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Timeline: The Vancouver Mayor’s Office, China and Canada’s intelligence agency

At the end of May, Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents met with Mayor Kennedy Stewart and warned him that the People’s Republic of China government could directly or indirectly interfere with the 2022 civic election.
Photo: Dan Toulgoet

At the end of May, Canadian Security Intelligence Service agents met with Mayor Kennedy Stewart and warned him that the People’s Republic of China government could directly or indirectly interfere with the 2022 civic election. 

How did we get here? 


June 22 

CSIS director Richard Fadden tells CBC: "There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government.” 

He highlighted China’s foreign influence tactics in a recent speech. 

Three days later, a House of Commons committee demands Fadden resign for tarnishing the reputation of politicians and Chinese-Canadians.

Sept. 6

Mayor Gregor Robertson’s starts his first trade mission to China in Beijing. During 11 days, visits Tianjin, sister city Guangzhou, the 2010 Expo in Shanghai and poses with a statue of distant relative Dr. Norman Bethune in Shijiazhuang. He tells a reporter: ”You can question how worthwhile democracy is in a lot of countries right now.”


March 21

Consul General Liang Shugen urges Robertson to boycott the Shen Yun show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, calling it full of Falun Gong “cult messages and political attacks on the Chinese government.” The program contains a welcome message by Robertson, but he does not attend due to a family vacation. 


Late October

Robertson opens an account on China’s Sina Weibo social media service, amassing more than 70,000 fans in a week. It took Robertson four years to attract 28,000 Twitter followers.


November 4

Robertson begins his second trade mission to China. Entourage includes Tourism Vancouver singing ambassador Wanting Qu.


Nov. 15

Robertson elected to a third term as mayor. In early 2015, he reveals he is dating Qu.

Dec. 4

B.C. Supreme Court upholds civic bylaw regulating protest structures as a reasonable limit on freedom of expression. Falun Gong supporters who began occupying a spot in 2001 outside the Chinese consulate mansion must pack up their hut and go.


April 24

News that Qu’s mother Qu Zhang Mingjie, a Harbin City government development official, is arrested for corruption over the sale of government land. In 2021, she’ll be sentenced to life in jail.


Sept. 30

Acting Mayor Kerry Jang raises China’s flag at a Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations-organized ceremony outside city hall to mark 67 years of Chinese Communist Party rule. Consul General Liu Fei is among the dignitaries.


Sept. 5-9

Robertson’s last trade mission China, which was not publicized prior to his departure. Includes meetings with the Mayor of Shanghai and officials of e-commerce giant and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.


April 22

Robertson makes official civic apology to the Chinese community for discriminatory laws between 1886 and 1949. Acting Consul General Kong Weiwei attends ceremony.


Robertson speaks at the opening of the World Guangdong Community Federation Conference in Vancouver. 

Oct. 1

Kennedy Stewart, the labour-endorsed, NDP MP for Burnaby South, brings his mayoralty campaign to the Chinese Benevolent Association banquet in Chinatown marking 69 years of CCP rule. 

Oct. 20

Stewart narrowly beats the NPA’s Ken Sim for the mayoralty. Meanwhile, RCMP investigates a $20 transportation allowance offered on WeChat by the pro-CCP Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society after it endorses several candidates in Richmond, Burnaby and Vancouver — including members of Vancouver 1st and Coalition Vancouver. No charges are recommended. 

Dec. 9

During a banquet in Chinatown attended by Stewart and defence minister Harjit Sajjan, Consul General Tong Xiaoling slams Canada for arresting Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the U.S. Stewart calls Tong’s speech awkward but meets her one-on-one Dec. 12. Stewart vowed to “continue to engage” an important trading partner. 


Feb. 10

Stewart joins Tong and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Chinese Benevolent Association’s Year of the Pig Lunar New Year banquet in Chinatown.

April 9

National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians report warns: “China is known globally for its efforts to influence Chinese communities and the politics of other countries. The Chinese government has a number of official organizations that try to influence Chinese communities and politicians to adopt pro-China positions, most prominently the United Front Work Department.”

Aug. 17-18

Hong Kong pro-democracy rallies are overshadowed by Chinese nationalist counter protesters waving flags and singing the anthem, some of them in supercars. The Canada Vancouver Shanxi Natives Society later takes responsibility. 

Sept. 25

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West leads a boycott of the Chinese consulate-sponsored cocktail party at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. Stewart does not attend, but Green Coun. Pete Fry does.

Oct. 1: 

NPA Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung and BC Liberal MLA Michael Lee are the only politicians at a Vancouver Art Gallery north plaza event marking China’s 70th anniversary.


June 29

Stewart has a phone call with Ambassador Cong Peiwu. The embassy website says: “Stewart expressed gratitude to China for its support and assistance for Canada, especially the City of Vancouver, in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that Vancouver attaches importance to developing its relationship with China and is committed to stepping up co-operation across the board with China.”

Stewart spokesman Alvin Singh: “The Ambassador’s statement is his own and we can’t comment on it.”


Feb. 22

the House of Commons votes unanimously to condemn China’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims and urges the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Bejing. Canada sanctions Chinese officials, then China retaliates by sanctioning Stewart friend and Conservative MP Michael Chong. Stewart says “that’s not diplomacy, that’s bullying.” In April, he says he will not meet with Chinese government officials, after having at least a dozen meetings since becoming mayor in 2018.

Sept. 20

Liberals remain the minority government after the federal election. But Richmond Conservative MPs Kenny Chiu and Alice Wong are defeated by Liberal rookies. People involved in a disinformation campaign targeting Chiu on WeChat call it a victory. 

Oct. 5: 

Stewart does not attend a Jack Poole Plaza event promoting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. But Sim does. 

Nov. 9

Tong tells local Chinese language media that China firmly opposes city hall considering Kaohsiung, Taiwan as a friendship city.


Jan. 19

In a Federal Court of Canada immigration case, a judge says the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office is “engaged in covert action and intelligence gathering against the overseas Chinese communities and other minorities around the world.”

Jan. 30

Stewart marks Lunar New Year Year of the Tiger on Granville Island at the opening of the Taiwan government-sponsored LunarFest with Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office director Angel Liu. Stewart says: “All my love to the Taiwanese-Canadian community that does so much to enhance our country, thank-you.”

May 30

CSIS meets with Stewart. 

June 23

Tong headlines a Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office banquet at the Hotel Vancouver to mark the upcoming 25th anniversary of China’s takeover of Hong Kong. Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Stuart Mackinnon attend, but Stewart does not. His staff tell a reporter he continues to avoid meetings with Chinese government officials.