Canada’s security agencies ‘saw attempts at foreign interference’, but not enough to impact electoral integrity
Canadian media report last month said that China sought to influence the outcome of the 2021 general election
March 1, 2023
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said China has attempted to meddle in Canada’s elections. File photo: Reuters
Canadian investigators did not detect foreign interference in a 2021 general election that jeopardised Canada’s ability to hold a free and fair vote, the government said on Tuesday, citing an independent assessment of a system to protect democracy.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported in February that China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign, citing Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents.
But the government, in a statement accompanying the release of the independent assessment of a Critical Election Incident Public Protocol (CEIPP) designed to monitor threats to elections, said foreign interference had not imperilled the vote.
“During the 2021 general election, the panel did not detect foreign interference that threatened Canada’s ability to have a free and fair election,” the government said.
The “panel” refers to a team of civil servants working with security agencies that administers the CEIPP.
A former senior civil servant prepared the assessment of the protocol and in his report he cited senior security agency officials telling a parliamentary committee that while no foreign interference was detected that threatened a free vote, it was attempted.
“The national security agencies saw attempts at foreign interference, but not enough to have met the threshold of impacting electoral integrity,” the assessment report said.
The government, in its statement, did not say who might be trying to interfere in a Canadian election.
The assessment report contained references to critical comment in Chinese media, and in China-linked media in Canada, on Canadian policy towards China.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said China has attempted to meddle in Canada’s elections. He insisted that two reports by Canada’s intelligence task force have said the outcome of both the 2019 and 2021 elections were not altered.
“That doesn’t mean that we are not faced on an ongoing basis by attempts at interference in our democracies, both during and before and after” an election, Trudeau said.
Beijing has previously accused Ottawa of exaggerating the China threat and making groundless attacks.