Canadian Parliament members 'wittingly' aid foreign nations to influence national politics: report

The report described how "foreign states developed clandestine networks surrounding candidates and elected officials to gain undisclosed influence and leverage over nomination processes, elections, parliamentary business and government decision-making."

In a comprehensive and shocking report released publicly in early June, a non-partisan, federal government committee described how “elected officials” are “wittingly” controlled by foreign states and are expected to engage in espionage in exchange for “favors” from their host nations.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians originally released the “Special Report on Foreign Interference in Canada’s Democratic Processes and Institutions” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on March 24, 2024. The public version is heavily censored and none of the people and organizations listed in the original as being in the pocket of foreign governments are named.

The report covers the period of September 2018 to November 2023 and stated: “Some elected officials, however, began wittingly assisting foreign state actors soon after their election,” while noting in brackets that "three sentences were deleted to remove injurious or privileged information. The sentences described examples of members of Parliament who worked to influence their colleagues on India’s behalf and proactively provided confidential information to Indian officials.”

However, the report noted that communist China is by far the most active operator and recruiter of spies on Parliament Hill. 

The report highlighted one “Member of Parliament [who] wittingly provided information *** to a foreign state [*** This paragraph was revised to remove injurious or privileged information. ***] The Committee notes a particularly concerning case of a then-member of Parliament maintaining a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer. According to CSIS, the member of Parliament sought to arrange a meeting in a foreign state with a senior intelligence official and also proactively provided the intelligence officer with information provided in confidence.”

In Tuesday’s Question Period in the House of Commons, only the Bloc Quebecois had any queries for Trudeau about the report, asking how the government was responding to a document that detailed  “inaction, incompetence and denial” over foreign interferences.”

The prime minister responded that he takes the report “very seriously” and is “taking all necessary measures” to address it. 

It stated that those who “wittingly” served their foreign masters were particularly members of Parliament and senators – "with a view to having the Canadian act in favour of the foreign actor and against Canada’s interests. In this respect, their efforts extended beyond normal diplomatic activities.”

The report described how “foreign states developed clandestine networks surrounding candidates and elected officials to gain undisclosed influence and leverage over nomination processes, elections, parliamentary business and government decision-making. Run by foreign states’ officials, these informal networks consisted of Canadian ethnocultural community leaders and prominent businesspersons, political staffers, candidates and elected officials. Foreign officials conveyed their candidate preferences to their networks, after which co-optees or proxies promoted the chosen slate to targeted groups of voters.”

The committee defined foreign interference as “attempts to covertly influence, intimidate, manipulate, interfere, corrupt or discredit individuals, organizations and governments to further the interests of a foreign country. These activities, carried out by both state and non-state actors, are directed at Canadian entities both inside and outside of Canada, and directly threaten national security.”

The report stated that elected officials can be recruited into serving a foreign state through either threats or promises of “favors.”

Threats could include blackmail while favors “may include direct payments, cash, in-kind campaign contributions, investment in their region, all-expenses-paid trips to the foreign country, or promises of an employment opportunity or a paid position requiring little to no work after leaving public office. This is intended to build a sense of debt or reciprocity.”

The report noted that once a favor is accepted, the foreign state can then use it to blackmail the official, “as a ‘bargaining chip’ to gain leverage over their target.”

The report noted a 2019 committee review on Government Response to Foreign Interference and said “the most significant perpetrators of foreign interference in Canada were the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation, with the PRC representing the greatest foreign interference threat. The Committee also noted that other states, including India, [redacted], Pakistan and Iran engaged in foreign interference activities. The Committee found that these activities posed a significant risk to national security, principally by undermining Canada’s fundamental institutions and eroding the rights and freedoms of people in Canada.

The report also stated that “there are clear examples of witting and co-opted community organizations engaging in foreign interference in democratic institutions and processes” but the names of these organizations are also censored.
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