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The inquiry into election interference by foreign powers in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 federal elections took place last week with testimony from top government officials.

Those who testified included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Public Safety Dominic LeBlanc, MP Karina Gould and CSIS officials among others. True North Wire decided to break down some of the key takeaways from the inquiry. 

China did interfere in both the 2019 and 2021 elections

China did interfere with the 2019 and 2021 elections. While evidence around just how much of an impact it had on election results remains uncertain, the Canadian Service Intelligence Service called the PRC “the most significant” source of foreign interference. When compared to other nations like Russia, India and Iran, CSIS said that Chinese meddling tactics are “sophisticated, pervasive and persistent”

Trudeau does not read many of the intelligence briefings he receives 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testified that he is not reading intelligence briefings very often, and when he does, he remains skeptical of their content because “intelligence is not evidence.” He found the intelligence briefings on Chinese meddling in election interference to be not “sufficiently credible information.” 

The prime minister recounted meeting with Liberal campaign director Jeremy Broadhurst at the time to discuss the “concerns” presented to him by officials from both CSIS and the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections Task Force officials had brought to him. The SITE task force was created by the Trudeau government in response to allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to sound the alarm on threats of foreign interference in Canadian elections. However, Trudeau and Broadhurst ultimately determined that these agencies weren’t familiar enough with election processes to accurately assess the situation.  

The PRC mobilized Chinese students living in Canada to vote for preferred candidates

CSIS intelligence found evidence that the PRC organized the bussing of Chinese students to vote for preferred candidates, most notably in the case of former Liberal MP Han Dong, during his 2019 nomination campaign in the Don Valley North riding. 

The spy agency also claimed that Beijing attempted to send money to candidates who were less critical of their communist government. A widespread misinformation campaign was launched on social media sites like WeChat, which Chinese speakers primarily use to dissuade them from voting for the Conservatives. 

Other tactics used by the PRC include targeting those in Canada who speak out against Beijing by leveraging the safety of their families and relatives still in China against them.

Karina Gould kept Canadians in the dark about potential interference out of fear that the public would lose faith in the election

MP Karina Gould had been tasked with forming the ‘panel of five’ designed to monitor foreign interference in elections and to inform the public if they discovered any threats to a free and fair election. However, upon the panel becoming aware of potential interference, it determined that the threats did not meet the threshold for informing Canadians. According to Gould’s testimony, issuing too many warnings to the public would jeopardize Canadians’ faith in the election.

Canadians’ can expect a report of recommendations from the panel by the end of 2024?

A preliminary report will be delivered by the foreign interference inquiry commission by early next month. Another round of hearings are expected to be held in September which will focus on what capabilities Canada has in detecting and deterring foreign interference in the future. The commission will deliver its final recommendations by the end of the year.