It was about 35 years ago and I was introduced to an agent of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Quebec. It was during a break in a business conference in Quebec City and I trusted the person who introduced us. We had a fascinating conversation. My experience in such subjects had only been with the Toronto Police and the RCMP. This guy was low-key and modest, despite his American accent.
The most challenging question I asked him was where he got most of the information that he reported to his Langley, Virginia headquarters. His easy answer was that he got it from our newspapers, and I believed him. He didn’t need to add that conferences such as the one we were at would also supply information.
What author Ian Fleming tended to forget in his 007 thrillers is that in times of peace the most important information of interest to foreign agents is about trade and technology. No doubt any indications of political change need to also be analyzed in terms of what it might mean to the agent’s country.
At the time, I was working for the Canadian subsidiary of an American company that manufactured and sold high level computers for such tasks as seismic analysis of reserves in oil fields. Part of my work was the greeting, escorting and management of the presentations for visiting customers who wanted to see our Canadian plant and learn more about the products we were making here. There were frequent groups coming from the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese reciprocated for my company’s courtesy by inviting me or one of my staff to consular and embassy functions for their other trade groups. They also bought some of our computers.
It is hardly a surprise today to hear of the increased size of the Chinese consulate in Toronto or the embassy in Ottawa. Nor does it surprise me that this blog has a large number of regular readers in China according to Google Analytics. None of it is a surprise when you consider Canada is an important trading partner and is a favoured country for people from China seeking new opportunities and a new home. This is furthered by the fact that there are large communities of ethnic Chinese here to welcome them.
While carefully reading the recent complaints about possible Chinese government interference in Canadian elections, I would sincerely doubt that there is very much to it. You can be sure that Althia Raj writes more information of interest to the Chinese government for the Toronto Star than any backbencher in our parliament can supply. Frankly, I don’t think the People’s Republic of China would waste money on Canada’s democratic elections—a process in which they are not overly familiar.
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