Bob Dechert, Canada’s parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs, seen here in a picture with Xinhua News Agency reporter Shi Rong / Photo via CBC News.
A mass email containing several amorous messages from Canada’s foreign affairs parliamentary secretary Bob Dechert to Xinhua News Agency reporter Shi Rong, was leaked Thursday evening to more than 240 leading journalists, academics, politicians and entrepreneurs in Canada.
The intimate emails were sent by Dechert, also Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Erindale, using his parliamentary office account. One email sent in April 2010 read, “You are so beautiful. I really like the picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute, I love it when you do that. Now, I miss you even more.”
In another email sent just days later, Dechert told Shi upon arriving in Ottawa that he ” enjoyed the drive by thinking of you.” He then encouraged her to watch parliamentary proceedings in the House of Commons, “We will be voting at 6:30 p.m. If you have time, watch on TV or on your computer (on the CPAC website) and I will smile at you. I miss you. Love, Bob.”
The revelation led Dechert to release a statement just a day later on his website to contain the damage.
“The person is a journalist whom I have come to know as a friend,” he said in the statement. “I met her while doing Chinese-language media communications.”
“My understanding is that her emails were hacked as part of an ongoing domestic dispute.
These emails are flirtatious, but the friendship remained innocent and simply that – a friendship.”
Dechert’s suggestion that Shi Rong’s email was hacked into was confirmed by the journalist herself. She told The Globe and Mail that her husband broke into her email account and sent out the missive.
While the Prime Minister’s Office was quick to state that it did not believe Dechert engaged in any inappropriate that went beyond the flirtatious emails, the issue remains a hot potato for the Conservative government.
Last June, Canada’s top spy Richard Fadden suggested that several politicians in two provinces have “developed quite an attachment to foreign countries.” He also pinpointed China as being the “most aggressive” in wielding influence through its diaspora and in surreptitiously recruiting future political prospects through university clubs.
Fadden’s claims created much unhappiness among Canada’s Chinese community and were swiftly slammed by Olivia Chow, a Hong Kong-born MP, as well as Haiyan Zhang, a Chinese-born Canadian who was sacked from Ottawa’s civil service at the height of her career when it was revealed that she was once a Xinhua News Agency journalist.