OTTAWA — A Global Affairs Canada official says the department has called in China's ambassador numerous times over allegations that secret police stations are targeting that country's diaspora in Canada.
A human-rights group has reported that China operates secret overseas police stations in more than 50 locations around the globe to keep tabs on its citizens abroad.
The Spain-based group Safeguard Defenders said three such locations operate in Toronto, but the Chinese embassy in Canada has described them as volunteer-run service stations to process things like driver's licences.
The RCMP said in early November that it is investigating the issue, and officials told MPs in early October that they were aware of the claims.
On Tuesday, a senior foreign-affairs official said that in recent weeks, his department has called in Chinese ambassador Cong Peiwu multiple times over the issue.
Opposition parties say Ottawa should have been more forthcoming with that information.
"We've had several engagements. We've called the ambassador in on multiple occasions and we have conveyed our deep concern," said Weldon Epp, the director general for North East Asia.
He offered that confirmation while speaking to MPs at the House committee on relations with China.
"The government of Canada has formally insisted that the Chinese government, including the ambassador and his embassy, take account for any activities within Canada that fall outside of the Vienna Convention ... and ensure that they cease and desist," Epp said.
He was referring to United Nations rules that provide diplomatic immunity to mission officials, who in turn agree to not interfere in internal affairs.
That includes only offering administrative services at embassies and consulates, provided by people who are officially accredited to do that work.
Epp was responding to questions from MPs on what steps GAC had taken since his last appearance at the committee on Oct. 4, when he said he was aware of the claims of overseas police operations.
"The activity that's being alleged would be entirely illegal and totally inappropriate, and it would be the subject of very serious representations and followup diplomatically," he told MPs at the time.
Epp said Tuesday he couldn't disclose whether his colleagues are reviewing the credentials Canada has granted to Chinese diplomats.
On Wednesday, Conservative MPs said Global Affairs should have told the public it had called in the ambassador.
"We really need to see more clarity and transparency from the federal government, and leadership from the prime minister," said Alberta MP Laila Goodridge.
"Canadians should not be waiting for information to be trickling in slowly, and only as absolutely pressed by this committee," she said.
Liberal MP Jean Yip said last week that one constituent had asked her about reporting on the alleged police stations, including one in her riding, but that none had told her office about any personal experience with the agency.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that he raised the issue of interference directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia, who later berated him for informing media about their conversation.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press