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Canada: What to Know about the Foreign Elections Interference Hearings

As the confidential CSIS and security whistleblowers have indicated the potential for Chinese interference in our elections. An investigation has been probed by the top commissioners of Elections Canada to provide more insight into the matter. Below is a summary of the testimony provided by two of the top commissioners of Elections Canada and David Morrison, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development. 

The full hearing can be viewed here

------- Foreign Interference ------

David Vigneault and Morrison concurred that the threshold of foreign interference was not met in both 2019 and 2021. The Deputy Minister goes on to say that there has been no spike in interference in 2019 or 2021. Arguing that there is a “baseline” of interference reports that he receives every day,  

According to Morrison, intelligence is rarely actionable, and can oftentimes be rumours. Morrison further states that it is “rare for an intelligence report to be a smoking gun”. He argues that disparate pieces of information over time can draw conclusions or an overall picture of what's going on in the intelligence community. However, Morrison makes it clear that such desperate conclusions can potentially be wrong. 

As an example, Morrison points to the failures of such wrong conclusions in the Iraq War where US intelligence claimed they invaded Iraq out of fear that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In Morrison’s view, the Iraq War was based on wrong intelligence. 

Morrison further argues that intelligence leaked (from one obscure source) taken as fact can potentially be harmful to Canadian national security as it may erode the confidence Canadians have in their democracies and institutions. A way to erode confidence is to divide Canadians from the institutions they have confidence in, says Morrison. 

Morrison also argues that disinformation campaigns targeted at the Conservatives are not necessarily from non-Canadian sources or sponsored sources, such disinformation could’ve been from Canadians or Chinese-Canadians themselves. As such, there is no evidence to suggest disinformation was from China. If such a disinformation campaign was from Canadians themselves with no evidence of foreign interference, then there are no grounds on which we can prosecute them. 

As for information, caveats and conditions are normal procedures within intelligence documents (whether it be a news source, a single source, or an unnamed source). Those caveats include that we may have to potentially disregard the information the whistleblowers have revealed upon further scrutiny. Therefore, caveats of the allegations must be taken into account. 

The Minister states, “Intelligence is not fact, it can be inaccurate and incomplete”. Thus, these kinds of information caveats that put the accuracy and potency of information from intelligence sources must be taken into account. Statements from such intelligence sources should not be assumed to be true. The Deputy Minister seldom critiques news media for jumping to conclusions. 


(1) China has successfully caused the "chaos" they intended for when they initially attempted electoral interference. This current “chaos” has single-handily caused more chaos than anything the Chinese could’ve done during their electoral interference attempts.

(2) The whistleblower(s) have also contributed to this.There is a reason why classified information is protected under the ‘Security of Information Act’, so that sensitive information isn’t recklessly released. 

(3) For all that’s worth, there is no direct evidence that points to the LPC being complicit, co-conspirators, or negligent in their dealings with Chinese interference. The most we are getting are statements, allegations, and “connect-the-dots” evidence on Chinese interference. 

(4) One thing I point have pointed out in the past is for CSIS to pay more attention to consulates, foreign party organizations in Canada, and those with close diplomatic ties with foreign countries. If there is any political, electoral, or information meddling, that’s where to first look at. This is evidenced by recent findings with statements made by Chinese diplomats, the Toronto-Chinese consulate funding ordeal, and the Hydro-Quebec information compromise. 

(5) The reality is that it’s not just China, most countries with hostile intelligence agencies to the West likely have plans, intentions, funding, organizations, and the diaspora needed to meddle in Canadian elections. We just need to be transparent about it. A private member's bill is being tabled by the NDP to commission a public inquiry that investigates electoral interference in a broad sense, by China and other foreign meddlers. 

(6) Separate from that motion, our security agencies need to be tasked, mandated, and legislated with new measures to take this issue at heart. A full-frontal assault from CSIS and the RCMP. Otherwise, confidence in our electoral process will decline.

(7) Rather than such investigations being targeted at any particular party, such an investigation is more likely to happen and be constructive if the investigation is broad in nature and applies to all hostile countries and MPs. 

(8) Whatever the conclusions of any such investigation no matter its scope, the Liberals lose politically anyhow. At the end of the day, they will be the ones to get bruised as they're both the party in power and likely the primary target of any electoral interference. 

(9) On the part of the Liberals, an effort must be made in collaboration with security agencies to track down any MPs, party, or government staff that may potentially be involved with compromising the election. They cannot afford an image of complacency, co-conspirators, or negligence.

(10) CSIS needs to prosecute whoever went public with this information. We cannot allow sensitive information leakage to become a norm within our security agencies, the erosion of confidence in our institutions will be severe. Let this be a lesson to CSIS leadership and members to not let sensitive leaked that can compromise democratic confidence. Such measures are being announced as we speak. 

(11) In addition, testimony from the head commissioners of Elections Canada indicates that CSIS has not provided information on electoral interference to Elections Canada. If such information has not been relayed, that may mean the information provided by the whistleblowers may be less credible than we think. 

(12) Moreover, the RCMP is not investigating the issue of Chinese electoral interference even with the information CSIS has. Which may mean that either the information CSIS provided to the RCMP was not sufficient for further investigation, or CSIS itself determined that such information was not worth relaying to the RCMP based on their internal metrics. 

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