A trove of documents obtained by Canada's Rebel News Network show that the Canadian armed forces planned several exercises with the Chinese People's Liberation Army last year, including a "winter survival training" at a military base in Ontario, which borders the United States.
The engagement was called off by Canada's chief of defense staff, a decision that received pushback from the country's Global Affairs department who voiced concern that the cancellation might damage relations between Ottawa and Beijing.
What are the details?
Ezra Levant, the founder of Rebel News, tweeted Wednesday, "The biggest scoop I've ever had in my life. Trudeau invited Chinese troops to learn winter warfare tactics at the Canadian Forces Base [Garrison Petawawa]. 34 unredacted pages of cowardice and appeasement towards China, hostility towards America."
Garrison Petawawa is located in Ontario, which borders the U.S. states of New York, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
The documents cited by Levant may be viewed at thechinafiles.com. Rebel News reports that the Canadian government provided the records in response to a request from the outlet after it sought to corroborate "a Russian report that Canada had sent a delegation to China for the 70th anniversary celebrations for the [People's Liberation Army] Navy" — just months after two Canadians were arrested in China following Canada's arrest of Huawei DFO Meng Wanzhou, who the U.S. has accused of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The documents, marked "SECRET//CANADIAN EYES ONLY, " show details of several engagements set for 2019 that had been "potentially paused," including the winter training in Ontario, along with meetings between Canadian and Chinese officers on military education and defense coordination at the "1-star or 2-star level" on Canadian soil.
The Globe and Mail, Canada's newspaper of record, also reviewed the documents, and noted that Canada's Global Affairs department objected to Canada's defense chief scaling back exercises with China's military, reporting that "the United States had raised concerns about joint military exercises that could benefit the PLA."
The outlet pointed to a February 2019 memo sent by then-Canadian deputy minister of foreign affairs, Ian Shugart, who wrote to the country's deputy minister of defense, "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."
The two Canadians arrested in China immediately following Wanzhou's arrest are Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg — who has been held in China since 2014 on allegations of drug smuggling — was sentenced to death shortly after Kovrig and Spavor were arrested. All three men remain imprisoned in the communist country.
The day the documents were revealed, Liberal Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted, "For the past two years, we've been working tirelessly to secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — and we'll continue to do so until they're safe at home. We'll keep standing up for them and standing with their families."
In reaction to the documents, Canada's Conservative (opposition party) foreign affairs minister Michael Chong and defense minister Jame Bezan released a joint statement condemning Trudeau, saying in part:
"Documents revealed today demonstrate that Global Affairs Canada and National Defence are not coordinated in Canada's policy toward China and were at odds with each other over the terms of engagement between the Canadian Armed Forces and the People's Liberation Army. Furthermore, despite the fact that China has kidnapped our citizens, punished our farmers and threatened Canadians in Hong Kong, the Liberal government is willing to jeopardize our Five Eyes intelligence alliance to avoid offending the communist regime in Beijing.
Chong and Bezan concluded:
"Enough is enough. Canada needs a government that is willing to stand up to China and for our values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Instead of spurning the advice of our allies, it is time to listen, and to ensure that Canada stands on the right side of history."