CSIS confirms Chinese interference. An Iranian “front” opens

OTTAWA – As the first phase of the public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada continues, a top-secret report – obtained by Global News – has emerged, alleging that China attempted to hijack the last two federal elections and that the Canadian government “must do more” to combat foreign interference.

“We know that the PRC (People’s Republic of China) sought to clandestinely and deceptively influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections,” according to the briefing released by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The declassified document, dated Feb. 24, 2023, is titled “Briefing to the Minister of Democratic Institutions on Foreign Interference.” It called China “by far the most significant threat.”

It also named India as a foreign interference threat, predicted the problem would worsen and said, “we must do more to protect Canada’s robust democratic institutions and processes.”

“The PRC’s FI (foreign interference) activities are broad in scope and significant in the level of expended resources,” the report said. “The activities are significant, pervasive, and directed against all levels of government and civil society across the country.”

The briefing – which would have been delivered to the minister by the director of CSIS – goes on to explain that “The PRC leverages a vast range of tools in Canada, including the United Front Work Department, its diplomatic corps, and non-government assets such as community groups and trusted contacts.”.

While the federal government acknowledged concerns that China may have attempted to influence Canadian elections, the report appears to be more definitive in its conclusions than Ottawa has previously acknowledged. Almost three pages of the report are then – as we were saying – dedicated to India, even if they were entirely deleted, except for a single sentence:  “India engages in FI (foreign interference) activities.” India, according to Global News, is the only country identified by name aside from China.

In addition, the briefing report points to the need for “clearly articulated strategies,” and said raising awareness and briefing officials and politicians was “central to these efforts” and all government agencies must work to “detect, disrupt and publicize” interference, it said. “The responsibility to counter these harmful activities must be shared across government, including provincial and municipal partners” it added.

“Ultimately, better protecting Canadian democratic institutions against FI will require a shift in the government’s perspective and a willingness to take decisive action and impose consequences on perpetrators. Until FI is viewed as constituting an existential threat to Canadian democracy and the government forcefully and actively responds, these threats will persist.”

Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has formally requested a public inquiry into foreign interference aimed at Iranian influence in Canada.

“We want the commission to follow the evidence and make sure that it specifically listens to the repressed Iranian voices here” Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman said on Wednesday. The day before, Conservative Party lawyer Nando De Luca had sent a letter to Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue (who is leading the public inquiry into foreign interference) asking that the commission “expressly include the Iranian regime and its campaign of intimidation, repression and interference at the heart of his work. Iranian foreign interference is an active and present threat in Canada” the lawyer wrote.

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