Chinese Canadians in public office and academics fear that recent allegations that Beijing meddled in Canadian politics might stigmatize a whole community and discourage them from running for public office or assuming public-facing jobs.
Edmonton city councillor Keren Tang stated, “There is much concern.”
Tang and others in the Chinese community are concerned that bigotry stemming from federal investigations into suspected Chinese government meddling might undo years of progress made in achieving more diverse voices at all levels of government.
Tang, an immigrant to Canada and one of the first women from different backgrounds to be elected to the municipal council, worries if she might be accused of having ties to Beijing based only on her background.
She stated, “I can practically feel the preconceptions that may accompany it.” “Or the uncertainty and doubt. Ah, so you’re one of them? “She said.
Politicians accused of Beijing ties
The issue stems from many media claims that China interfered in Canada’s previous two elections, and Justin Trudeau has entrusted former governor general David Johnston with determining whether a public inquiry should be launched into the potential foreign influence.
After being suspected of having links to the Chinese Communist Party, Ontario MPP Vincent Ke withdrew from the Progressive Conservative caucus and is currently sitting as an independent. He has refuted the allegations.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim, the city’s first mayor of Chinese descent, denounced what he termed “insinuations” in a Globe and Mail report linking him to allegations that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) discovered evidence that the Chinese consulate in Vancouver interfered with the municipal election last year.
“If I were a white man, we wouldn’t be having this debate,” Sim remarked during a news conference on March 16.
“An atmosphere of terror”
In the midst of these stories, scholars warn that leaks to the media and the subsequent investigations are creating a “climate of suspicion and dread.”
Henry Yu, a professor of history at the University of British Columbia who specializes in migration, race, and colonialism, stated, “It will have a chilling effect on anyone who is considering running for government… anyone who is considering being in the public eye.”
Yu warns that Chinese Canadians confront specific obstacles because to their appearance and family history, citing the surge in bigotry during the COVID-19 epidemic as an illustration.
A man with spectacles beams at the camera.
He stated, “It does not occur in the same manner for people from different nations.”
He believes that this will ultimately discourage Asian Canadians from pursuing a career in politics.
“What we don’t want is for people to see running for public office negatively, as if your life may be wrecked by slander and accusations,”
Yu is one of nine individuals who have signed an open letter to David Johnston expressing worry that any inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian elections might spark “toxic” conversations towards persons of Chinese origin.
The experts, who advise the University of Victoria’s debate forum on Canada-China relations, warn that Johnston’s investigations may “promote indiscriminate and unfounded charges of allegiance, subversion, or treason against Chinese Canadians.”
In order to avoid singling out China, they are requesting that Johnston encourage anti-racism education for all public officials and widen the probe to include other nations that may be doing the same in Canada.
Some scholars caution that Ottawa must find a balance between uncovering the truth about the interference and spreading the message that not all Chinese people in Canada are participating, given the diaspora’s different opinions on the Chinese government.
Diana Fu, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto, stated, “Proactive efforts must be taken to encourage Chinese Canadians to engage in politics without fear.”
Fu notes that ethnic Chinese are already hesitant to engage in or debate politics openly due to the “cultural heritage” that politics is harmful and risky, given China’s past.
While the inquiry will not prevent former Toronto mayoral candidate Jack Yan from running again in 2022, he is convinced that it will influence the decisions of others.