CSIS Aware of China’s Interference Attempts in Last 2 Federal Elections: Intelligence Report

by EditorL

CSIS Ottawa Building August 2020. (By Flic Kr/CC0 1.0 Public Domain)

Canadian intelligence knows about China’s attempts to influence Canada’s past two federal elections, a declassified report from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) revealed.

CSIS specifically highlighted the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as “by far the most significant threat” in the document obtained by Global News through an Access to Information submission.

“We know that the PRC sought to clandestinely and deceptively influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections,” the agency stated in the report dated Feb. 24, 2023.

It added that the Chinese regime’s foreign interference activities are “significant, pervasive, and directed against all levels of government and civil society across the country.”

CSIS suggested in the report that Beijing leverages a variety of tools in its interference in Canada, including “the United Front Work Department, its diplomatic corps, and non-government assets such as community groups and trusted contacts.”
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The United Front has been described as a primary foreign interference tool of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to a June 2020 analysis of the regime’s interference activities published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and cited by Public Safety Canada.
The document, titled “Briefing to the Minister of Democratic Institutions on Foreign Interference,” urged the Canadian government to ramp up efforts to counter foreign interference, stating that “we must do more to protect Canada’s robust democratic institutions and processes.”

A memo in the report suggested the briefing was delivered to the minister by the director of CSIS, Global News reported.

Public Inquiry

The declassified CSIS report was released as a public inquiry into foreign interference unfolds in Canada this week.

The inquiry was launched last September in response to a series of media reports detailing the CCP’s interference in Canadian elections, among various other instances of clandestine operations in Canada.

Among the allegations was a Global News report from Nov. 7, 2022, suggesting that China provided funding to at least 11 candidates in the 2019 campaign. Reports from The Globe and Mail in early 2023, citing unnamed national security sources, also alleged that Chinese consulates in Canada devised a sophisticated strategy aimed at re-electing a Liberal minority in 2021 and defeating Conservative MPs critical of the communist regime.
In response to the alleged foreign interference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially appointed former governor general David Johnston as an “independent special rapporteur“ on foreign election interference.

After publishing his first report in May 2023, where he opposed the launch of a foreign interference inquiry, Mr. Johnston faced criticism from the Opposition Conservatives and Chinese diaspora communities targeted by the CCP. Subsequently, he resigned from the position, leading the Liberal government to enter negotiations with the opposition.

‘Require a Shift in the Government’s Perspective’

Despite the eventual launch of the inquiry, Foreign Interference Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue faced criticism from the Conservatives for restricting their ability to question witnesses and access confidential information. The NDP is also given similar restrictions, even though party member MP Jenny Kwan revealed a CSIS warning about her being a CCP target for critiquing the regime.

Additionally, Justice Hogue faces criticism for granting such rights to interrogate witnesses and access classified documents to former Liberal MP Han Dong and former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan. Both politicians are accused of having inappropriate connections to the Chinese consulate in relation to the interference in Canadian elections. They have both denied the allegations.

The inclusion of Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, who has refuted allegations of affiliation with the Chinese consulate, in the public hearings also garnered criticism from the diaspora community.

On Jan. 31, the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP) announced its withdrawal from the public inquiry, protesting Justice Hogue’s decision to uphold the statuses granted to these three politicians. The URAP previously formed a coalition with seven other human rights advocacy groups to participate in the public inquiry.
In a statement posted on the social media platform X, the URAP said it “refuses to participate in a process meant to address and reconcile foreign interference–that uplifts individuals complicit in and benefiting from foreign interference themselves.”

The declassified CSIS report underscored the need for all government agencies to collaborate in order to “detect, disrupt, and publicize” foreign interference.

“The responsibility to counter these harmful activities must be shared across government, including provincial and municipal partners,” it said.

“Ultimately, better protecting Canadian democratic institutions against [foreign interference] will require a shift in the government’s perspective and a willingness to take decisive action and impose consequences on perpetrators.”

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