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CSIS warns state-sponsored efforts targeting Canada's elections are on the rise

CSIS noted that activities are "increasingly observed online, where threat actors have refined their ability to conduct disinformation and foreign interference campaigns."

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver BC

A new report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) suggests foreign interference in Canada's elections by state-sponsored actors is on the rise.

Election interference by foreign governments is not a new phenomenon, however the tactics recently used by state actors with bad intentions have become increasingly sophisticated.

In their July 2021 report, CSIS outlined the threats Canada faces, and what can be done to combat them. "Canada is an open and free democracy," they begin, "with a reputation of being a friendly and welcoming country. Not everyone, however, shares these values. Some foreign states, or their proxies, use deceptive, clandestine or coercive means to advance their strategic interests at the expense of Canada’s. This is foreign interference and it is a threat to Canada’s national security."

CSIS described foreign actors may target Canada for its "abundance of natural resources, advanced technology, human talent, and expertise," adding that "Canada’s close relationship with the United States, its status as a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its participation in a number of multilateral and bilateral defence and trade agreements, as well as the Five Eyes community, has also made it an attractive target for foreign interference."

The agency discussed several ways foreign actors could influence elections, noting that activities are "increasingly observed online, where threat actors have refined their ability to conduct disinformation and foreign interference campaigns."

"Foreign states," they continue, "attempt to manipulate social media to amplify societal differences, sow discord and undermine confidence in fundamental government institutions or electoral processes. They may use a coordinated approach to amplify a single narrative while also promoting inflammatory content." The remainder of the report details other ways Canada's democratic process may be attacked, including via the manipulation of traditional media. They warn that anyone, from voters to politicians may be targeted.

"Canada’s democratic institutions and processes are strong," the report concludes, "and the Government of Canada actively works to ensure their continued protection. However, keeping Canada’s democratic institutions, political system, and democracy safe requires a national security-aware population. This means that all citizens need to know about the threats to Canada’s democracy and be equipped to protect themselves from foreign interference. We all have a role to play in protecting Canada’s democracy."

The report comes as many Canadians expect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call an election in the near future, putting everything CSIS has learned to the test.

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