In the Media: Alum Sam Cooper is defending Canadian democracy as a watchdog for crime, corruption and foreign interference

January 16, 2023 by Coby Zucker - A&S News

Faculty of Arts & Science alum Sam Cooper released an article in Global News in November that had an immediate effect in Ottawa. Cooper reported that Canadian intelligence officials had warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about foreign interference from China in the 2019 federal election.

Now Cooper, who graduated with a bachelor of arts in 2000, is making headlines, not just writing them. In early January, ProPublica, a non-profit newsroom, released an interview with Cooper about his recent report and his career as a watchdog for corruption and transnational Asian organized crime.

“Beijing is seeking, I have reported, based on Canadian intelligence, to — in corrupt ways — fund and advance its interests in candidates,” Cooper says in the interview. “And it is seeking to attack Canadian members of Parliament that it would see as threats to Chinese Communist Party objectives.”

Cooper’s early reporting focused on corruption in Vancouver and connections between the city and criminals in Hong Kong and China. His 2021 book, Wilful Blindness: How a network of narcos, tycoons and CCP agents infiltrated the West, explored how lax policy allowed rampant money laundering and drug trafficking in Vancouver.

“I recognized pretty early there was a huge, high-level pushback on the reporting to dig into the roots of what I eventually found were extremely high-level tycoons from Hong Kong with triad connections who had been developing big portions of Vancouver since the 1980s,” he says. “And this led to a lot of discoveries.”

In recent years, Cooper has been reporting more on Chinese foreign interference in Ottawa. His November report corroborated many of his findings — and the results were immediate. Prime Minister Trudeau responded with a declaration to take a harder stance against election interference. Cooper says his work even became the subject of counternarratives from Chinese intelligence networks.

Cooper hopes his reporting will lead to Canada taking a more rigid stance against foreign influence and, in the process, help Canadian democracy.

“We can see there’s a very robust debate now about what is lacking in Canada’s foreign interference laws. How deep could this corruption go? How aggressive are China’s actions? Could they turn elections in their favour? These questions are now being debated almost every day in Canada’s Parliament,” Cooper says. “And I can say we’ve never seen that level of attention before.”

Read the entire interview with Cooper: