Ahead of foreign interference probe, this Conservative Alberta politician alleges Poland spied on him

The Polish government's activities are currently under review by the Canadian federal government which is examining claims Poland dismissed one of its diplomats for refusing to involve himself in the preparation of a requested report on the political activities of former Alberta cabinet minister and CBC commentator, Thomas Lukaszuk. CBC news reporter Raffy Boudjikanian suggests that the diplomat was relieved of their duties, as a result of this refusal.

The diplomatic incident with Canada potentially complicates relationships with Poland comes at a time when Poland, a NATO ally, is moving 10,000 troops to its border with Belarus in response to significant threatening activity by Russian mercenary group, Wagner. Wagner is headed by the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Global Affairs Canada have indicated an intent to work with their security partners to get to the bottom of the Lukaszuk story.

Lukaszuk, a former deputy premier in the Progressive Conservative government led by Alison Redford, has worked on a pressure campaign alongside the Zionist Jewish community advocacy group B'nai Brith. The target of their activities was controversial Polish pastor Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, who runs a private catholic media network in Poland and is linked to a far right political party, the True Europe Movement (RPE) . RPE has been identified in connection with far right catholic traditionalist youth movements which are alleged to have conducted extremist training and preparing for war against the Polish government.

According to Lukaszuk citing B’nai Brith, and the Anti Defamation League, Rydzyk's polarizing sermons and radio broadscasts are allegedly marked by anti-Semitic views. Rydzyk’s supporters point out that he has a Jewish backer from the UK, Jonny Daniels, who works at one of his radio stations and runs a Polish antiracist organization. Daniels has endorsed Rydzyk publicly. B’nai Brith has called Daniels a “court jew”.

B’nai Brith chapters internationally, and the ADL have both received donations from Roman Abramovich, a Russian Oligarch who is sanctioned in Canada. Abramovich formerly lived in the UK and currently resides in Israel. Abramovich also funded the antiracist organization run by Rydzyk’s backer, Jonny Daniels.

Rydzyk is also accused of holding homophobic and anti-abortion viewpoints, though CBC does not note that these are views which members of Lukaszuk’s former Alberta PC party have personally shared. Rydzyk, has actually been an outspoken critic of his home country Poland, calling it an “uncivilized country”. He has also expressed concerns about Poland’s membership in the European Union. Opposition to EU membership in Poland is has been a common pro-Russia talking point in Poland, since 2004.

In 2020, Lukaszuk and B’nai Brith applied pressure to the Edmonton archdiocese, calling on them to disallow Rydzyk from delivering sermons during a visit, and persuading a Toronto radio station to cease broadcasting programs from Rydzyk's station, Radio Maryja. Lukaszuk's activism drew ire from Rydzyk's supporters, who have sought to undermine his efforts and created controversy in Poland. Rydzyk's appearance in Edmonton was ultimately canceled

In 2002, Polish tax authorities investigated the finances of Rydzyk's Radio Maryja after it was accused in the media of involvement in tax evasion and illegal money transfers. Radio Maryja was accused of avoiding paying import taxes on cars by saying they were donations, failing to obtain a permit to remove large amounts of currency from the country for foreign equipment purchases, and making large public collections for nonreligious purposes.

Lukaszuk has confirmed that the Polish foreign affairs department was actively seeking information about him and is encouraging its consul general Andrzej Mańkowski to gather data about him, something which the consul general refused to do. In comments on Twitter, he has styled this as a “retaliation”. Mańkowski is scheduled to leave office in August 2023 and would not comment to CBC on potential reasons for his firing, leaving it unclear whether the 2020 incident had anything to do with his ouster.

In fact, despite CBC’s suggestion and Lukaszuk’s claim, nothing in the details of the story indicate a motive of retaliation or any actual direction by the Polish government to take action against Lukaszuk. Gathering information about a person’s political activities is not a nefarious act and can be classed as "fact finding". The CBC has employees doing this kind of information gathering every day. It is unclear from the facts available in the story why the Vancouver Consul general refused to audit or prepare a report on Lukaszuk's politics and political relationships.

Encounters between Lukaszuk and the Polish foreign affairs department were brought to light in a series of email exchanges which were leaked to Lukaszuk. The emails were between Poland's Foreign Affairs Department (tasked with liaising with Polish diaspora communities), and the country's consul general in Vancouver, and are dated March 13, 2022, June 14, 2022, and April of the subsequent year, as reported by CBC. CBC also mentions that these communications were encrypted, the use of end to end encryption for diplomatic communications is not uncommon. These interactions, as revealed by Lukaszuk, who called the leak a “brown envelope” painted a picture of the Polish government's involvement in seeking open source information about him.

Despite these concerning revelations, it is important to note that the authenticity of these exchanges has not been independently verified. However, a publicly available video from July 2023 featuring Poland's Secretary of State Piotr Wawrzyk addressing these emails before a parliamentary committee lends some credibility to the claims.

Critics argue that these actions, as evidenced by the correspondence, reflect a government meddling in the affairs of its diaspora and attempting to gather information. CBC fails to note whether the information requested was open source or closed source information, though they use the word ‘spy’ to describe the activity of information gathering.

Such actions, though not confirmed independently, threaten to cast a shadow on the Polish government's reputation for democratic values at a time when Russia is pressuring Poland militarily with a mercenary force lead by Prighozin, an oligarch who has a background in political manipulation, disinformation and political interference.

In July 2023, Poland passed a “Russian influence law”, and in Canada, politicians are set to debate the same. The discussion around a public inquiry into foreign (Chinese) interference in Canada has revolved around whether to complicate the scope of the inquiry by expanding it (as requested by Canada’s loyal opposition) to include other countries like Iran, India and Russia. Some people have suggested expanding any potential inquiry to include nations like Israel who routinely interfere in Canada's sovereign democratic and foreign affairs.

This is not Lukaszuk's first controversy or brush with intrigue. In 2011 while he was Deputy premier of Alberta, he apologized for a $20,000 cell phone bill after a trip to Poland and Israel expenses he claimed were related to a work matter which he refused to disclose because it was subject to a publication ban. The bill was ultimately footed by taxpayers, and it was later revealed the call in question was personal and private involving a member of Lukaszuk's family. Police subsequently became involved when efforts to identify the source of the leak revealed the documents to have been obtained and sent by someone residing outside of Canada, raising suspicions of identity theft.

The sudden emergence of a discussion about alleged “foreign interference” in Canada by a NATO member, at a time that member has hostile mercenary troops on its doorstep, certainly threatens to complicate any future debate.