OTTAWA - Independent MP Han Dong said on Tuesday that he's still waiting for word on whether or not he can return to the Liberal caucus, but he hopes it will happen as soon as possible.
The Toronto-area MP resigned from the government caucus in March because he wanted to clear his name following allegations published in media reports.
Global News had reported, citing unnamed national security sources, that Dong told a Chinese diplomat in February 2021 that releasing Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from detention would benefit the Conservatives.
David Johnston, the former special rapporteur on foreign interference, deemed the claim “false” in a May report, and the Liberals launched a process to determine whether Dong could return to caucus.
Dong said he met with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc about three weeks ago before the fall session of Parliament began.
“It was very good, very constructive,” Dong told The Canadian Press.
“I'm waiting to hear back from Dominic, but I hope to get back there as soon as possible.”
Dong wouldn't disclose details of their talks, citing confidentiality, but he said it was “positive.”
A spokesperson for LeBlanc said the government will have more to say on the matter in “due course.”
Dong said he felt Johnston's report cleared his name, in terms of what he was being accused of.
“I think that Mr. Johnston's report was very clear that the allegation is false,” Dong said, quoting a line from the report.
Dong is suing Global News and its parent company, Corus Entertainment, for defamation.
The outlet had also previously published allegations that Dong benefited from Chinese foreign interference in his bid to become the Liberal candidate for his riding in the 2019 election.
Global has said that it took painstaking efforts to verify all of its reporting on Dong, spending months reviewing documents, including from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
“Our sources risked their careers and livelihoods to warn Canadians about the extent to which the People's Republic of China was interfering in Canada's democratic processes and government institutions,” the statement issued in May said.
“We believe in the integrity of our journalism in all the reporting in this series, and the critical role it plays in seeking accountability and transparency on issues vital to the public interest.”
CSIS is responsible for gathering intelligence, analyzing it and then sending it to relevant government departments to act upon.
Johnston said he was advised that there was just one piece of intelligence that spoke to the allegation against Dong, which led him to his conclusion: “The allegation is false.”
Johnston said that while Dong maintained “close relationships” with Chinese consular officials at least through the 2021 election, and did discuss the case of Kovrig and Spavor with a Chinese diplomat, “he did not suggest to the official that (China) extend their detention.”
Dong was first elected to Parliament as the Liberal MP for Don Valley North in 2019, and was re-elected in 2021. He resigned from the Liberal caucus March 22.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.