Photo by: Charlie Martin
Canadians’ eyes are turning to Justin Trudeau as citizens wait for a response to the alleged Chinese interference in recent Canadian elections.
A series of government intelligence leaks have created suspicion that China has meddled in Canadian politics—an accusation that China declines.
Secret internal documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) were reported by The Globe and Mail, revealing the Chinese government’s plans to meddle in Canada’s electoral system. Their strategies included undeclared cash donations, the spreading of disinformation, targeting Canadian legislators and swaying public opinion through proxies. Trudeau stated at a news conference that he expects CSIS to find out who is leaking the documents.
When interrogated about the issue during a press conference on March 3, Trudeau shot down questions regarding the topic, and CBC stated that he “appeared to be annoyed by reporters repeating questions about the calls for an inquiry.”
For months, members of the Canadian government have denied that any interference took place, but Trudeau promised a registry intended to track down foreign agents aiming to interfere with Canadian politics. Trudeau said he is concerned by these potential attacks on Canadian democracy and announced a plan for members of parliament and senators in the National Security and Intelligence Community of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) to conduct a review of foreign interference.
A federal public report states that any efforts to interfere with the 2021 election had no effect on the results—but Trudeau’s political rivals seek further investigation.
The NDP have stated that the government’s work is an unacceptable replacement for what should have been a public inquiry, and conservative party leader Pierre Poilievre has accused Trudeau of attempting to “avoid accountability.”
Conservative politicians have asserted that Chinese interference cost them seats in the 2021 election, although it still would not have been enough to defeat Trudeau’s liberal party.
As Trudeau’s political rivals demand a public inquiry, the Chinese government has asserted that the accusations of political interference are “purely baseless and defamatory,” adding that the claims are supported by “hype.”
Morren Rosenberg released a review of the 2021 Canadian election, but Poilievre believes that Rosenberg, who has worked with the Trudeau Foundation, has a strong bias towards Trudeau that would mean his review cannot be considered impartial.
The Trudeau Foundation is a non-profit organization and has received a $200,000 donation from an individual connected to the Chinese government, which has since been returned.
Trudeau has recognized that many Canadians feel the government’s review was not enough. With that, a currently unidentified independent “special rapporteur” will make a final decision on whether a public inquiry should occur. Trudeau has stated that the Canadian government will abide by whatever recommendation the rapporteur might provide.
According to the Global News report, a “Special Report” was created for Trudeau by the Privy Council Office. The report alleged that 11 candidates and 13 aides were secretly involved in China’s funding during the 2019 Canadian election. Trudeau’s national security and intelligence advisor, Jody Thomas, denied this statement last December, saying that the government has “not seen money going to 11 candidates, period.”
When pressed on the issue again earlier this month, Thomas said she could not confirm her exact quote from her statement in December, but that “the connection that was being made between 11 candidates and $250,000 is inaccurate.”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have also launched an investigation into how the potential meddling was leaked to news outlets in Canada.
This is not the first time a foreign country has been accused of meddling in Canadian politics—Trudeau mentioned that similar reports have been made to the Canadian government involving potential interference attempts by Iran and Russia.