Personnel currently and formerly employed by Canadian intelligence services have warned about the possibility that six different countries are going out of their way to meddle in the Canadian federal election.
These countries include China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Of the six, China and India, are the primary concern for such officials.
On September 16, several of these individuals, most of whom wanted to stay anonymous, spoke with CBC Newsover the potential for election meddling. They explain that many of the tactics employed by China, specifically, involve the insertion of foreign actors or spies who masquerade as diplomats, allowing them access to key positions and people of influence within the country.
“It’s not the new school of the Russians using the internet to interfere in the U.S. elections by moving public opinion in this direction or that direction. It’s the old way of trying to recruit people, trying to secure influence and make connections,” said former CSIS director Ward Elcock.
“Sometimes they’re seeking influence. They would like to affect Canadian policies.”
He called this form of spying “old school,” compared to “new school” methods of hiring teams of social media persons and coders to manipulate algorithms and search results.
However, both tend to target ethnically vulnerable communities (those who may still feel allegiances to home countries they or their parents are originally from. An example of this, that the CBC put out, would be targeting Chinese-Canadian communities and promoting rallies to promote pro-China MPs.
President of Insight Threat Intelligence and a former CSIS analyst Jessica Davis questions the effectiveness of using human actors in influencing election outcomes.
“Sometimes it can be very effective and states can put a lot of money behind a particular candidate and potentially get the outcome that they want,” Davis said. “But in other instances the electorate does what its wants to do and it’s very difficult to influence that.”
Currently, these concerns are not so great that it needs a formal address, but many are worried that operations may be ongoing.
“A spokesperson for CSIS wouldn’t comment on operations and ongoing investigations but said the agency “collects information about foreign interference as well as hostile state activities and provides advice and intelligence assessments to the Government about these events,” reports CBC.