Federal Inquiry Probes Foreign Interference in Canada's 2019 and 2021 Elections

A federal commission of inquiry is set to release a report on alleged foreign interference in Canada's 2019 and 2021 general elections. The inquiry examined allegations of meddling by China, Russia, India, and other countries, with a focus on the integrity of the electoral process.

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Federal Inquiry Probes Foreign Interference in Canada's 2019 and 2021 Elections

Federal Inquiry Probes Foreign Interference in Canada's 2019 and 2021 Elections

A federal commission of inquiry into foreign interference is set to release a report today, May 3, 2024, focusing on alleged meddling in Canada's 2019 and 2021 general elections. The report, led by Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue, will examine the integrity of the two elections and assess the flow of information to senior decision-makers during the campaigns and in the weeks following the votes.

Why this matters: The allegations of foreign interference in Canada's elections raise concerns about the vulnerability of democratic systems to external manipulation, highlighting the need for robust measures to protect the integrity of the electoral process. The findings of this inquiry will have significant implications for Canada's national security and the trust of its citizens in the democratic system.

The inquiry recently concluded 10 days of public hearings into possible interference by China, Russia, India, and other countries in the two elections. Allegations of Chinese interference have been at the forefront, with leaked documents from national security sources suggesting that the People's Republic of China (PRC) planned to give $250,000 to 11 political candidates for the 2019 election through intermediaries, including an Ontario MPP.

CSIS Director David Vigneault told the inquiry that his agency had intelligence that the government of China attempted to funnel approximately $250,000 through a network of threat actors, potentially for foreign interference operations. However, Jody Thomas, National Security and Intelligence Advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, stated, "We have not seen money going to 11 candidates, period." The Johnston Report found that while the PRC intended to send funds to seven Liberal and four Conservative federal candidates, there was uncertainty about whether the money was actually transferred.

Prime Minister Trudeau received warnings from national security officials more than a year before the 2019 election that Chinese agents were assisting Canadian candidates running for political offices. Trudeau acknowledged receiving briefings on the foreign interference threat, but the partially censored briefing materials published by the inquiry stuck to a high-level overview of the issue. The Prime Minister stated, "There are foreign state actors who are interested in playing a role in our democracies or in disrupting our democracies."

The inquiry also investigated allegations that the PRC interfered with the nomination of Han Dong to be the Liberal Party candidate in Don Valley North and were potentially involved in bussing and coercing international students to vote. The JohnstonReportfound irregularities in the nomination process, and there was well-grounded suspicion that the irregularities were tied to the PRC Consulate in Toronto. Former Liberal campaign director Jeremy Broadhurst testified about the allegations, stating,"I asked for their evidence of the buses, where their people were, their names, that they could point us to, to help us evaluate whether or not that, you know, we had inappropriate, you know, people who were not otherwise allowed to vote."

Following the release of the report, today, Commissioner Hogue will make a statement to the media but will not take questions. The ongoing inquiry will next shift its focus to broader policy issues, examining the government's ability to detect, deter, and counter foreign interference. A final report is expected by the end of 2024.

The revelations from the public hearings and leaked documents have raised concerns about the vulnerability of Canada's political system to foreign influence and the need for robust measures to counter such threats. Nationwide anticipation surrounds the release of the report, questions remain about the effectiveness of existing safeguards and the government's ability to respond to the evolving threat of foreign interference.

Key Takeaways

  • Federal inquiry to release report on foreign interference in Canada's 2019 and 2021 elections.
  • Allegations of Chinese interference dominate inquiry, with claims of $250,000 funding to 11 candidates.
  • CSIS and national security officials warned PM Trudeau of Chinese interference over a year before 2019 election.
  • Inquiry to examine government's ability to detect, deter, and counter foreign interference in final report.
  • Report's findings to have significant implications for Canada's national security and democratic system.