China is currently manipulating Canadian media using foreign interference tactics, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has warned.
The warning stems from a briefing CSIS Director David Vigneault had with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a few months ago. The intelligence agency cautioned that interference by foreign powers in Canada’s affairs has become “more sophisticated, frequent, and insidious.”
According to briefing memos obtained by the CBC, Chinese-Canadian media outlets are a prime target for communist China’s propaganda.
“In particular, PRC media influence activities in Canada have become normalized,” the memo states.
“Chinese-language media outlets operating in Canada and members of the Chinese-Canadian community are primary targets of PRC-directed foreign influenced activities.”
The buck doesn’t stop at diaspora media, however. CSIS spokesperson John Townsend warned that China’s foreign influence operations have also targeted legacy media outlets to spread coverage favourable to Xi Jinping’s authoritarian regime.
“Mainstream news outlets, as well as community sources, may also be targeted by foreign states who attempt to shape public opinion, debate, and covertly influence participation in the democratic process,” Townsend told the CBC.
“Considering Canada’s rich multicultural makeup, foreign states may try to leverage or coerce individuals within communities to help influence to their benefit what is being reported by Canadian media outlets.”
The latest target of a foreign interference campaign was former Steveston–Richmond East Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, who faced a targeted misinformation operation during the 2021 federal election.
Various Chinese-language outlets and social media groups on the popular app WeChat falsely painted Chiu and the Conservatives as being anti-Chinese.
In reality, the Conservative Party has taken a hard line against human rights abuses perpetrated by the communist Chinese regime against the country’s Uighur and Turkestani minorities.
“If that’s the normal behaviour, then we should really become concerned,” said Chiue.
“I just felt, first of all, very sad. I feel ridiculous. I feel sad because some of my fellow Canadians of Chinese descent, why would they even believe in this information?”
Chiu narrowly lost the election to Liberal candidate Parm Bains.