RCMP investigating alleged Chinese government police stations in Quebec
RCMP say 2 possible stations have been identified in Montreal, South Shore
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating two alleged covert police stations in Quebec that it believes are working on behalf of the Chinese government.
The RCMP have confirmed that the two locations under investigation are the Service de la famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal in Montreal's Chinatown and the Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud, in the municipality of Brossard on the South Shore.
Both centres have served as resource centres for Chinese and Asian communities.
This information was initially reported by the Journal de Montréal, then confirmed by Radio-Canada.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the RCMP said investigators are taking steps to "detect and disrupt these criminal activities supported by a foreign state that could also threaten the safety of people living in Canada."
"The RCMP recognizes that Canadians of Chinese origin are victims of alleged activities conducted by these centres," reads the statement from RCMP Sgt. Charles Poirier.
Poirier later told CBC News the investigation is just a few weeks old.
"These activities and any form of intimidation, harassment or harmful targeting of communities or diasporas in Canada won't be tolerated."
Similar police stations have been detected in Ontario and British Columbia.
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Poirier said he could not provide more details about the ongoing investigation, headed by the RCMP's Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams.
The force is urging anyone who believes they have been threatened in person or online to contact them at 514-939-8301. Poirier said they'll be able to receive assistance in multiple languages.
"We want to send a very clear message to these people: they have to contact us to help us in these investigations," the spokesperson said.
Ali Liu of Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud denies the RCMP's allegations.
In an interview with CBC News Thursday afternoon, he said the centre provides people in the local Chinese community with immigration services, French courses and cultural activities.
"It's a little silly," Liu said in French. "I think it's politics."
The other location under investigation, the Service de la famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal, did not respond to CBC's requests for comment. The two organizations used to be linked when they were founded in the 1990s, but Sino-Québec's website says it is now independent.
Brossard Mayor Doreen Assaad said people from the city's Chinese community have raised concerns with her about the centre.
Assaad said she worries there is a "risk to democratic life" in her municipality.
Immigrants in Brossard are typically referred to another organization, the Maison internationale de la Rive-Sud, whose mandate is to welcome and integrate newcomers, Assaad said.
She added that Sino-Quebec had said the community needed more support when it began offering immigration-related services.
Assaad said she is asking for people to remain respectful of the city's Chinese residents. "They should not be targeted nor feel like they are not safe," she said.
With files from Mélissa François, Sarah Leavitt and from Radio-Canada