Justin Trudeau has warned that China is “play[ing] aggressive games” to undermine democratic institutions amid reports Beijing actively interfered in Canada’s federal elections.
His comments on Monday came after a news report that Beijing had funded a “clandestine network” of candidates in Canada’s 2019 election and just days after the federal police force said it was actively investigating a secret network of illegal Chinese “police stations” in Toronto.
The allegations – which came on the same day that a close ally of Vladimir Putin said that Russia had previously interfered in US elections – are likely to intensify concerns about the scope of foreign intrusion in Canadian domestic politics.
“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 on Monday afternoon. “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.”
The prime minister’s remarks followed reporting from Global News that Canadian intelligence had concluded Beijing worked to undermine the democratic process in Canada in multiple elections, including votes held in 2019 and 2021.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) briefed the prime minister, as well as senior cabinet ministers, in January about China’s attempts, the report said.
The efforts are believed to include placing agents in the offices of lawmakers to influence policy in China’s favor, as well as attempts to “co-opt and corrupt” former Canadian officials in order to gain political power and influence in the nation’s capital.
It is unclear if CSIS, or the federal government, believe the efforts were successful.
David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China, said the allegations were “far more aggressive” than previously suspected.
“Just when you think some allegations against China are exaggerated, you find that they’ve in fact been understated.” he said. “These represent a malicious, dangerous threat to our democracy.”
Election interference attempts have targeted members from both the Liberal and Conservative parties.
“We had evidence of interference in the last general election through proxies that were spreading disinformation on Chinese language social media platforms, which interfered in a number of [electoral districts] with significant Chinese communities,” the Conservative MP Michael Chong told the Guardian.
He said a number of incidents of harassment against prominent Uyghur and Tibetan students at Ontario universities had been “coordinated” through Toronto’s Chinese consulate.
Staff in the red-brick building in a leafy, affluent enclave of the city are also alleged to have led the efforts to undermine Canada’s federal elections.
According to Global News, CSIS believes the consulate was behind a large financial transaction to at least 11 federal election candidates and Chinese…