A member of Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray's WeChat group posted a link to a campaign trying to raise money to sue Global News over an article that was critical of China's efforts to purchase personal protective equipment in the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Post in federal minister’s WeChat group ‘absolutely unacceptable,’ says Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he finds it “absolutely unacceptable” that someone used a social media account created by a federal minister on a popular Chinese platform to raise money to sue a Canadian journalist for his critical reporting on China’s handling of the pandemic.

Trudeau faced questions on Tuesday about a post on the WeChat group used by Minister of Digital Government Joyce Murray to keep in touch with her Chinese-Canadian constituents directing people to a campaign raising money to sue Global News and reporter Sam Cooper.

“The minister of digital government has been promoting a fundraising campaign to sue Global News for their story that criticized the Chinese Communist Party,” Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said during question period Tuesday.

“WeChat is a Chinese state-sanctioned social media platform that is monitored by communist state security … Clearly this is inappropriate. What action has the prime minister taken in light of these revelations?”

Trudeau said the posting was not sanctioned by the Liberal party or his government.

“As a party and a government we value the important work that journalists do right across the country. Attacking the integrity of hard-working journalists is absolutely unacceptable,” Trudeau said.

“The individual who posted this link on this particular group is no longer a member of this group and is not affiliated with the electoral district association in question.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds his daily briefing from Rideau Cottage amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau had faced questions about the post on WeChat earlier in the day, during his daily press conference in Ottawa.

“This is the first I hear of this situation and we’ll be following up,” Trudeau said.

The issue was first reported by a Vancouver based news website, theBreaker.news.

According to the report, a message in a group chat operated by Murray’s staff contained a link directing people to a campaign run by the Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association.

The association, which describes itself as “Canadian citizens and permanent residents” battling racism in Canada, said it wants to sue Global News and reporter Sam Cooper for an April 30 story detailing China’s aggressive moves to import vast quantities of personal protective equipment in the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Murray’s office said that the views of participants in the group “do not necessarily reflect” the minister’s positions.

“This particular post was unacceptable and in no way reflects the MP’s views,” a statement from the minister’s office said.

“Participation in this group is guided by posted guidelines and a disclaimer. In this case, guidelines were not followed and the individual who posted is no longer in this group.”

With files from Peter Zimonjic of CBC News

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