Canada’s ex-Conservative party leader says Chinese misinformation campaign targeted him in last election

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Canada’s former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has accused China of targeting him with misinformation and voter suppression campaigns during the 2021 election, while a Hong Kong-born Canadian lawmaker also said she was targeted for her human rights activism, both citing intelligence from Canada’s spy agency.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) last week identified multiple threats against him, O’Toole told Parliament on Tuesday.

“Each of these threats were intended to discredit me, promote false narratives about my policies, and to severely obstruct my work as a member of Parliament and as leader of the official opposition,” he said.

O’Toole emphasized that alleged misinformation occurred in the run-up to the 2021 general election, which saw the reelection of a Liberal Party government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. O’Toole is a current Member of Parliament (MP).

A day earlier New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan said that CSIS had also informed her that she was targeted within a foreign interference campaign and “would continue to be a target.”

“Coming out of this briefing it is more clear to me than ever that I will not be intimidated, that I will not be silenced in any way, whoever is trying to put pressure on me in whatever way they are trying to do it, they will not succeed,” Kwan said.

The lawmaker pointed to her activism related to human rights in Hong Kong following Beijing’s imposition of a National Security Law on the semi-autonomous city and her support of issues related to China’s Uyghur Muslim minority population as reasons why she was targeted.

The allegations come amid a years-long deterioration of ties between the two countries and comes amid a period of rising concerns in Canada about Chinese influence, including through the operation of overseas police stations and policing of speech in the country, which has a large community of people with Chinese heritage.

Earlier this month, Canada expelled an accredited Chinese diplomat accused of involvement in a harassment campaign against Canadian opposition lawmaker Michael Chong and his relatives. China quickly retaliated by expelling a Canadian diplomat.

The alleged harassment took place after Chong sponsored a motion to condemn China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority group.

O’Toole said Tuesday that he believed that Beijing aimed to retaliate against him for discouraging the use of Huawei technology in Canada’s 5G network and criticizing human rights abuses in the country, among other things.

Both O’Toole and Chong have criticized Trudeau’s government for seeming to be slow to act on such intelligence.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said later on Tuesday that CSIS has been “very proactive in engaging of federal parliamentarians” and that he had undertaken reforms to improve the flow of intelligence.

The government is creating a national coordinator to fight against foreign interference and creating a foreign agent registry, Mendicino said.

China has repeatedly dismissed previous claims of political interference in Canada’s political system.

In the aftermath of the recent tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions, Beijing accused Canadian media and some politicians of “fabricating false information.”

The two countries’ relations have already come under significant strain in recent years, in particular following Beijing’s detention of two Canadians in China in move widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s 2018 arrest of a Chinese businesswoman Meng Wanzhou.

Beijing repeatedly denied that their cases were political retaliation, but the two men, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor, were released on the same day Meng was allowed by Canada to return to China in 2021.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at