The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) released a heavily redacted report last week that appears to corroborate a disturbing story of foreign influence and collusion. A reckoning can now only be forestalled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself, as members of NSICOP would be subject to 14 years in prison for revealing what he has censored.

Trudeau needs to reveal the truth or he will be singularly responsible for what might be the greatest political scandal in Canadian political history. A number of parliamentarians may have been witting or unwitting participants in foreign interference, but the actions of one particular MP may exceed all the others.

Han Dong sought the Liberal Party nomination for for Don Valley North, a month after the previous member of Parliament was smeared on Beijing-controlled WeChat networks after he agreed to accept an invitation to visit Taiwan. In hearings at the Foreign Interference Commission led by Quebec judge Marie-Josee Hogue in April, it was heard that Dong secured the nomination after foreign students — including high school students from outside the riding who shouldn’t have been allowed to vote because they lived elsewhere — had been bussed in to support his nomination.

Months later, in a September 2019 briefing, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) attempted to warn Trudeau that the Liberal nomination process in Don Valley North had been tainted by foreign interference; the warnings do not appear to have triggered action.

In February 2023, Global News reported that an intelligence official said Dong allegedly travelled to New York and met with a senior official of Beijing’s United Front Work Department, a front for the Chinese Communist Party.

In March 2023, Global News reported that its sources alleged Dong met with Beijing’s Toronto-based diplomat, Consul General Han Tao, in 2021. In that meeting, the sources claimed, Dong advised against the release of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who at that point had been imprisoned in China for more than two years. A declassified summary of the intelligence report on this conversation, which was recorded by CSIS, was released to the public in April 2024.

According to that summary, “Mr. Dong expressed the view that even if the PRC released the ‘Two Michaels’ at that moment, opposition parties would view the PRC’s action as an affirmation of the effectiveness of a hardline Canadian approach to the PRC.”

Dong sued Global News and owner Corus Entertainment in April 2023 for defamation in response to their reports; the network stood by its reporting, noting in its statement of defence that it had a “social and moral duty to publish the information.”

Despite these troubling allegations, Trudeau had been steadfast in his support for Dong. In February 2023, Trudeau suggested it was racist to question Dong’s loyalties, connecting criticism of the MP to “anti-Asian racism linked to the pandemic.

“Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained,” Trudeau told reporters.

Thankfully, the members of NSICOP were not dissuaded from contemplating the possibility of disloyalty by these clichéd allegations of racism. This is how the report describes the behaviour of an MP it does not identify: “The Committee notes a particularly concerning case of a then-member of Parliament maintaining a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer. According to CSIS, the member of Parliament sought to arrange a meeting in a foreign state, with a senior intelligence official and also proactively provided the intelligence officer with information provided in confidence.”

This scenario closely resembles what had been reported about the intelligence leaks related to Dong. It’s already known that CSIS has made these allegations against Dong, so if it is his name is in the NSICOP report, why would it have been redacted?

There is only one person who can answer that question: Trudeau.

NSICOP is not a parliamentary committee: despite its name, it is an advisory committee to the prime minister. All of the redactions, including the name of the MP who “wittingly provided information … to a foreign state,” were made on the prime minister’s authority, which is final. This power creates a very real temptation for the prime minister to use the grounds of national security to redact embarrassing or politically sensitive information, such as his inability to grasp the seriousness of an MP’s alleged assistance in foreign espionage.

If Trudeau used his power to redact NSICOP reports to protect himself from the consequences of vouching for colleagues who have been compromised by China, it is Parliament that will pay the price. Without the disclosure of a name, every single member of the House of Commons will be tainted by the unfair suspicion that they provided a foreign intelligence officer with confidential information.

Minister of Public Safety Dominic LeBlanc intimated that he knew the name of the parliamentarian who wittingly assisted a foreign state’s intelligence officer, but stated that revealing it would be a “political stunt” in breach of the Security of Information Act, which would expose him to the risk of prosecution. He needn’t worry — no MP can be subject to criminal or civil consequences for what is said in Parliament; LeBlanc has the full protection of the parliamentary privilege of freedom of speech and debate. There is only one exception to this venerable principle of freedom of speech and debate: the members of NSICOP (which does not include LeBlanc) were stripped of that protection by the statute that established that advisory committee to the prime minister, which was enacted in 2017 during Justin Trudeau’s majority government.

It’s possible that NSICOP was only given access to highly sensitive documents and permitted to write a report on them because it’s mandate cannot reveal precisely what the prime minister determined should not be released. In the end, the truth will come out.

National Post

Ryan Alford, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, is a Professor at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Lakehead University. He was granted standing by the Public Order Emergency Commission (the Rouleau Inquiry), and he was granted public interest standing to challenge s. 12 of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Act.