Ottawa split on when to warn of foreign election interference attempts, report author says – National

A man who wrote a report recommending a lower threshold for notifying Canadians of foreign interference in elections says there is no consensus on what that threshold should be.

A report by former civil servant Morris Rosenberg released on Tuesday examined the work of a panel created by the Key Election Case Open Protocol during the 2021 election. The Commission is tasked with overseeing interference in elections and has been instructed to notify Canadians of any incident or series of incidents that threaten the ability to conduct free and fair elections.

Rosenberg made several recommendations for better informing Canadians about what the Commission considered to be causes for concern and urged further research on whether to inform the public of threats that do not meet its high standards. I got

“I think this is a lack of consensus on whether the party wants to maintain its high standards,” Rosenberg said in an interview Wednesday.

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Was there foreign interference in the 2021 election? New report details

Following recent media reports detailing alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections, the level of disclosure security officials provide regarding election interference has come under greater scrutiny.

The Globe and Mail, citing classified CSIS records, said China would ensure a Liberal minority victory in the 2021 elections, and Conservative politicians considered unfriendly to Beijing. reportedly made an effort to defeat the

The Globe newspaper quoted a spy service as saying Beijing likes Canadian political parties to fight each other, lowering the risk of them implementing policies against China. said.

The newspaper also said Chinese diplomats were behind undeclared cash donations to the campaign, forcing business owners to hire Chinese students and assign them as campaign volunteers, according to CSIS. rice field.

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Canada’s spy chief warns of foreign interference

Global News said on February 24 that a national security official delivered an urgent classified briefing to Trudeau in late September 2019, warning that one of the candidates was part of China’s foreign interference network. reported that it did.

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Sources say the candidate in question was Han Dong, then a former MPP in Ontario, whom the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency began tracking in June of that year.

The national security official also said Dong, now an incumbent lawmaker for re-election in 2021, is one of at least 11 candidates in the Toronto area who were allegedly backed by Beijing in the 2019 contest. claims. The service also believes Dong is an intentional affiliate of China’s election interference network, sources said.

In response to Global News’ questions about this article, Don denied the allegations and said he would defend himself on Monday. and should not be entertained with the suggestion that for some reason he is not loyal to Canada.”

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Rosenberg’s report noted that unelected officials on the panel face difficult decisions about whether to inform the public about their alleged interference, as the announcement itself could affect the election. .

“There are concerns that it could affect people’s perception of whether the election is fair and alienate voters.”

When the Open Protocol on Important Election Events was drawn up in 2019, then-Democratic Party Minister Carina Gould told a parliamentary committee that the threshold for informing the public was “very high, allowing for free elections.” It is limited to addressing exceptional circumstances that may compromise our ability to do so.” and fair elections. “

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But in light of recent media leaks, opposition lawmakers are calling for greater transparency.

“If there is foreign interference, Canadians should be made aware. They need to know right away so they can protect themselves from any form of manipulation or intimidation,” said Conservative leader Pierre. Polivre said on Thursday.

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Liberal Democratic Party, Conservative Party Force Investigation into Suspicion of Foreign Election Interference

At a House of Commons committee meeting on Thursday, the Conservative Party and Brock Quebec helped pass an NDP motion calling for the launch of a “national public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference in Canada’s democratic system.”

Liberal members of the committee voted against the motion.

The commission also heard testimony from the National Security Advisor and the head of the Canadian spy agency, both of whom had security concerns about sharing sensitive information in public, so the investigation was closed. He suggested that it was not the best place to do so.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday he knew Canadians wanted reassurance from independent experts.

“They want to make sure that all the right questions are being posed to our intelligence and security services in a rigorous manner to ensure they do everything possible,” he said. said.

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Chinese-Canadian lawmakers included among ‘larger targets’ for foreign interference, Trudeau says

However, Prime Minister Trudeau dismissed the idea of ​​conducting an official investigation, saying a system was already in place to investigate foreign interference.

Rosenberg’s report also noted the growing challenge of domestic actors interfering in elections, sometimes on behalf of other countries, and warned of a changing electoral threat landscape. bottom.

“It is often difficult to determine whether a case was coordinated in the use of agents acting on behalf of a foreign government, or whether it is the honest view of Canadians,” Rosenberg said.

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Most Canadians believe China tried to interfere in elections: poll

Security officials have warned of this earlier.

“China, among other countries, targets elected officials at all levels of government to promote their national interests and encourage individuals to speak and act on behalf of the CCP. At a House committee meeting on Nov. 9, Michelle Tessier, deputy director for operations at CSIS, said:

Election interference can also target specific constituencies or diaspora communities, Rosenberg said, raising the question of who to notify if only a subset of voters are affected.

“It’s probably not going to affect the election as a whole, but it’s something that could affect voters in that election, either being misinformed or being intimidated into not voting. There is a possibility.”

—with file by Mickey Djuric

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