An Ontario Conservative senator visiting the Lower Mainland for Lunar New Year festivities held a ceremony Monday in a Richmond dance school to recognize members of an organization that promotes the Chinese government.
Senator Victor Oh awarded 24 people the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee medal to “recognize some of our community’s most-outstanding citizens, who have contributed so much to this great country, Canada.”
In Mandarin, he also said he hoped Canada and China would resolve their differences this year.
Among those honoured at the Stage One Academy were the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations (CACA) chair Xue Xiaomei and past chairs Wang Dianqi, Yongtao Chen and Miaofei Pan.
The CACA website says the organization actively participates in activities of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, an arm of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) United Front foreign influence program.
Wang and Chen both attended official Beijing celebrations for 70 years of CCP rule in 2019. Pan hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at his Shaughnessy mansion in 2016 for a controversial private fundraiser.
A former Canadian diplomat who served at the embassy in Beijing said it is unusual for a federal government function in Canada to occur mainly in Mandarin.
“There is no explanation as to why these Canadians have been singled out for this honour,” said Charles Burton, a fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “It does call into question whether our late sovereign's prestige is being manipulated to dignify people whose service on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party's United Front Work Department-supported organizations has been of benefit to the Chinese authorities' global agenda more than to Canada.”
Oh is a native of Singapore with a background in real estate development. He was appointed to the senate in 2013 under then-prime minister Stephen Harper. In 2020, the Senate Ethics Officer found Oh broke conflict of interest rules for accepting a free 2017 trip to China.
Oh did not respond to email or phone messages.
Oh also held an awards ceremony in October in Toronto for 60 recipients, including Hazel McCallion, the former longtime mayor of Mississauga.
Keith Roy, the Western Canada regional coordinator for the Monarchist League of Canada, said the federal government broke from tradition and did not produce a national medal to honour deserving Canadians during Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th anniversary year. Six provinces created their own medals, but B.C. was not among them. Roy said some senators and members of Parliament took it upon themselves to hold their own ceremonies, but he said he wonders if they are actually vetting recipients on the basis of merit.
“Anytime that we're celebrating good in our community in the name of the late Queen, I'm going to be supportive of it, but I have some concerns that this has been turned into a partisan initiative,” Roy said.
On Saturday, Oh joined People’s Republic of China Consul-General Yang Shu, heads of CACA and allied organizations at the Central Walk Tsawwassen Mills shopping centre for an indoor festival on the eve of the Year of the Rabbit.
Both the Canadian and Chinese anthems were played at the opening ceremony. There were no politicians from Delta council or the Tsawwassen First Nation in attendance. On the Central Walk website, mall owner Weihong Liu boasts membership in several CCP-affiliated organizations.