Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was provided “multiple” intelligence briefs regarding Beijing’s role in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 federal elections, Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser confirmed Thursday at a multi-partisan committee on foreign interference.
Jody Thomas was testifying before a group of MPs that began hearings last November in response to revelations in Global News reports that outlined Canadian intelligence probes into what sources alleged was China’s vast campaign of interference targeting Canadian elections and politicians.
Facing questions from parliamentarians, Thomas confirmed that since January 2022, Trudeau and some of his cabinet have received a number of briefs and memos on Chinese election interference schemes in 2019 and 2021, as Global News first reported in November.
Questions have been raised about whether Trudeau’s government has responded with appropriate measures to counter these national security threats.
Thomas was also asked whether Trudeau was briefed on a February 2020 Privy Council Office memo, which Global News previously reported on, that warned of “subtle but effective” Chinese interference networks that targeted the 2019 federal election.
It also alleged that Beijing’s “extensive network of quasi-official and local community and interest groups allowed it to obfuscate communication and the flow of funds between Canadian targets and Chinese officials.”
Thomas did not confirm whether Trudeau read the memo, but said a number of his ministers would have “likely” received the memo. To date, former public safety minister Bill Blair is the sole Trudeau cabinet member to acknowledge receiving the document.
Blair told Global he could not discuss its contents.
As Global News reported last December, the document states China’s “foreign interference networks in the Greater Toronto Area implicate at least 11 candidates in the 2019 election,” and that “some are likely unaware of these influence efforts while others have willingly cooperated.”
Such operations, run by the United Front Work Department — Beijing’s powerful foreign influence arm — were predicted to become more pervasive in future elections, the February 2020 Privy Council Office memo said.
The committee also heard from Shawn Tupper, deputy minister of Public Safety Canada, who said the RCMP is not investigating any allegations of foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections.
Tupper did, however, reference probes into so-called “Chinese police stations.” As Global News first reported last November, a series of intelligence briefs warned Trudeau’s government starting in 2022 that security officials believed that Beijing was running covert operations targeting members of the Chinese diaspora in Canada in locations in Toronto and Vancouver. The stations are believed to host Chinese security agents that conduct illegal operations on Canadian soil.
Since then, the RCMP has been able to “engage” with Chinese-Canadian communities, Tupper testified, and this has resulted in the disruption of five of these stations.