Canada struggles with curbing foreign interference: ‘Often we cannot do anything’
That was the assessment given to a House of Commons committee earlier this month by Canada’s deputy commissioner of elections, referring to 23 files their office received about potential foreign interference in the country’s two most recent elections.
The details of the complaints, lodged by members of the public, are not widely known. But they have not resulted in any consequences to date.
And while the RCMP confirmed this week that they are probing “broader foreign actor interference activities,” the force noted that the investigations are among the most sensitive files currently handled by the force. That’s likely not only due to the political sensitivities involved, but the sophistication of some of the actors believed to be exerting the influence.
Some of these reported influence activities don’t break the letter of federal elections law, while others fall outside the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Canada Elections — such as the deliberate sowing of misinformation.
But deputy commissioner Marc Chénier’s comments suggest gaps in efforts to curb foreign influence in Canadian elections. Canadian security and intelligence agencies are increasingly sounding the alarm about the issue, and one country in particular: China.
“Beijing starts off by wanting to suppress, to the extent it can, anything negative about itself,” Dick Fadden, Canada’s former spymaster and a national security advisor to two prime ministers.
“It doesn’t like negative press, it doesn’t like negative bills before Parliament or a legislature. It wants to be able to have people in place who will not do negative things, or who will fight negative things.”
According to the elections watchdog, the complaints against “foreign components” can pose significant hurdles to their investigations, and noted the challenge is “not unique” to their office.
Some activities, like spreading misinformation on social media platforms, fall outside the commissioner’s jurisdiction. And without a foreign agents registry — which would require anyone acting on behalf of a foreign power to publicly declare their work — much of it goes unnoticed by the wider public.
“We have to compare this kind of activity with other activities with foreign involvement that are more concrete. Terrorism, for example, there’s a bomb involved, there’s something concrete,” Fadden said. “You can pursue it; you can find it.
“Here, it’s much more difficult. You can’t have (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) investigating all constituencies in Canada for this kind of thing, that would be an affront to democracy in itself.”
Questions about foreign interference have once again become an issue of debate in the House of Commons after Global News reported earlier in November that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet were briefed in January 2022 about a clandestine network guided by the Chinese consulate in Toronto.
According to Global News sources, this loosely affiliated group comprised politicians and aides from the Liberals and Conservatives, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) attempting to place people sympathetic to its agenda in political offices to influence government policy.
Other intelligence sources told Global that the consulate disbursed $250,000 through proxies to the network, which included 11 or more candidates standing for election in 2019.
While the briefings did not allege that Beijing was directly funding those candidates, that’s how the issue has been interpreted in the political debate in the House of Commons.
“I do not have any information, nor have I been briefed on any federal candidates receiving any money from China,” Trudeau said in response to Global’s reporting.
“The Prime Minister has used words to obscure the answer. He says that there was not interference in a significant way that would have changed the outcome (of the 2019 election),” charged Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on Tuesday.
“Was there any interference of any kind?”
“Interference in Canadians’ affairs by foreign powers is an ongoing thing,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded.
“Whether it is cyber interference, whether it is interference with communities in Canada, whether it is attempts to influence the media, these are things that take place on an ongoing basis and things that our intelligence agencies and police agencies work very hard to counter. However, Canadians can be reassured that the integrity of our elections was not compromised.”
The Canadian government started taking election interference seriously in 2017 — largely in response to the 2016 U.S. presidential election and questions about Russian interference. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped key ministers to monitor and counter foreign interference, and the country’s spy and law enforcement agencies were tasked with ensuring the integrity of the 2019 and 2021 elections.
Despite the intelligence agencies’ attention — and the documented evidence of pervasive foreign influence in Canadian domestic affairs — there have been no charges, and senior bureaucrats have determined the activity merits publicly warning of Canadian voters.
Trudeau has focused his responses to Global News’ reporting on the fact that senior officials — including Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault — have confidence in the integrity of recent elections.
But both things can be true at the same time — that the overall integrity of the vote in 2019 was not compromised, and foreign powers attempted to influence the results in specific ridings.
That there were foreign influence operations targeting the 2019 election is not in dispute. A February 2021 document from the federal Public Safety department reviewed by Global News stated the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) investigated multiple foreign “threats” during that election, and provided classified briefings about the operations to a panel of senior bureaucrats tasked with safeguarding the election.
