Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for a review of foreign interference in his country’s elections and will appoint an independent special investigator to investigate alleged Chinese interference in Canada’s polls.
Trudeau has come under pressure to act Canadian media report thisciting anonymous intelligence sources, who provide details of China’s alleged plans to influence Canada’s 2021 and 2019 elections.
The Globe and Mail newspaper reported last month that China favored Trudeau’s liberals being re-elected in the 2021 election and had been working to defeat conservative politicians deemed unfriendly to Beijing. Opposition parties have demanded a full public inquiry.
“Today we are taking even more action to protect our democratic institutions, defend their integrity and uphold and strengthen trust in our democracy. We will always take foreign attempts to undermine our democracy very seriously,” Trudeau said in a statement rack on Monday.
The prime minister said he had asked lawmakers in parliament’s national security committee to launch an inquiry to assess “the state of foreign interference” in the country’s federal election process.
That is why today I announced new measures to counter the threat of foreign interference and protect our democracy. Click here for more information about the actions we take:
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 7, 2023
Trudeau also said he would appoint an “eminent Canadian” who will be empowered to make recommendations on how to “protect and strengthen” democracy in Canada, including holding a public inquiry or other formal independent review process.
Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Review Agency will also examine how the country’s intelligence agencies dealt with the threat of foreign election interference and report its findings to parliament.
“Together, these measures will give us a better understanding of what happened in the last two elections, how foreign governments tried to intervene, how security agencies in Canada responded to the threat of interference and how information flowed through the government,” he said. the prime minister. said in a news briefing.
Trudeau and Canada’s top security officials have acknowledged China’s meddling efforts but insisted that the election results not be changed. They have not confirmed the details of the media reports.
Trudeau also expressed “serious concerns” about alleged Chinese election interference with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) meeting in Indonesia in November.
“We have long known, as an independent report reaffirmed last week, that the Chinese government and other regimes such as Iran and Russia have tried to interfere not only in our democracy, but in our country in general, whether our institutions, our companies, our research facilities or in the daily lives of our citizens,” said Trudeau
He added that “all political leaders agree that the election results in 2019 and 2021 were not affected by foreign interference. But even if it didn’t change the results of our elections, any attempted interference by any foreign actor is disturbing and serious.”
China denies all allegations of election interference and says it has no interest in interfering in Canada’s internal affairs.
Conservative leader of the Canadian opposition, Pierre Poilièvre, had earlier on Monday criticized the idea of involving a parliamentary committee in the investigation. He said this would only result in officials presenting opposition lawmakers with “some information” and then swearing them to secrecy so they could never talk about it again. So effective, that would be a ploy to prevent anyone from debating the subject.”
Despite sparring with Chinese President Xi Jinping on many issues, Trudeau’s liberal government is seen as open to doing business with China, while the conservatives are known to take a tougher stance against Beijing.
The allegations of secret Chinese plans to meddle in Canadian affairs have further complicated the tense diplomatic relations between Canada and China.
Tensions between the countries rose in late 2018 when Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the company’s founder, and Beijing subsequently arrested two Canadians on espionage charges. All three were released in 2021.
Earlier on Monday, Canadian police said they were investigating media reports citing classified intelligence for possible violations of information security laws. Canada’s spy agency is also conducting an investigation into how classified information was leaked to news organizations.