RCMP says it has shut down 'illegal police activity' connected to alleged Chinese 'police stations'
The police service hasn't said if it has made arrests
The RCMP says it has "shut down illegal police activity in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia" connected to so-called Chinese "police stations" — but it hasn't said whether it has made any arrests.
In April, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told a parliamentary committee the federal police service had taken decisive action to close down the alleged stations.
According to the Spain-based human rights watchdog group Safeguard Defenders, more than 100 such facilities exist worldwide in more than 50 countries.
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Safeguard Defenders claims the stations serve to monitor Chinese nationals and persuade those suspected of committing crimes to return to China to face prosecution.
The Chinese embassy denies those claims, saying the stations are meant to provide Chinese nationals with assistance with things like renewing driver's licences.
In mid-March, it announced it was also looking into reports of stations operating in Vancouver and investigating two Montreal-area groups.
Service a la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montreal and Centre Sino-Quebec de la Rive-Sud, which reportedly have served as resource centres for members of the Chinese community for decades, said they have co-operated with the RCMP's investigation and no police action has been taken against them.
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In a statement to CBC News, the RCMP said that some of the activity it's investigating "is occurring at locations where other legitimate services to the Chinese Canadian Community are being offered."
"You're the national security adviser. How many of these police stations are still operating in Canada? Can you tell us?" asked Conservative MP Blaine Calkins.
"There [are] continual investigations by the RCMP into the police stations," said Thomas.
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"We are aware of two in Montreal and work is being done to ensure that they cease to operate."
Thomas said Canadian citizens are often staffing the stations — in some cases unwittingly or under duress.
"The tools used by the RCMP to shut down the police stations, reduce their impact, reduce their credibility, is different in every situation, in every scenario," said Thomas.
"There would be value in our ability to arrest people for them and those investigations are underway by the RCMP."
The RCMP said it continues to investigate "transnational repression activity, and those responsible for transnational repression, to ensure Chinese and other Canadians are safe from foreign influence."
With files from Canadian Press and Radio-Canada