The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) found that the service strayed from the law in attempting to disrupt some of those perceived threats.
Documents tabled by the RCMP with a Commons committee this week suggest the national police force is currently probing foreign interference, but declined to share details about their ongoing investigations.
“Foreign actor interference investigations are some of the most sensitive national security investigations the RCMP currently conducts, and it must make every effort to protect the integrity of these investigations,” RCMP Chief Brenda Lucki told the Procedure and House Affairs committee, which is investigating questions about foreign influence operations, in a letter.
Fadden told Global News that he doesn’t believe security and intelligence agencies have enough “tools” to pursue complex foreign influence investigations.
“They certainly have a general awareness. Do they have all the tools (they need)? I’m not sure,” he said.
Another former national security advisor to Trudeau, Vicent Rigby, has advocated for a federal registry of Canadians engaged by a foreign power to act on its behalf.
Similar registries have been put in place by close security allies, including the United States and Australia. The United Kingdom recently proposed its own version.
“As an open democracy, Canada has found itself susceptible to interference from adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran, but also from allies or partners such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and India. Such interference can include threats, intimidation, and harassment of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, in some cases pressuring them to stop criticizing the human rights and other policies of those states,” read a recent report on Canada’s national security policy, co-led by Rigby.
“While Canadian law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been aware of these concerns for years, individuals who face such harassment are often bounced between local police, the RCMP, CSIS, and other organizations, and express frustration that their appeals are lost interagency processes.”
Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu proposed a Canadian version of a foreign agents registry in April 2021. The bill went nowhere — dying after first reading in the House of Commons, and Chiu went on to lose his Richmond, B.C. riding in the 2021 election.
Chiu’s riding was one of 13 the Conservatives suspected was targeted by Beijing, and Chiu claimed he was the target of a “smear campaign” during the election as a result of his push for a registry.
Even with more transparency around foreign interventions, or more powers for security and intelligence agencies to investigate these threats, it will be difficult for Canadian authorities to hold determined and sophisticated foreign actors from attempting to influence the country’s democratic process.
“Tracking the financial flows ranges from very straightforward to impossible,” said Insight Threat Intelligence’s Jessica Davis, a former Canadian security analyst specializing in financial intelligence.
“If they don’t feel like they’re breaking any laws, and they’re not concerned about the perception of foreign influence or foreign interference, they could be doing something as simple as sending an electronic funds transfer … to the candidate’s campaign. If you have a warrant, that is a clear, very easy thing to track.”
“If they are concerned about people knowing about it, and traceability, then we start getting into the realm of potential third parties, front companies, front accounts, cash transactions. It really ranges in terms of sophistication from absolutely none to you will only ever have a theory about this and won’t be able to prove it,” Davis added.
A spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry said Beijing “never interferes in other countries’ internal affairs,” and suggested allegations China interfered in the 2019 federal election are “completely groundless.”
With files from Global News’ wire services.
Canada's tourism minister predicts industry will help offset tough economic times | Globalnews.ca – Global News
Randy Boissonnault joined hundreds of business leaders from across the province on Wednesday for the 2022 Tourism Summit in Halifax.
Boissonnault says Canada is heading into choppy waters when it comes to the economy, but the tourism industry will help offset the effects.
He cites the war in Ukraine, ongoing supply chain issues and the rise in inflation as some of the factors pointing to a slowing of the economy.
He says Halifax’s tourism is already in a good place to help weather the storm.
“Nova Scotia is doing really well just from the hotel occupancy rate,” according to Boissonnault. “Nova Scotia hotels are at about 71 per cent, which is higher than the Canadian average, which is about 65 per cent. So that tells you there’s something special in Nova Scotia. People want to see the province. They want to come to Halifax. It’s a regional powerhouse city.”
John Simon is the president of CanadVac Travel Services. He’s not so sure the industry has fully recovered from the pandemic.
“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 per cent convinced of that yet,” Simon says.
Florida woman sues Kraft for $5M over Velveeta pasta prep time
One winning ticket sold for Tuesday’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot
“A lot of the tourism operators have come through with significant challenges in terms of debt load, making it through two years and more of no income. Of course, the federal programs helped in terms of making it through but they also put them in a position of a lot of debt. So a recession on top of that debt – even if the tourism industry is rebounding – is going to make it challenging for those tourism operators over the longer term to survive.”
