The San Juan Daily Star
Foreign efforts to subvert Canada’s last 2 elections failed, report says
By Ian Austen
Foreign governments tried to interfere with the last two federal elections in Canada, but they did not succeed in “impacting” the voting results, according to an independent review released earlier this week.
That conclusion comes as opposition politicians and others are pressing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to open a separate, public inquiry into allegations of election interference by Chinese diplomats based in Canada, as well as by informal agents of the Chinese government — a move that Trudeau has rejected.
The report released Tuesday was a review of the work of a special panel of five senior public servants, created to work with intelligence and law enforcement agencies to alert the public to any “incidents that threaten the integrity of a federal election.”
Morris Rosenberg, the former deputy justice minister who wrote the report, said the panel had “determined that the government of Canada did not detect foreign interference that threatened Canada’s ability to have free and fair elections,” adding: “National security agencies saw attempts at foreign interference, but not enough to have met the threshold of impacting electoral integrity.”
The report singles out China, Russia and Iran as having tried to interfere in the votes held in 2019 and 2021, and it indicates that social media sites were important tools to that end. It makes particular note of activity by China.
It says that Canada’s main intelligence agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, was concerned that “China notably tried to target elected officials to promote their national interests and encouraged individuals to act as proxies.” China’s techniques, the agency told Rosenberg, included threatening members of the Chinese community in Canada.
The report cites an editorial in Global Times — a Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper — that falsely suggested that the Conservative Party “almost wants to break diplomatic relations with China.”
It also notes a post on the Chinese messaging app WeChat, which made the claim that a bill to establish a registry of individuals lobbying for foreign governments — introduced by Kenny Chiu, who sought reelection in 2021 as a Conservative — “suppresses the Chinese community.”
Chiu was defeated by a candidate from Trudeau’s Liberal Party.
While the report said the foreign efforts had not affected election integrity, it added that it was difficult to precisely measure the total effect of Chinese disinformation on election results.
“Were Conservative losses in several ridings with large Chinese diaspora communities due to attacks on the Conservative platform and on one of its candidates by media associated with or sympathetic to the Chinese government?” the report asks. “Or were they the result of the Conservatives simply not being able to connect with sufficient numbers of voters in those communities?”
The question of whether China is influencing Canadian elections has long been a political issue in Canada. Pressure from opponents on Trudeau to call for an inquiry grew after The Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper, published reports that it said were based on a viewing of top-secret Canadian intelligence documents, showing that China “employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy” in 2021.
The newspaper said the documents indicated that officials in Beijing wanted Trudeau’s Liberals reelected — but only with a power-limiting minority in Parliament — because they believed that a Conservative government would take a harder line against China.
Citing secrecy laws, Trudeau has not discussed the specifics of those reports. But the prime minister and his staff have said that they contained “many inaccuracies.”