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Foreign meddling in Canada polls but results unaffected: panel

By AFP

May 4, 2024 09:54 AM


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Foreign interference occurred in Canada's elections of 2019 and 2021 that returned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal government to power, although it did not impact the outcome, a public commission reported Friday.

The Foreign Interference Commission published its first progress report after 21 days of hearings with testimony from intelligence chiefs, senior government officials and politicians.

For months, suspicions of interference -- notably by China -- in Canada's previous two national elections have put Trudeau's government under pressure, particularly after claims that Beijing sought to subvert Canada's democratic process.

"Acts of foreign interference did occur during the last two federal general elections, but they did not undermine the integrity of our electoral system," commissioner Marie-Josee Hogue said in the report.

It stressed that the Liberal Party would have won "with or without foreign interference" in the two elections, and that ballots themselves were cast and counted without tampering or meddling.

"Nonetheless, the acts of interference that occurred are a stain on our electoral process and impacted the process leading up to the actual vote," Hogue said.

She highlighted two mechanisms of interference --  disinformation and financial support -- which included bribery, blackmail, cyberattacks and spreading false messages through social media and mass media.

The commission said it "views China as the biggest threat to the Canadian electoral space by a significant margin."

The findings in the interim report are preliminary and a final document is expected in December.

But "we are not going to wait for the final report before continuing to strengthen our measures," Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc told journalists, adding that the government "welcomes" the initial findings.

Trudeau testified before the panel last month, saying the country's recent elections were indeed "decided by Canadians" and that his government worked to thwart foreign interference.

China has always denied the accusations of meddling.

Ties between Ottawa and Beijing soured with the 2018 arrest, at US behest, of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei.

Days after her arrest, two Canadians -- businessman Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig -- were arrested in China on what Canada said were trumped-up charges intended as retaliation for Meng's detention.


AFP


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