Leaks claiming China meddled in the 2021 election have “inaccuracies,” Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers questions during a media scramble in Halifax on Thursday, February 23, 2023. (Riley Smith/The Canadian Press - photo credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers questions during a media scramble in Halifax on Thursday, February 23, 2023. (Riley Smith/The Canadian Press – photo credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is questioning the accuracy of recent top-secret leaks to the media claiming China meddled in the 2021 election.

The Globe and Mail reported last week that classified and top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Agency (CSIS) documents said Beijing was trying to ensure a minority Liberal government and the defeat of several Conservative candidates in 2021. A former Chinese consul-general in Vancouver has boasted about their efforts to defeat two conservative lawmakers, according to documents cited in the Globe story.

“We are very concerned about the leaks, especially because there are so many inaccuracies in these leaks,” Trudeau said at a news conference on Thursday

CLOCK | Trudeau claims election interference leaks contain ‘many inaccuracies’

Since the Globe report came out, Trudeau has claimed that Canadian voters alone decided the outcome of the last federal election – a claim he repeated Thursday.

“Election integrity has been preserved,” he said. “It doesn’t mean, and we’ve never claimed, that there aren’t ongoing efforts by countries like China to interfere in our democracies.”

The PM has not specified which parts of the leaks are inaccurate.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has accused Justin Trudeau of ignoring Chinese interference.

“Justin Trudeau knew about this interference and he covered it up because he benefited from it,” Poilievre said last week. He presented no evidence beyond the Globe story.

Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press

Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press

Critics of the government have urged it to adopt a more aggressive strategy against foreign interference since a Global News report last year said CSIS informed the prime minister of Chinese plans to meddle in the 2019 election. Sources cited in the story said the Chinese government secretly funded candidates in the campaign.

The government has been urged to establish a foreign agent registry, as is the case in the United States and Australia.

The House of Commons process and the House Affairs Committee unanimously agreed on Tuesday to invite Secretary of State Mélanie Joly and Secretary of State for Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc to another round of questioning.

REGARD | The issue panel discusses foreign interference

The committee also invites Secretary of Public Safety Marco Mendicino along with representatives from Elections Canada and national security agencies, including the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Michael Pal, associate law professor at the University of Ottawa, told the Canadian Press that academic sources, journalists and Canada’s national security agencies have suggested that “there is now foreign interference in every federal election in Canada,” although its implications remain unclear.

“It’s just very difficult to measure how people would otherwise have behaved without the foreign interference. Would you have chosen differently? Wouldn’t they have voted?” said buddy.

Under federal protocol, there would be a public announcement if a panel of senior bureaucrats determined that an incident – or cluster of incidents – threatened Canada’s ability to hold free and fair elections.

There was no such announcement for the 2021 or 2019 elections. Both times, the Liberals remained in government with minority seats, while the Conservatives formed the official opposition.

“Presumably they either didn’t have the information they needed at the time, or they had it and they just didn’t feel it was at the level required to make such an announcement to the public,” Pal said.

Several issues have contributed to the currently strained Canada-China relationship, including China’s detention of two Canadians and Canada’s attempt to ban Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from Canada’s 5G network.


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