CSIS director's brief to Trudeau Cabinet says 117 Canadian Politicians warned of interference since May 2021
Newly declassified February 2023 Intelligence confirms China clandestinely interfered in 2019 and 2021
Last February, while Justin Trudeau pushed back against media investigations into Chinese election interference, citing anti-Asian racism, a brief for Trudeau’s Cabinet confirmed China’s clandestine influence in the 2019 and 2021 federal contests, and that current Members of Parliament were targeted in hostile state activity, and China leverages a “vast range of tools” to undermine “Canadian values, electoral processes, and Charter Rights.”
This definitive confirmation of Ottawa’s awareness of China’s deep attacks in recent Canadian elections comes from a newly released “Canadian Eyes Only” CSIS document called “Briefing to the Minister of Democratic Institutions on Foreign Interference.”
The document dated Feb. 23, 2023, was obtained and first reported on by Stewart Bell of Global News, who used Access to Information law to collect documents on India’s and China’s mounting foreign interference threats.
As Ottawa’s Foreign Interference Commission starts this week with a mandate to discover whether China interfered in the past two federal elections, the documents obtained by Bell and reviewed by The Bureau, broadly confirm much of the reporting on China’s interference started by Global News in November 2022, and later followed by Globe and Mail reporters in Ottawa.
Much of the leaked, sensitive evidence that informed those reports — and continues to be collected and reported on by The Bureau — stems from the challenges that Canadian intelligence agents say they face, in providing documented alerts and in-person “defensive briefs” to senior Canadian politicians regarding their vulnerability to influence agents from China.
But according to The Bureau’s national security sources, foreign interference has been enabled to run rampant and endanger Canada’s sovereignty, because for too long, powerful Canadian officials have neglected CSIS’s increasingly serious warnings.
A stunning figure revealed in the the Feb. 23, 2023 intelligence prepared for Trudeau’s cabinet minister, asserts that CSIS has provided “defensive briefs” on Foreign Interference to 117 Canadian elected officials since May 2021, including 71 MPs, 15 Federal Ministers, and 5 Senators.
The declassified documents obtained by Stewart Bell indicate that CSIS director David Vigneault provided the February 2023 brief, which says the People’s Republic of China “is by far the most significant threat” to Canadian elections, among India and several other unidentified states.
Vigneault is scheduled to testify today in Ottawa’s Foreign Interference Commission hearings, which are examining how much information can be shared with the Canadian public, according to government experts.
“Recent media reporting in Global News and The Globe and Mail has brought increased attention to PRC FI [Foreign Interference] efforts in Canada, particularly with respect to elections,” the February 2023 briefing document says. “While I will not discuss in too much detail [sentences redacted] … We know the PRC sought to clandestinely and deceptively influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.”
This high-level CSIS briefing document was also provided for Trudeau’s National Security Advisor and Privy Council Office earlier in February 2023, records say.
But after these briefs were distributed for Trudeau’s senior officials last February, days later, on Feb. 27, Justin Trudeau resisted calls for an inquiry into China’s election interference and in a press conference for Toronto reporters he dismissed scrutiny of his party’s nomination process in the 2019 election as “anti-Asian racism,” according to The Toronto Star.
On the contrary, another CSIS document in the Access to Information release — a March 2022 Intelligence Assessment — says that China’s “sophisticated, pervasive and persistent” electoral interference schemes are tearing Canada’s social cohesion, and “undermines Canadian sovereignty, are anti-democratic, and have divisive effects on Canadian civil society, particularly within Chinese-Canadian communities.”
While Trudeau’s administration also pushed back on Global News reports in 2022 citing intelligence that alleged China clandestinely funded election interference in 2019, the newly released February 23, 2023 CSIS briefing confirms hostile states leverage money, community proxies, and exploit loopholes in party nomination processes, to interfere in Canadian elections.
“Several foreign states use FI to interfere with Canada’s democratic institutions,” the CSIS director’s brief for Trudeau’s minister says.
“The People’s Republic of China, which is by far the most significant threat; and India [redacted sentences follow.]”
It specifies that “Foreign states target elected and public officials and others with influence over the public policy decision-making process,” and “this includes current and former Members of Parliament, members of provincial legislatures, municipal officials, representatives of Indigenous governments, ministerial and political staff, and public servants.”
And these hostile states — only China and India are identified in the redacted document — “exploit loopholes in political party nomination processes; engage in money and financing operations; mobilize and leverage community organizations; and manipulate media outlets,” the February 2023 brief confirms.