Canada’s intelligence agencies must immediately inform MPs of any threats against them, regardless of whether those threats are considered credible, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Trudeau told reporters that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the country’s national spy agency, never shared information it received about threats against Conservative MP Michael Chong and his family members who live in Hong Kong.
“CSIS made the determination that it wasn’t something that needed to be raised to a higher level because it wasn’t a significant enough concern,” Trudeau said.
He said that around the same time, CSIS was asked to brief Chong after China publicly said it would sanction him for criticizing Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.
But the agency never told Chong about any threats it was hearing about.
Trudeau asserted Wednesday that when it comes to the safety and security of members of Parliament or their families, the intelligence agencies should always make that information known as soon as possible.
“We’re making it very, very clear to CSIS and our intelligence officials that when there are concerns that talk specifically about any MP, particularly about their family, those need to be elevated,” he said.
“Even if CSIS doesn’t feel that it’s a sufficient level of concern for them to take more direct action, we still need to know about it at the upper government level. We are making that direction now.”
Chong said later he still has questions about what Trudeau, his office and his ministers knew about the matter.
“If ministers of the Crown and their offices were completely unaware of this, this shows an appalling breakdown (of) leadership on the part of the prime minister. The prime minister and the prime minister alone is responsible for the machinery of government,” said Chong.
“For the prime minister not to know about this, not to be interested in this, I think … calls into question (his office’s) handle on the machinery of government.”
Chong said he has not spoken to his family in Hong Kong for years, and made a deliberate choice to sever contact with them out of an abundance of caution. He said he aimed to protect them amid China’s incursions into Hong Kong.
“I don’t know exactly what is going on,” he said, his voice filling with emotion. “The position I find myself in is the same position that Canadians across the country had to face for years. And that’s why this government’s inaction on this file is so inexplicable and appalling.”
Chong did not divulge the nature of the threats his relatives faced.
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