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Montreal Chinese community centres serve RCMP with $5M defamation suit over 'police station' allegations

RCMP investigating 'Chinese police stations' RCMP investigating 'Chinese police stations'
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Two Chinese community organizations are suing the RCMP for defamation after the national police force alleged they were operating as "police stations" for the Chinese government.

The Chinese Family Services of Greater Montreal and the Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive Sud in the South Shore suburb of Brossard, as well as the two centres' executive director, Xixi Li, are seeking more than $4.9 million in damages, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Superior Court.

The community centres say they are "still in the dark" about specific allegations of any wrongdoing nearly a year after the RCMP made the allegations. They have denied the allegations, which have not yet resulted in charges.

According to human rights group Safeguard Defenders, so-called Chinese police stations are used to monitor and threaten Chinese citizens living abroad, sometimes forcing them to return to China for persecution.

The accusations damaged the "dignity and reputation" of Li, who is also a Brossard city councillor, according to a news release issued Wednesday.

Xixi Li, the executive director of the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal and the Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud, speaks at a press conference in Montreal on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023. (CTV News)

"I hope that this lawsuit will permit an efficient dialogue between my clients and RCMP so that their reputation and the damages they suffered can be quickly repaired. My clients hope that the matter can be resolved amicably, but they are also ready to go to trial if needed. They will do what is required to repair their reputation," the groups' lawyer, Maryse Lapointe, said in the release.

With the support of two Canadian senators — Independent Sen. Yuen Pau Woo and Conservative Sen. Victor Oh — the two groups had threatened to sue the RCMP during a press conference last December.

The RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Cpl. Kim Chamberland said in a statement last May that the RCMP's "national response has disrupted illegal activity."

"It is important to note that some of the activity the RCMP is investigating was occurring at locations where other legitimate services to the Chinese Canadian community were, or are being, offered," said Chamberland in an email at the time.

The two groups once again denied the allegations in their court filing and accused the RCMP of failing to carry out a thorough investigation before making their accusations public.

"The plaintiffs argue that not only are the allegations against them unfounded, but that the RCMP failed to provide them with evidence to support its claims, or at least to explain the general nature of its evidence, when they requested it on August 10, 2023," the lawsuit alleged.

Most of the damages stem from lost government funding and grants that they allege were cancelled because of the RCMP's actions. The lawsuit pointed to several examples, including the loss of $378,120 from Quebec's labour ministry to help newcomers find employment and a $44,532 funding cut for French-language training services from the immigration ministry to help newcomers integrate in Quebec.

"The applicant organizations saw their reputations completely destroyed, not only in Quebec but nationwide," the lawsuit alleged.

"Overnight, these organizations went from being reputable community organizations, supported by both levels of government, to entities identified by the RCMP as carrying out illegal activities and presumed to be underground Chinese "police stations."

Li is seeking $350,000 in moral damages and $200,000 in punitive damages. 

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