Michael Chan, an influential and polarizing leader in Chinese-Canadian communities in the Greater Toronto Area, has registered to run in the municipal elections of Markham, Ontario.
Chan, who was provincial minister of citizenship, immigration and international trade in the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne, resigned in 2018, citing health reasons.
In an Aug. 8 tweet, Chan announced his return to Canadian electoral politics as a candidate for York Region council.
Although Chan has been in power for four years, he has remained an influential force in community organizing and fundraising for the Liberal Party of Canada, while drawing criticism from some community members for statements that , they said, supported Beijing’s crackdown on democratic protests. in Hong Kong.
Chan’s campaign has yet to respond to a request for comment on his campaign and past political career. And efforts to reach Chan at Miller Thomson, the Toronto-area law firm where Chan previously worked as a senior business advisor after leaving his Ontario post, were also unsuccessful. A Miller Thomson staffer said Chan no longer works at the company.
Chan gained notoriety in the national media as a mid-level cabinet minister in Liberal governments in Ontario, but also because he reportedly caught the attention of CSIS, the security and intelligence watchdog. Canadian Intelligence, because some CSIS agents believed Chan had an unusually close relationship with representatives of the People’s Republic of China at the country’s consulate in Toronto.
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In a 2015 report, The Globe and Mail alleged that CSIS formally warned the Ontario Liberal government in 2010 that Chan was at risk of being influenced by officials in Beijing. However, the government of then-prime minister Dalton McGuinty denied CSIS’s allegations against Chan, The Globe reported. Chan also strongly denied the allegations and filed a lawsuit against the newspaper, whose status is not known.
Multiple Canadian intelligence sources told Global News that CSIS formally alerted McGuinty’s government to CSIS’s concerns about Chan, and that McGuinty’s office dismissed the security and intelligence warnings. The controversy over Chan’s case has also led to the creation of a new Ontario provincial government office that is examining the risks of foreign interference in provincial politics, according to a source with direct knowledge of the office’s operations.
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The office, launched under Wynne’s leadership, according to a Canadian intelligence source, remains active in Prime Minister Doug Ford’s government. Ford’s office did not immediately respond to questions from Global News about the office’s duties.
Although Chan has not been formally involved in Liberal Party politics in recent years, he has appeared at events with political candidates running for various levels of government in Markham, including Markham-Thornhill MP Mary Ng, Global News reported.
The Liberal Party of Canada maintains that Chan has no official role at the federal level, but Chan appeared to enter the fray during the October 2021 election campaign, with a tweet from his “verified” Twitter account accusing the leader Conservative Party Erin O’Toole’s “hateful rhetoric” that “harms the safety of the Chinese community in Canada.
In 2019, members of the Hong Kong Canadian community told Global News they were concerned about Chan’s appearance alongside prominent pro-Beijing community leaders in Markham at a rally which, according to them, was aimed at countering the pro-democracy protests that were taking place in Hong Kong.
“We support the Hong Kong police in strictly handling the unrest, with the Hong Kong government carefully upholding the rule of law, the Chinese government carefully observing Hong Kong,” Chan said, according to a Chinese-language news site that reports. published a video and the text of his speech. “Hongkongers have always been descendants of the Yellow Emperor. We overseas Chinese insist on unity, stability and prosperity.
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