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Friday May 24, 2024

Canada spies under pressure over foreign meddling reports

China meddled in past two Canada elections, says Justin Trudeau

By Agencies
April 13, 2024
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Canada. — AFP/File
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Canada. — AFP/File

OTTAWA: Canada’s spy agency is under pressure after Justin Trudeau and his closest advisers say they were never made aware of a report that Beijing “clandestinely and deceptively” interfered in both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Canada is in the midst of a contentious public inquiry “examining and assessing” foreign interference by China, Russia, and other foreign states and non-state actors, and this week the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, testified under oath about the steps his government took to respond to the threat of meddling. In his appearance, which lasted nearly four hours, Trudeau insisted that despite the efforts from hostile states, previous federal elections “held in their integrity”.

“(The elections) were decided by Canadians,” Trudeau said.

But he cast doubt on the reliability of information collected by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which has underpinned media reporting about Beijing’s alleged meddling efforts.

Trudeau also said that information in a 2023 briefing note – which said that China’s interference efforts were “pragmatic in nature” and focused primarily in supporting those with a Beijing stance or were “neutral” on issues of interest to the Chinese government – was never relayed to him or his staff.

Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau takes part in public hearings for an independent commission probing alleged foreign interference in Canadian elections.

China meddled in past two Canada elections, says Justin Trudeau

His remarks contrasted with testimony from the CSIS director, David Vigneault, who told the commission that the warnings in the agency’s reports – including advice that the government “take decisive action and impose consequences on perpetrators” – were passed on to the prime minister’s inner circle.

The CSIS also warned that foreign interference in Canada will persist until it “is viewed as an existential threat” to the country’s democracy and governments respond “forcefully”.