By Stewart Bell Global News
May 7, 2023
WATCH: 'The West Block' guest host Eric Sorensen's interview with MP Michael Chong.
The blue-and-yellow bike locked to a telephone pole outside the Russian embassy in Ottawa was meant to symbolize Ukraine as it endured Moscow’s disastrous invasion.
But after dark on Aug. 16, 2022, a black sedan stopped outside the embassy. Three men got out, spray-painted the bike black, and tagged the pole with the Z logo of Russian forces.
Although the act was caught on camera by a witness, and the vehicle had diplomatic licence plates and was later seen in the embassy parking lot, no Russian envoys were shown the door.
The Canadian government is currently under pressure for not expelling a Toronto-based Chinese diplomat accused of threatening the family of Conservative MP Michael Chong.
But these are not the only countries whose attachés’ misconduct has gone unpunished: not a single diplomat appears to have been expelled by the government in more than five years.
When asked for details of the government’s record of diplomatic expulsions, Global Affairs Canada responded with a link to a press release about four Russians sent packing in March 2018.
Car implicated in vandalism of Ukraine war display parked inside Russian embassy compound in Ottawa. Ukrainian Canadian Congress
The foreign affairs department’s media relations office refused to elaborate when asked to confirm that was Canada’s last diplomatic expulsion. “We have no further comment,” spokesperson Grantly Franklin said.
Over the past five years, foreign diplomats have been accused of spreading disinformation, helping a foreign student accused of sexual assault flee Canada, trashing a rental unit and punching a police officer in the face.
But none of them have been asked to leave Canada.
“If you look at other democratic allies, they have expelled many Russian and PRC diplomats, many,” Chong said in an interview with Eric Sorenson on The West Block.
Since President Vladimir Putin launched his 2022 invasion of Ukraine, European countries have expelled more than 400 Russian diplomats, most recently 20 from Germany, he said.
But the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not taken similar steps, most notably against China for a foreign influence campaign that has included establishing illicit police stations in Canada’s major cities.
“And I think the fact that they haven’t emboldens the PRC to conduct even more of these activities on Canadian soil. So I think they need to send us a clear message and expel this diplomat,” he said.
On Friday, Trudeau told reporters expelling diplomats was “a big step, not a small step. “It’s one that has to be taken with due consideration on all the potential impacts.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly has said diplomats would be expelled if there was “clear evidence” but warned that would trigger a “tit-for-tat” response, resulting in Canadian diplomats being sent home.
“So what?” responded Orest Zakydalsky, senior policy advisor at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which has been urging the Liberal government to expel Russian diplomats.
Russia has 81 diplomats stationed in Canada, and with relations between Ottawa and Moscow battered by the Ukraine war, Zakydalsky wondered how they passed their time.
Since the start of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Russian embassy has used social media to attempt to undermine Canada’s support for Kyiv.
On its Twitter account, the embassy has accused Canada of supporting what it falsely labels Ukraine’s Nazi regime while denying the widespread war crimes committed by Russian forces.
The Congress wants the government to demonstrate its resolve by kicking out Russian diplomats, as Canada’s NATO allies like Germany and Norway have done, but no action has followed.
Diplomatic expulsions were more common in Canada’s past. In 2012, the Harper government closed Iran’s embassy and asked its entire staff to leave. That year, Syrian diplomats faced the same reprisal.
In 2013, Canada expelled the Eritrean consul in Toronto for pressuring diaspora members to hand over two per cent of their incomes as a war tax to finance the repressive country’s military.
But more than a half-decade has passed since the last event, which was a show of support for the United Kingdom after Russian agents in England poisoned Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer who worked for British intelligence.
More recently, Canada has been under pressure to respond to intelligence leaks exposing the misconduct of Chinese diplomats, who have been linked to threats, intimidation and election interference.
Last week, Canada summoned the Chinese ambassador after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service confirmed a report in the Globe and Mail that the Chinese consulate in Toronto had discussed targeting Chong’s family in Hong Kong.
After Chong voted in favour of a 2021 motion condemning China’s oppression of minority Uyghurs, an official at China’s consulate in Toronto, Zhao Wei, allegedly proposed going after the MP’s family.
Intelligence reports viewed by Global News repeatedly implicated the Toronto consulate in similar undiplomatic conduct, including a “large clandestine transfer of funds” for the 2019 federal election.
The RCMP is also investigating illicit police stations that Chinese authorities were allegedly operating in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal to pressure Chinese Canadians targeted by Beijing.
In Vancouver, Chinese consul-general Tong Xiaoling allegedly pushed to get pro-Beijing candidates elected to city council in October 2022. She was later replaced but not expelled.
Chinese foreign interference was a key theme of the CSIS report released last week. “These threat actors must be held accountable for their clandestine activities,” it said.
The Chinese embassy called the allegations of its foreign interference campaign “rumours” and a “political farce” that it claimed were “hyped up by some politicians and media.”