Canada’s intelligence agencies must immediately inform MPs if there are any threats against them, regardless of whether the threats are considered credible, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
Trudeau told reporters that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service never shared information it received about China threatening family members of Conservative MP Michael Chong 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.
The prime minister said he only learned on Monday, after it was reported in the media, that CSIS had the intelligence two years ago.
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.
Chong told the House of Commons Tuesday he was not briefed on the threats against him or his family in Hong Kong.
The longtime MP and former cabinet minister said such targeting poses a serious threat and asked House Speaker Anthony Rota to rule on a point of privilege. MPs must be free to do their work unimpeded by outside influence, he said.
Trudeau asserted 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.
“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.”
On his way into his weekly caucus meeting on Wednesday morning, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said he could not imagine the country’s national security service having such information and deciding to keep quiet.
“I find it very hard to believe that CSIS would produce a document about a Canadian MP’s family being threatened because of a vote on the floor of the House of Commons and that they wouldn’t tell the prime minister or his top public safety minister,” Poilievre said.
“This is insane.”
He said the only way to learn about CSIS’s activities is through a public inquiry into foreign interference.
Trudeau has deferred a decision about whether to hold such an inquiry to former governor general David Johnston, who was appointed as a special rapporteur to probe how Canada and its intelligence agencies have handled the problem.
Johnston has until the fall to complete his work but has been asked to make a decision about whether an inquiry is needed by May 23.
Opposition parties want Trudeau to simply call an inquiry now.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh penned a letter to Trudeau Wednesday saying while he is glad to hear Chong was offered a briefing, he wants more information about how potential threats against other MPs are handled by Trudeau’s office.