Canadian spy chief says he repeatedly warned Trudeau about Chinese interference in elections

CSIS chief contradicts Trudeau on Chinese election interference


Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault told a special inquiry into election meddling that he has warned the Trudeau government repeatedly about foreign interference.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided hours of tight-lipped testimony to the inquiry on Thursday that tended to undermine CSIS and its grip on foreign interference and he insisted that federal elections had been “decided by Canadians.”

Trudeau made the comments after CSIS documents and testimony had previously revealed that China had interfered in both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, had targeted at least 18 constituencies and had briefed the Prime Minister’s Office about this activity on 34 separate occasions, dating back to 2018.

The prime minister revealed during his testimony that he doesn't read briefing memos.

Trudeau’s assertions prompted the inquiry to bring back Vigneault to address the widening gap between what Trudeau knew and what CSIS told.

Vigneault told the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference Friday that he has been relaying messages to the federal government for years that Canada is not taking enough time or making sufficient effort to block foreign interference Canada’s domestic operations, including elections.

The spy chief said he has reiterated his message that the Trudeau government cannot ignore these warnings and pretend there are “no consequences” for doing so.

“I can say with confidence that this is something that has been conveyed to the government, to ministers, the prime minister, using these words and other types of words,” he said.

Vigneault’s testimony can only be seen as a repudiation of Trudeau’s assertions the day before that he was not briefed about foreign—read Chinese—election interference.

Moreover, Trudeau suggested he didn’t believe there was a problem with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) because he didn’t believe the communist country had any desire to help elect a Liberal government.

The inquiry was Trudeau’s reluctant response to demands from the Official Opposition Conservative Party for an investigation into the CSIS reports that were leaked to the national media in 2023. Trudeau appointed Justice Marie-Josée Hogue to lead the inquiry last September after first appointing Special Rapporteur David Johnston to investigate the matter.

The CSIS document that reported PRC interference in federal elections is dated Feb. 21, 2023 and was introduced as part of the inquiry’s documents. It was promulgated after a whistleblower leaked information about the election interference to the media, primarily to The Globe and Mail, that explained how China had meddled in the 2021 federal election that culminated in a Liberal minority government.

“We know that the PRC clandestinely and deceptively interfered both in the 2019 and 2021 general elections,” the document said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

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