by Scott McGregor, Ina Mitchell, and Bryan Preston
It’s a sunny day and you’re driving down a backcountry road far from any military bases. Out of nowhere, you spy several dozen adults in camouflage marching together as if they’re a military unit on patrol. That would be out of place enough by itself. Add to it that they appear to be clad in gear resembling that of another nation’s military. You’d probably grab your phone and capture video of the incident.
Salt Spring Island is a sleepy resort island off the Vancouver coast in British Columbia, Canada. You can only get there by ferry or seaplane. In June 2020, Canadians woke up to a pair of bizarre, seemingly unconnected events two years and 100 miles apart, including a mysterious murder.
The first incident was actually two years earlier, on St. Patrick’s Day in 2018. On that day, a man by the name of “Banana Joe” Clemente was driving down the road on Salt Spring Island when he spotted something very much out of place. Canadians are legendarily nice and not at all militarized. They don’t walk around carrying guns. In fact, the ownership of many firearms is prohibited by law. So imagine “Banana Joe’s” surprise when he spotted several dozen Chinese adults marching together down the road in camouflage gear as if they’re some kind of invasion force. He captured a brief video of the sighting, posted it to YouTube, and more or less forgot about it. The world took no notice of the strange camo troop marching double-file on Salt Spring Island.
Two years later, in June 2020, Bo Fan, 41, arrived at the Peace Arch Hospital in Surrey, British Columbia, in the hands of her brother, Justin Peng Fan. She was badly beaten; she had numerous serious injuries and even her femur was broken. The femur is the thickest bone in the human body. The only witness to anything was her brother. According to him, he did not see or know who had beaten his sister. She called him from the side of the road outside a gated clubhouse, rather than call the police or an ambulance, to be taken to the hospital. She told him she had been left there on the side of the road by whoever had beaten her so badly.
Bo Fan died of her injuries on June 17, 2020. She was a Chinese citizen. Any murder in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver stands out. The homicide rate in nearby Vancouver ticked up during 2020 as it did across Canada and the United States, but it is still low by comparison to major U.S. cities. There were just 14 murders in Vancouver, a city of 2.6 million, in all of 2020. Vancouver may be Canada’s most multicultural city, with 50% of its population Asian and an Indo/Middle Eastern population of over 500,000. It’s home to the world’s largest post-Shah Iranian diaspora population. It is not violent, and a murder in its suburbs is unusual.
Bo Fan’s brutal murder sparked a flurry of media reports as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) took charge of the investigation and offered updates. The Integrated Homicide Investigative Team (IHIT) appealed for leads from the public and suggested Fan’s murder had something to do with her job. Global News, CTV News, the CBC, and the South China Morning Post all published stories about Fan’s murder within days. Some of these outlets noted and reported on Fan’s connection to a group called Create Abundance. The group, founded in 2014 in China, is also known as Golden Touch, and rebranded itself in 2018 as The Global Spiritualists Association (TGSA).
They’re all different names for the same thing, which at first blush appears to be a combination self-help cult and multi-level marketing outfit based in China and operating internationally. In Surrey, its acolytes live in a community with a posh gated clubhouse with numerous high-end cars such as Bentleys and Maseratis parked outside the luxurious homes. Fan was evidently murdered there; Peace Arch Hospital, to which her brother drove her as she struggled for life, is just a few minutes drive away, as is the Canada-U.S. border.
Within a couple of weeks of Fan’s death, the media interest just…stopped. Canadian media and the South China Morning Post stopped reporting about it. But that’s hardly the end of the story.
Bo Fan’s connection to TGSA has been confirmed. She arrived in Canada as a Chinese national in February 2019 and worked for the cult/multi-level marketing company. It turns out that TGSA has another dimension: para-military training. Those camo-clad men and women in PLA-style gear “Banana Joe” captured on video on Salt Spring Island are connected to TGSA. Some travel from overseas to undergo this military training, which takes place at a resort owned by a Chinese citizen. Why?
Prior to the rebrand, when TGSA was still called Create Abundance, the Chinese government did two curious things. One, it officially dubbed the group a cult and arrested and tried the niece of its leader. That may have been a show trial. Her social media indicates she was free to travel, not imprisoned. Two, the Chinese government created a foundation, the Beijing Abundance Foundation, through which it can donate to Create Abundance (now TGSA). Why would it prosecute the group as a cult on the one hand, and create a means to donate to it on the other?
And why is that group operating on Canadian soil, where its members undergo extensive paramilitary training, with weapons that Canadians are banned from owning, and wearing camouflage that, it turns out, matches a pattern used by China’s People’s Liberation Army in its navy and special forces? Is TGSA connected to China’s United Front, the organizational means by which China’s government influences foreign governments and media?
And who killed Bo Fan, and why? Nearly a year later, her murder has slipped from the headlines and remains unsolved.
Former Canadian military and law enforcement intelligence officer Scott McGregor and investigative reporter Ina Mitchell have been working on Fan’s murder since shortly after her death. When the trail went cold, it was they who uncovered TGSA’s prior life as Create Abundance, and the possibility that TGSA has links to the Chinese government through the Beijing Abundance Foundation.
To follow this story now, you probably will not find it in the Canadian press. The media in our neighbor to the north is very unlike the American media. There are just three national networks, all of which are essentially non-competitive and either directly or through grants, state-run. McGregor and Mitchell have worked with Canadian media, but to publish their most recent story — here — they turned to media in India. Indian media, ever wary of its neighbor China and its intentions, pays a great deal of attention to any development that can impact its own security.
Canada, meanwhile, allows political donations from figures such as Gongbo Li, who are connected to the Chinese government, its Belt and Road Initiative (which is active in Surrey), and to the organization for which Bo Fan worked until she died. Canada’s government and media have shown zero interest in the murder case or the paramilitary activities TGSA members have been documented participating in, the source of their wealth, or possible connections to uranium mining in the Canadian arctic, and to China’s government. To McGregor and Mitchell, with whom I’ve exchanged messages and spoken, this suggests China’s government is heavily influencing Canada’s, keeping the story out of the media too.
How high that influence may go will shock many Canadians and Americans. See this photo.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at front facing the screens, standing to the right of his Defense Minister Harjit Sarjjan (the man in the red turban). Both Trudeau and Sarjjan are standing in salute to China’s national anthem on Canadian soil. Trudeau has made a habit of saying nice things about China even as the covid pandemic ravaged his country’s economy and that of his neighbor to the south. Until recently, Canadian military personnel were even training Chinese military members on Canadian soil.
McGregor and Mitchell’s recent story about Fan’s murder and the cult’s possible connection to the Chinese Communist Party landed in Indian media perhaps because Canadian officials and its media are naive about what China is up to — on Canadian soil and worldwide.
Scott McGregor is an intelligence expert and consultant. He is a former Canadian Armed Forces Intelligence Operator and Intelligence Advisor to the RCMP’s E-Division Federal Serious Crimes. Ina Mitchell is an investigative journalist.
Watch for my interview with Scott McGregor on C’Mon Now! this Monday. -bp