Commissioner of Elections audition: “Interferences, dozens of complaints”
TORONTO – The Commissioner of Canada Elections says her office is literally “under siege” to review complaints and information regarding allegations of foreign interference during the last two federal elections. “I am overwhelmed by the importance of this issue and the need to reassure Canadians in these exceptional circumstances” Caroline Simard told today to MPs of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC) which is examining the case of foreign interference in Canadian politics .
“We have conducted a rigorous and thorough review of every complaint and every piece of information that has been brought to our attention regarding allegations of foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 general elections” Simard said. “And this review – she added – is underway just as I speak, to determine if there is tangible evidence of wrongdoing under the Canada Elections Act”.
Simard also explained to MPs that this work is being conducted “impartially and independently of the government”. The result will allow her to determine whether the allegations meet the threshold of violating Canada’s election laws, but would not lead to any conclusions about the “validity of election results generally or in a particular district”.
Simard’s statements come amid a marathon of testimony before the PROC by top national security, election and intelligence officials as part of a study into the risks of election interference. A study intensified in recent weeks by media reports of (alleged) Chinese attempts to influence the results of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
The commissioner said the complaints had reached her office before reports from Global News and The Globe and Mail. And overall there are 158 complaints concerning ten situations of potential electoral violations and another 16 complaints relating to thirteen situations. Simard hasn’t been definitive about how many of these complaints involved alleged election interference by Beijing. “For reasons of confidentiality, I will not be able to provide further details regarding the ongoing review, complaints or any other information received by my office. As with any investigative body, confidentiality is essential to protect the presumption of innocence and to avoid compromising the integrity of our work” Simard said, urging anyone with information about potential wrongdoing under the Canada Elections Act to contact his office.
Chief election officer Stéphane Perrault also spoke today to the commission: “Foreign interference is not a partisan issue. It can target elected and public officials at all levels of government, across parties. Canadians have the right to know that every effort is being made to address the threat of foreign interference” Perrault said. “Although it is not possible to draw a straight line between foreign influence and the outcome of a particular election, acts of foreign interference attack the fairness of the electoral process and must be addressed to protect our democracy”.
As committee’s MPs are set to vote on an NDP motion calling for a public inquiry (denied by Justin Trudeau) to look further into the foreign interference issue, both Simard and Perrault testified that the information they would have been able to provide in a public inquiry would be no different from what they provided to the PROC today.
Relations between Canada and China are increasingly complicated (the image is taken from the website https://www.asiapacific.ca)
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