Canadians need to be ‘reassured’ about foreign interference concerns: Trudeau

Click to play video: 'Trudeau: ‘Our election integrity held’ during 2019 federal vote'
Trudeau: ‘Our election integrity held’ during 2019 federal vote
Trudeau: 'Our election integrity held' during 2019 federal vote – Dec 5, 2022

Canadians need to be “reassured” about allegations China tried to interfere in a federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

But national security concerns make it difficult to share all the information Canadians want to know, the prime minister said in a year-end interview with Global National’s Dawna Friesen, taped on Friday.

“We know that Canadians need to be reassured. Canadians deserve to know what’s going on. At the same time, these are matters of national security, so we do have to be careful about that,” Trudeau said.

“But what I have asked is for our top intelligence officials and all the people who have that information to appear before a parliamentary committee and share as much as they possibly can with Canadians.”

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The biggest concern everyone has, according to Trudeau, is whether the election was “compromised by foreign interference.”

“On that one, we can already say and are saying, no, they have held,” he said.

“But we’re going to have to make sure we’re continuing to be vigilant in the future.”

Questions about foreign interference emerged after Global News reported earlier in November that Trudeau and members of his cabinet were allegedly briefed in January 2022 that the Chinese Consulate in Toronto directed a clandestine election-interference network in 2019, which intelligence sources allege is a loosely affiliated group of Liberals and Conservatives funded by the Chinese Communist Party to help advance its political objectives in Canada.

Other intelligence sources told Global that the consulate disbursed $250,000 through proxies to the network, which allegedly included an Ontario MPP, and at least 11 federal candidates and 14 staffers.

While the briefings did not conclude that Beijing funded any campaigns directly, that’s how the issue has been interpreted at times in the political debate in the House of Commons.

Read more: Canada struggles with curbing foreign interference: ‘Often we cannot do anything’

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The government’s recently-released Indo-Pacific strategy includes commitments to boost funding for the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other security agencies to improve domestic cybersecurity and monitoring of foreign interference.

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On Friday, The Canadian Press reported that Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is considering creating a registry of people engaged by foreign powers to try and influence Canadian policy.

Ottawa has so far been reluctant to introduce such a registry, which close security allies like the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have done.

— with files from Alex Boutilier

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