Toronto MP Han Dong is suing Global News and its parent company, Corus Entertainment, over stories he says portrayed him as a “traitor” and a knowing participant in Chinese interference in Canada.
The statement of claim, provided by his lawyers and filed Thursday with the Ontario Superior Court in Toronto, accuses Global News of publishing “false, malicious, irresponsible, and defamatory” stories that have “destroyed Dong’s hard-earned reputation and career.”
In March, Global published a story citing unidentified security sources who alleged Dong told a Chinese diplomat in February 2021 that releasing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor would benefit the Conservatives.
The two Canadian men at that time had been detained in China since December 2018, just over a week after the RCMP arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Global had previously published allegations that Dong benefited from Chinese foreign interference in his successful bid to become the Liberal candidate for his riding in 2019, which is also included in the lawsuit.
The Canadian Press has not independently verified the allegations.
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Shortly after the allegations about his conversation regarding Kovrig and Spavor were published, Dong resigned from the Liberal caucus to sit as the Independent MP for Don Valley North.
He told the House of Commons he would defend himself against “absolutely untrue claims.” The next day, he voted with opposition parties in favour of a public inquiry into foreign meddling in Canada’s elections.
Rishma Govani, a spokeswoman for Global News and Corus Entertainment, said in an email Thursday night that she was unable to provide further comment, but referred to an earlier statement.
“Global News is governed by a rigorous set of Journalistic Principles and Practices. We are very mindful of the public interest and legal responsibility of this important accountability reporting,” she wrote.
Dong, whose statement of claim has not been tested in court, also wants Global to remove the stories and broadcasts.
The statement of claim, which names several Global News reporters and editors as defendants, alleges the media outlet acted “irresponsibly” in the way it reported and wrote the stories.
“These allegations were made by anonymous sources whose credibility and reliability were assumed, rather than vigorously tested,” said the statement of claim.
It also says that Dong won a “hard-fought race” for the 2019 Liberal nomination and followed all election rules.
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The statement claims that Global did not review a transcript or recording of the February 2021 conversation between Dong and Han Tao, the Chinese consul general in Toronto, which is at the heart of the allegations.
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It says that while Dong does not have notes from that telephone call, in which he and Tao were both speaking Mandarin, “he is certain that he did not (and would never) advocate for the continued arbitrary detention” of the two Canadians.
“The defendants knew or ought to have known that the call took place in a specific cultural context and in Mandarin,” the statement says. “There was an obvious risk that Canadian intelligence ‘sources’ could have interpretative challenges in this context.”
China’s Toronto consulate has described the allegations reported by Global regarding the February 2021 call as “utterly groundless.”
Dong’s statement of claim says there were three other conversations with Chinese diplomats between 2020 and 2021 in which Dong pushed for their release.
It also said that Dong’s conversations with the Chinese consul general and other diplomats were taking place in the context of helping his constituents, many of whom are Chinese Canadian, or as part of his role as co-chair, along with Quebec Sen. Paul Massicotte, of the Canada-China Legislative Association.
He also said he would sometimes seek guidance from the Global Affairs Department ahead of these conversations and “from time to time” share notes from his calls with the department.
The Prime Minister’s Office has previously said it was unaware of the February 2021 conversation between Dong and Tao until the MP informed the office about it after receiving questions from the media.
The Globe and Mail reported in March, citing an unnamed source, that the PMO had reviewed a transcript of the conversation provided by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and concluded there was “no actionable evidence.”
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