign off on this, when it could have been done in a matter of days,” opposition MPs on the House of Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC) wrote in a May 19 letter to committee chair Liberal MP Bardish Chagger.
The letter signed by MPs from the Conservative Party, Bloc Québécois, and NDP highlights that the committee is about to start its study of Beijing’s targeting of Tory MP Michael Chong. The committee’s study was spurred by the leak of a 2021 assessment by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) on the targeting of Chong and had already intended to hear from Blair.
“Today, we learnt that Mr. Blair signed off on a surveillance warrant for former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Michael Chan—a known close associate of Mr. Zhao and his colleagues at Beijing’s consulate in Toronto—the previous month,” says the letter, referring to the CSIS assessment. Chinese consular officer Zhao Wei was declared persona non grata on May 8 for his reported activities against Chong. He was also reportedly spying on Chinese dissident communities.
The letter from the MPs follows a new report published in the Globe and Mail on May 19 based on information provided by a national security source. It says that before the 2021 federal election, CSIS had made an application to obtain warrant powers against their subject of investigation, Chan.
The Globe reported that CSIS had sought a judicial application against Chan in early 2021, but Blair, who was then the minister of public safety, waited until June before signing on it.
In a statement issued later on May 19, Blair said Globe’s reporting is “factually incorrect.”
“I will not and cannot comment on specific cases, however, during my time as Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness all warrant applications were reviewed with due diligence. They were signed expeditiously,” Blair said.
“No warrant application ever took as long as four months for approval. The signing of a warrant under the CSIS Act is a very serious matter and further operational questions should be directed to CSIS.”
Chan, currently the deputy mayor of Markham, has been tracked by CSIS due to his ties to the Chinese communist regime, the Globe has reported.
He’s also described by the Globe as a Liberal Party “kingpin” in the Greater Toronto Area, supporting candidates at the federal level. The Globe previously reported that CSIS had warned the party about his involvement in campaigns, including that of International Trade Minister Mary Ng.
Chan did not respond to an Epoch Times request for comment. He told the Globe that “CSIS has never discussed their concerns with me but continues to unjustifiably harass, intimidate, threaten, and frighten my friends and acquaintances.”
In their letter to the committee chair, the opposition MPs also requested that Chan be called to testify before PROC.
Warrant powers can authorize the most intrusive measures, such as performing covert entries, planting bugs, and intercepting communications.
Blair’s office did not return a request for comment by publication time.
The national security source reportedly told the Globe that some within CSIS suspected the delay was due to Chan being a main organizer and fundraiser for the Liberal Party.
Online reports show that Blair campaigned alongside Chan in the same year ahead of the 2021 federal election.
A report from August 2021 on the Canadian Chinese Media News website shows him in a picture standing next to Chan at a rally to support then-Liberal MP Han Dong’s re-election in the Don Valley North Riding in Toronto. Blair, a former chief of the Toronto Police Service, represents the Toronto riding of Scarborough Southwest.
Dong was re-elected but he has since left the Liberal caucus after national security leaks reported by Global News said he was involved in Beijing’s interference activities. He has since sued Global for defamation. Dong has not returned multiple requests for comment from The Epoch Times.
Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos, an outspoken critic of the Chinese regime, used the latest allegation to renew calls for a public inquiry into foreign interference.
“Pro-tip for the made up special rapporteur whose report is due Tuesday: Nothing short of a full public inquiry will suffice,” Housakos posted on Twitter.
Former governor general David Johnston was appointed rapporteur on foreign interference by the prime minister in March amid a steady flow of leaks in the media depicting widespread Chinese meddling in Canada.
He is due to make recommendations to the government next week, which could include holding an inquiry. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would abide by such a recommendation.