Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he will appoint an “Independent special rapporteur,” who he says will have a “wide mandate and will make expert recommendations on combating interference and strengthening our democracy” amid allegations that his government ignored recommendations from CSIS noting concerns about candidates' connections to the Chinese Communist Party.
“In the last couple of weeks, Canadians have been reading and hearing a lot” about foreign interference by China in elections, Trudeau said.
Trudeau laid out ways that he says Canada has been protecting values of “freedom, openness, and dialogue,” saying that not every government around the world shares those values. Trudeau said that the Chinese and Russian governments have attempted to interfere in Canadian democracy, as well as “institutions, businesses, research facilities, or in the daily lives of our citizens.”
Trudeau said that foreign interference was felt in US and France's elections in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
“Today, all political leaders agree that the election outcomes in 2019 and 2021 were not impacted by foreign interference,” Trudeau said, “but even if it didn't change the results of any of our elections, any interference attempt by any foreign actor is troubling and serious,” Trudeau said, calling attempted interference something that is “evolving, including with the rise of technology and social media.” Trudeau said that his creation in 2017, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, was part of the success in fighting foreign interference.
Trudeau said that “some have argued strongly that a public inquiry is the necessary next step. Some others have pointed out the flaws and challenges of a public inquiry.”
“That's why we will ask the independent special rapporteur as one of the first tasks of their mandate to provide the government with the recommendation as to what the appropriate should be, whether it be an inquiry, an investigation, or a judicial review and what the scope of that work may be, and we will abide by their recommendation,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau then announced that $5.5 million would be invested to “build capacity of civil society organizations to combat disinformation,” adding that “disinformation often generated abroad can be a real threat to our elections, and it's a threat that the federal government cannot combat alone.”