The RCMP should do more to help those who feel threatened or coerced by foreign governments, including China, to come forward, according to Commissioner Brenda Lucki.
Lucki’s comments to the parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations come after pro-Hong Kong activists in British Columbia say they were threatened online and told by police there was little authorities could do.
Lucki noted that, though the RCMP has a 1-800 number for reporting threats to national security, “by the sounds of it, it sounds like we need to do better communication.”
“If people are getting intimidated, as soon as they’re brought to our attention, there’s full investigations. If people, if they have broken any of the laws in the Criminal Code, we will pursue charges in those cases,” Lucki told the committee Thursday night.
The issue of foreign governments pressuring their international communities is far from new, but Canada’s spy agency has been publicly sounding the alarm.
Most recently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) raised concerns with companies in the vaccine supply chain that malicious foreign actors could threaten the rollout by targeting workers.
And last year, one of Canada’s key national security oversight bodies, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, released a report showing how China has been pressing their diaspora and groups based on Canadian campuses as part of “significant and sustained” foreign interference activities in Canada.
The committee said those methods are part of an attempt by foreign actors to sway public opinion, manipulate the media and influence government decision-making.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, also testifying before the committee on Thursday, said Ottawa will step in if foreign governments cross the line.
“For those Canadians who may be subject to intimidation or inappropriate influence in Canadian society, we want them to know that we’re here for them and that we’re here to support them,” he said.
“If they need our help, we have the ability and the tools to respond appropriately.”
Earlier this month CSIS director David Vigneault outlined how hostile foreign governments, notably China and Russia, are “aggressively” targeting Canadians, seeking a political and economic advantage.
“A number of foreign states engage in hostile actions that routinely threaten and intimidate individuals in Canada to instill fear, silence dissent, and pressure political opponents,” he said during a public speech.
Vigneault stressed that the threat from China comes from its government and not from the Chinese people.