Imagine this, for a moment …
China’s People’s Liberation Army, the mighty PLA, the same military force that Pentagon officials have demonized as part of a larger movement to take over the world as we know it, carrying out military winter exercises, with the Canadian Armed Forces.
As bizarre as that may seem, and according to top-secret documents, it almost happened.
In fact, according to a report in The Globe and Mail, the Department of Global Affairs pushed back against a decision last year by Canada’s top soldier to cut back on interactions with the PLA, warning Beijing might consider this a reprisal for the arbitrary arrest of two Canadians.
Government documents, seen by The Globe and marked secret and for Canadian Eyes Only, show that officials at the highest levels of Global Affairs were alarmed that General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, had cancelled winter military exercises with the PLA in 2019.
Understandably, the United States raised concerns about joint military exercises that could benefit the PLA, according to the documents.
“Should Canada make any significant reductions in its military engagement with China, China will likely read this as a retaliatory move related to the Meng Wanzhou case,” a February, 2019, memo to Ian Shugart, then deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, outlining the case for a letter he would be sending to Jody Thomas, deputy minister of the Department of National Defence, The Globe reported.
A senior government official said General Vance, on the urgings of the US, cancelled winter exercises with the PLA and later all military interactions.
According to Canadian right-wing news outlet Rebel News, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly raged at the Canadian Armed Forces for cancelling the training mission after China arrested the “Two Michaels,” The Globe reported.
Vance did allow Canadian Armed Forces personnel to compete at the 2019 Military World Games held in Wuhan, China, that October. The Globe is not identifying the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly about national security issues.
Shugart is now Clerk of the Privy Council, the country’s top bureaucrat, who reports directly to Trudeau. The memo was written just months after Canada-China relations went into a tailspin.
Beijing had locked up two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, in apparent retribution for Ottawa’s arrest of Wanzhou, chief financial officer at flagship Chinese tech firm Huawei Technologies, in December, 2018. Canada had been acting on a US extradition request.
The documents were released through access-to-information law, although the department of Global Affairs later said they had not been adequately censored before release due to human error, The Globe reported.
Alexandre Drago, Global Affairs’ access-to-information director, asked The Globe and Mail not to report from the unexpurgated documents, saying they contain “confidential and secret classified information that should not have been released outside of government” and information that is “injurious to Canada’s national security, national defence and international relations,” as well as to individuals.
The senior government official said General Vance allowed Canadian Armed Forces personnel to compete at the 2019 Military World Games when there were no objections from Canada’s allies in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing group: Australia, Britain, the US and New Zealand, The Globe reported.
According to the memo to Shugart, the Pentagon had already pressed the Canadian Armed Forces to rethink interactions with the PLA.
By the time it was written, the Canadian military had elected to cancel Chinese participation in winter survival training at CFB Petawawa. It was to have included six to eight PLA members.
According to Rebel News, those include training Chinese commanders at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, as well as other military facilities in Kingston. Chinese military participants included 1- and 2-star generals and an entire contingent who would learn Canadian cold weather military tactics.
“The CAF’s decision to cancel the cold weather training panicked Trudeau, who demanded that Canada’s military not cancel any more engagements with the PLA without explicit permission first, and that the news of the cancellation had to be told to the PLA gently, to let them save face,” Rebel News reported.
The memo described it as a decision taken “unilaterally” by the Canadian military, apparently meaning the Forces did not consult Global Affairs first, The Globe reported.
“We understand that [this cancellation] was driven principally by concerns voiced by the US that the training could result in unintended and undesired knowledge transfer to the PLA,” the memo said.
“Unilateral decisions to postpone and/or cancel previously agreed DND/CAF co-operation with the PLA risk being interpreted by China or others in an unintended (and unhelpful) way. [This] could also damage Canada’s long-term defence and security relationship with China,” the memo to Shugart said.
According to Rebel News, “The China Files show that Trudeau’s submissive approach to China isn’t just his personal obsession — it’s the official policy of his entire government and it has deeply infected Canada’s civil service.”
Such a policy toward China, will no doubt raise alarm bells in the Pentagon and the new Biden administration.
View the original documents here.