The prime minister on Monday responded to a Global News investigation that detailed alleged efforts by China to fund a clandestine network of at least 11 federal candidates who ran in the 2019 election, among other allegations of election interference in that campaign.
“We have taken significant measures to strengthen the integrity of our elections processes and our systems, and we’ll continue to invest in the fight against election interference, against foreign interference of our democracy and institutions,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal.
“Unfortunately, we’re seeing countries, state actors from around the world, whether it’s China or others, are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”
In January, Canadian intelligence officials presented Trudeau and several cabinet ministers with a series of briefings and memos with the allegations, including other detailed examples of Beijing’s efforts to further its influence and subvert Canada’s democratic process, sources told Global News.
Those efforts allegedly involve payments through intermediaries to candidates affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and placing agents in the offices of MPs to influence policy, according to recent information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
Furthermore, the national spy agency believes China has been seeking to co-opt and corrupt former Canadian officials to gain leverage in Ottawa, and mounting aggressive campaigns to punish Canadian politicians whom the People’s Republic of China (PRC) views as threats to its interests.
Chief among the allegations is that CSIS claims China’s Toronto consulate directed a large clandestine transfer of funds to a network of at least 11 federal election candidates and numerous Beijing operatives who worked as their campaign staffers.
The funds were reportedly transferred through an Ontario MPP and a federal election candidate staffer. Separate sources aware of the situation said a CCP proxy group, acting as an intermediary, transferred around $250,000.
The 2022 briefs said some, but not all, members of the alleged network are witting affiliates of the CCP. The intelligence did not conclude whether CSIS believes the network successfully influenced the October 2019 election results, sources said.
Canada’s national spy agency can capture its findings through warrants that allow electronic interception of communications among Chinese consulate officials and Canadian politicians and staffers.
Sources told Global News they revealed details from the 2022 briefs to give Canadians a clearer understanding of China’s attacks on Canada’s democratic system. Out of fear of retribution, they have asked for their names to be withheld.
In response to the briefing details, experts said the alleged interference points to weakness in Canada’s outdated espionage and counterintelligence laws, which sophisticated interference networks run by China, Russia and Iran are exploiting.
The 2022 intelligence asserts that China conducts more foreign interference than any other nation, and interference threats to Canada increased in 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping elevated the CCP’s so-called “United Front” influence networks abroad.
Back in Montreal, Trudeau said Ottawa is “constantly working with our intelligence committees and officials” to better improve national security. He cited the creation of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians in 2018 as an example.
“We will continue to make the investments and changes necessary to both hold up our rights, our freedoms and our values as Canadians while keeping us safe from those who would do harm to those values and rights and freedoms,” Trudeau said.
“The world is changing and sometimes in quite scary ways, and we need to make sure that those who are tasked with keeping us safe every single day are able to do that.”
— with files from Global News’ Sam Cooper
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