Shortly after a TV special on the Canadian intelligence agency aired last month, George Chow's phone started ringing. Malicious foreign powers were at work in Canadian politics, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation special had revealed. They had it from a good source: the director of the shadowy Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) himself. 'There are several municipal politicians in British Columbia and in at least two provinces there are ministers of the Crown who we think are under at least the general influence of a foreign government,' Richard Fadden said in the televised clip. Fadden didn't say which foreign government it was. But he hinted strongly that it was China. And he added that members of certain ethnic diasporas were particular targets of these foreign powers. It didn't take reporters long to narrow down a group of about six elected city officials of Chinese descent in British Columbia, including Chow, a Vancouver city councillor who emigrated from Hong Kong at the age of 14. At first, Chow was confused. Who catches a spy by publicly broadcasting an innuendo? Then, as it became clear that Fadden had drawn him under a cloud of suspicion based on ethnicity, he said, 'my puzzlement turned to anger'. 'Is this some form of McCarthyism? Does Mr Fadden have a hidden agenda?' Chow asks. 'You're questioning the loyalty to Canada, our public trustworthiness. Obviously this has an implication when people go to the ballot box.' The TV broadcast commemorating the intelligence agency's 25th anniversary was meant to be a kind of pick-me-up for Canada's underappreciated agents, as the director described it. In a series of wide-ranging conversations with the Canadian broadcaster, Fadden took on the manner of a patient professor in describing what the service does, and how it works, while knocking around softball questions like why agents are so loyal. (Because the job is important, exciting, and 'in a strange sort of way, it's sexy', Fadden said.) 'I think it all began when I arrived here and I found that a lot of my colleagues were in fact a little bit depressed about what was going on,' Fadden told CBC reporter Brian Stewart, when asked in a follow-up interview why he had been so open. 'So not just for the employees of CSIS, but including the employees of CSIS, I thought it was important to try and get out there and explain what we do.' On Monday, Fadden faced the wrath of a parliamentary committee that took him to task for casting suspicion on politicians, without first providing evidence to the government. Fadden said he regretted the 'granularity' of the remarks he made after he 'lost track' of the fact that the cameras were rolling. But he stood by his assertions, and refused the national security and public safety committee chairman's request that he apologise to Chinese Canadians, and to Chinese Canadian politicians in particular. 'They are victims. I don't think that they are the problem,' said Fadden. 'I think the foreign power is the problem. And the main reason that we are operating in this area is to protect Canadians from the foreign power. So I do not think an apology is necessary.' Fadden said he couldn't name names because of operational protocol, but promised that his agency would provide the government with a report on two cases of foreign interference in Canadian politics within a month. He swept aside calls for his resignation, and left critics unsatisfied. 'He's absolutely unrepentant,' said Kerry Jang, another Vancouver city councillor. Jang's grandparents moved to Canada as merchants during the construction of the country's railways. Like Chow, he felt that that Fadden's remarks put him under scrutiny by accident of his birth. 'I'm absolutely dumbfounded. I'm amazed that he's so insensitive. Our whole community got tarred by this guy.' The intelligence director's disclosures were highly unusual, said observers. Professor Wesley Wark, an associate of the Munk School for International Studies at the University of Toronto and an expert on Canadian intelligence and security issues, said he found them troubling. For one thing, the agency had not yet completed their analysis. 'So here you have the head of intelligence pre-empting his own analysts,' said Wark. The larger problem, he said, was that the apparent investigation of political figures 'raised the worrying possibility of the intelligence community getting too close to the government and being used by the government' to put political opponents under watch. And while concerns that China was conducting espionage and monitoring diaspora communities in Canada were known, Wark said, 'allegations that there may be agents of influence are rare, and I can't think of a proven case since 1867'. It would be up to Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, to decide whether Fadden kept his job, Wark said. For Chow and other Chinese Canadians, the sudden scrutiny opened old wounds from a long history of discrimination against Chinese immigrants in Canada. Chow's grandfather first arrived in Canada in 1911, and had to pay a 'head tax' levied on Chinese immigrants. A 1923 law went even further, effectively cutting off immigration from China for all but a few. These laws made it hard for him to bring his family to Canada. 'I was not born in Canada, because of discriminatory rules,' said Chow. 'I'm not trying to settle old scores. But the fact that I was not born in Canada is for historical reasons.' Some took particular umbrage at Fadden's apparent distinction between 'long-standing Canadians' and 'second, third generation' politicians or private-sector actors that would be particularly vulnerable to manipulation by foreign governments. 'You offer a trip back to the homeland and before you know it, you're being asked to think about things in a slightly different way,' Fadden told CBC. 'That's not in and of itself terribly worrisome, but if the individual becomes in a position to make decisions that affect the country or the province or a municipality, all of a sudden decisions aren't taken on the basis of the public good but on the basis of another country's preoccupations.' Canada is only 143 years old, points out Maggie Ip, a retired high-school teacher who was born in Shanghai and emigrated to Canada from Hong Kong 45 years ago. Who is a long-standing Canadian? 'It's very, very hurtful,' said Ip, who served on Vancouver's city council in the 1990s. Fadden's remarks had made the city councillors' jobs difficult, said Jang. He now has to think twice about going to Chinatown functions that involve the Chinese consul general, who is often invited as a matter of form. 'I meet with members of the Guangzhou government on a regular basis because it's a sister city. Does that mean I'm under suspicion?' he asked. He said that much of his job on the council involves things like fixing potholes - concerns not likely to be of international interest. Victor Wong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council, called on Fadden to retract his remarks, and was disappointed by his failure to do so. Political representation of Chinese Canadians, while growing, was not yet proportional, said Wong, a fact he attributed to a legacy of bias. Fadden's comments didn't help, he said. 'It's going to discourage good candidates from coming forward,' said Wong. 'You don't need the extra hassle of defending your loyalty to Canada. How do you defend that?' There had been previous allegations of efforts by Chinese officials to influence community decisions, like whether to hang a Tibetan flag, said Wong. But they could be resolved by greater transparency by political figures, he said. Others said they were waiting for Fadden's proof. 'I'm not naive. I'm sure there are spies in Canada,' said Jang. 'But if you've got the evidence, go get them.'