Foreign interference is not just a Canadian problem. What are our allies saying? – National

Despite increasing numbers of reports, attempts at foreign interference are not unique to Canada.

But Canadian intelligence officials need to follow in their allies’ footsteps and be more forthright on the matter, says a former Canadian diplomat to China.

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In recent weeks, Global News and The Globe and Mail have released detailed reports showing the extent of China’s alleged attempts to influence Canadian society, including attempts to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 elections. bottom.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ensured the integrity of these results — but so far, despite requests from high-profile officials, no clarification has been given to questions about requests for a public inquiry into the matter. did not answer

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Click to play video: 'Trudeau responds to reports that security officials warned of foreign interference ahead of 2019 elections'

Trudeau refutes reports that security officials warned of foreign interference ahead of 2019 elections

As interest in the issue grows in Canada, allies are sounding alarm bells about the scale of foreign interference in their country. It’s a move Canadian officials should take more often, says Charles Burton, a senior fellow at the McDonald’s Laurier Institute.

“They tend to refuse to provide details, arguing that they cannot provide these details for operational reasons, and that lawmakers recommend improved legislation or force the government to enforce existing regulations. It’s very difficult to have a sound basis to urge people to do so,” he told Global.News.

“This is a cultural issue for our security and intelligence services, likely mandated by governments, providing the information they need to know to effectively counter these operations. I just don’t,” he continued.

“They’re just providing ongoing information to the government, and the government has clearly submitted it, and the proper response that Canadians want to the government in response to these very serious allegations. I haven’t taken any action.”

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Australian and US Officials Publicly Concern of Interference

Last week, US and Australian security officials spoke openly about the threat foreign interference poses to their countries at separate events.

On February 21, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) said Australia faced an unprecedented threat with more Australians than ever before being targeted by agents. In his 21-page assessment speech, Mike Burgess said several countries use espionage and foreign interference to advance their own interests and undermine Australia’s.

“They use espionage to covertly understand Australian politics and decision-making, alliances and partnerships, economic and policy priorities,” Burgess said.

“Based on what ASIO sees, more Australians are being targeted by espionage and foreign interference than at any point in Australian history. more spies, more targets, more harm, more ASIO investigations, more ASIO chaos.”

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Liberal MPs allegedly linked to Chinese interference: sources

He did not name specific countries, but said Australians targeted by foreign governments included judges, media commentators and journalists, with a handful of “judicial officials” taking “questionable approaches”. He added that he had.

On the same day, senior US state election and cybersecurity officials warned of the threat posed by Russia and other foreign adversaries ahead of the 2024 elections, warning that the US’ decentralized system of thousands of local electoral districts would be threatened. pointed out that creates vulnerabilities.

Russia and Iran interfered in the last electionincluding an attempt to use an internet-connected electronic voter database, but neither country appeared to have disrupted last year’s midterm elections, with both countries preoccupied with war and protests. .

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Canada needs to investigate China’s election interference: Former spymaster

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But they expect US adversaries to become more active as the next presidential election season approaches.

Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, noted that Russia’s war on Ukraine and US-led efforts to help Kiev are possible motives for intervention. She said officials were “very concerned about potential retaliation from Russia.”

She also said China was another possible source of election interference.

Relations between China and the United States, and even Canada, have deteriorated over the years. Most recently, it came under attack after a suspected reconnaissance balloon was shot down by a US fighter jet off the coast of the Carolina after it violated both countries’ airspace.

Click to play video: 'Canadians should 'trust their institutions', Prime Minister Trudeau speaks of China's election interference'

Canadians ‘should trust their institutions,’ Trudeau says of China’s election interference

“The government must come clean on this matter and a public inquiry is required,” Burton said.

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“It is a matter of getting some transparency about this in a way that assures Canadians that the government is responding to the growing threat of malicious activity in Canada by the Chinese Communist Party.”

Transparency ‘very important’: Trudeau

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau on Monday said transparency was “very important” and did not directly answer questions about a possible independent public inquiry, but encouraged parliament’s National Security Committee. Briefing — Investigate the issue.

He added that Jody Thomas — his chief national security and intelligence adviser — and David Morrison, deputy minister for Global Affairs Canada, will testify before a parliamentary committee investigating the issue of foreign interference.

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

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‘Political game’ over foreign interference further undermines Canadian confidence: Trudeau

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Michael Wernick, secretary of the Canadian Privy Council from 2016 to 2019, told Global News that how much information Canadian intelligence agencies can share has always been a “sensitive question.”

“I would certainly support revisiting the threshold and possibly moving it in the direction of transparency, but it’s not going to be easy.

“We do not want to jeopardize the ability of our intelligence and security services to protect us.”

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Foreign actors ‘can move the needle’ in certain elections, conservative MP questions at committee hearings

But he added that Canada has precedents to follow when it comes to enforcing legislation that can act now. This requires those who support foreign nations to register their activities under the penalty of fines or imprisonment.

There are similar programs in the US as well.

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Two months ago, liberals said they would eventually consult with the public on the possibility of creating a register of foreign agents, but the government has yet to formally begin that consultation.

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Canada must be ready to expel Chinese diplomat over interference, harassment: ex-envoy

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on February 6 that a registry for tracking foreign agents operating in Canada can only be implemented in concert with diverse communities. He told reporters in Halifax on Tuesday that the government “has put in place exactly the necessary mechanisms and tools to mitigate the threat posed by foreign interference in relation to our electoral and democratic institutions.” rice field.

Burton said the federal government needs to act faster.

“If Canada begins to take this issue more seriously, bring it under control and have the effect of ensuring that the Chinese regime adheres to the norms of the international rules-based order in its relations with Canada. This could have repercussions if we don’t engage in sanctions against our alliance with the Five Eyes,” he said, citing potential concerns about “capturing the elite.”

The capture of the elite is a concern Burgess raised in his speech last week, especially the risk that it and other unidentified forms of foreign interference and espionage could pose to the information security of allies.

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“It’s important for our allies to know that we can keep secrets and keep theirs,” Burgess said.

Click to play video: 'Did Canada's Election Integrity Commission have access to China's memo? What ministers say'

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The “Five Eyes” is an intelligence-sharing alliance that includes Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and Canada.

“If the United States sees us as a weak link in the Five Eyes, and sees us as being subject to elite capture by operatives of hostile foreign powers, this is a sign that the United States cannot share information with us. , which could limit our ability to cooperate with Canada on security and intelligence matters,” Burton said.

“It’s not just about protecting us at home from China’s threat, it’s also about safeguarding our country’s security and maintaining our all-important alliances with like-minded allies that safeguard our security and sovereignty.”

— Using files from Global News Marc-Andre Cossette, The Associated Press, The Canadian Press

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