Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan is launching a $4.55-million libel suit against the Globe and Mail over stories suggesting he is a risk to national security because of his ties to China.
In a 27-page statement of claim released Friday, Chan said he is seeking to clear his name after the newspaper refused last month to retract its articles, including one that cited concerns about his rapport with a former Chinese consul-general in Toronto.
Any proceeds would go to PEN Canada, a non-profit organization that champions freedom of expression for writers, and the Markham-Stouffville Hospital Foundation, said Chan, who represents Markham-Unionville in the legislature and is Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minister of citizenship, immigration and international trade.
Globe officials could not immediately be reached for comment but editor-in-chief David Walmsley said in June that “we stand by the stories.”
“The Globe and Mail has declined to retract their unfounded allegations and, to protect my reputation, I have no choice but to pursue a legal remedy.”
Aside from the newspaper, Chan’s suit cites Walmsley, publisher Phillip Crawley, reporters Craig Offman, the main writer of the stories, and Charles Burton, who wrote one article in question.
The statement of claim, filed this week in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, says the Globe has been suffering from declining circulation and that Walmsley, the fourth editor in the last 11 years, was hired to “stem or reverse the decline in fortunes of the Globe and Mail by giving it more of an investigative (and aggressive) current events news focus.”
The lawsuit also claims the Globe has suffered in the Toronto market and has been perceived as falling behind the Toronto Star in the area of investigative journalism.
The Globe published a lengthy article about Chan that it said was the result of a 10-month investigation under the headline: “CSIS warned this cabinet minister could be a threat. Ontario disagreed.”
It flowed from a 2010 comment by Richard Fadden, who was then director of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, that there was “foreign interference” in Canadian politics.
Fadden spoke of two unnamed provincial cabinet ministers in Ontario and British Columbia, but did not mention Chan by name, or China.
The Globe reported two months ago that “Canadian intelligence officials suspected Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan was under the undue influence of a foreign government, prompting CSIS to formally caution the province about the minister’s alleged conduct in a 2010 briefing.”
Since then, both Wynne and her predecessor Dalton McGuinty have publicly issued statements of support for Chan, as have members of Wynne’s cabinet.
The Globe reported CSIS believed Chan, who was born in China and came to Canada at the age of 19, “had an unusually close rapport with Taoying Zhu, who was China’s consult-general in Toronto until 2012.”