Maritimes wrapping up 2022 cruise ship season
The President of Tourism HR Canada says another problem is that the industry has lost a significant chunk of its workforce since the pandemic.
“It’s a real significant challenge for the industry for sure,” Philip Mondor says. “Although there is a lot of demand for growth and recovery, we’re hampered by the fact that we do not have enough workers to fill all of the roles we have.”
There were 2.1 million workers pre-pandemic, according to Mondor. That number is now down to 1.67 million workers.
Scott MacAulay with the Inverary Resort in Cape Breton says his business has had a terrific year and he’s optimistic for the future.
“There’s a pent-up demand for travel,” he says. “People seem to be able to find a way with the product we have in Nova Scotia with the great outdoors and lots of wide-open spaces. People feel comfortable and safe.”
He recommends if a business is struggling to try and adapt to what people are looking for after pandemic years, including offering more outdoor activities all season.
© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
'This is not inclusion': Canadian hockey parents frustrated as foreign-born kids asked to apply for transfer – CBC.ca
Mark Donkers of Sarnia, Ont., is your typical hockey-loving Canadian kid. The 11-year-old is proud to play for the under-12 BB Sarnia Sting junior team.
But while he wears the same jersey as his teammates — the one with the angry bee logo — Mark was told last month he couldn’t keep playing on the team until he provided more documentation, because he wasn’t born in Canada.
Mark has been playing hockey for years and the request came a week before a tournament in Kitchener.
He was born in Mexico and came to Canada with his Mexican-born mother, Adriana Mendoza, when he was a year old. His father is Canadian, and Mark and his mom have been Canadian citizens for more than 10 years.
But Mark was caught up by a rule of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the Zurich-based governing body of international hockey. The IIHF counts Canada among its 83 member associations.
The rule requires players of all ages who are in member nations to secure a transfer from their country of birth to the country where they plan to live and play hockey. Without this transfer, players born outside Canada can’t be on the roster of a Canadian team licensed by Hockey Canada.
Mendoza sees it as a barrier to play — particularly for children from diverse backgrounds — at a time when there’s a push to make the game more inclusive.
“We talk about inclusion, this is not inclusion,” said Mendoza. “This is against certain people from certain countries.”
Another parent in the Sarnia minor hockey association was tripped up by the same rule.
Harry Chadwick legally adopted his son Harrison from China in 2012 when Harrison was an infant.
Now 11, Harrison was also told he had to apply for a transfer, a process that requires forms to be filled out and a scan of the player’s passport to be sent to the local hockey organization. From there, the documents are forwarded to the hockey association in the player’s country of birth for approval.
‘Absolutely ridiculous,’ parent says
Like Mendoza, Chadwick said it’s a hoop his son shouldn’t be forced to jump through to play hockey.
“It’s pretty offensive to be asked to prove citizenship and get a transfer from a foreign country,” said Chadwick. “My son was 16 months old when he left China. It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
In response to calls for comment from CBC News, both the IIHF and Hockey Canada provided emailed statements about the transfer rule.
An IIHF spokesperson said the rule exists to ensure the integrity of the game and establish in writing which governing body a player falls under if they have roots in more than one country.
“For the integrity of the sport and to respect the rules of law, international transfers are regulated in ice hockey same as in many other team sports, to respect contractual obligations, suspensions and to avoid the circumvention of such,” the statement said.
A statement from Hockey Canada said that as an IIHF member, it has to follow the transfer rules.
The statement also said securing a transfer isn’t onerous: A player submits a form and documents, including a scan of the person’s passport, to Hockey Canada through their member hockey branch. The request is processed through an online system and the IIHF said transfers are typically processed in players’ birth country inside of seven days. Also, players under 18 aren’t charged a processing fee.
However, Chadwick said he doesn’t see the sense in making all players born outside Canada get a transfer when only a tiny fraction of children who strap on skates will ever play in high-level international tournaments where player eligibility could become a serious issue.
“You’re applying a rule that should apply to an Olympic team and imposing it on every hockey player in the country, even a player in Saturday Timbits hockey,” said Chadwick.
However, IIHF spokesperson Martin Merk said in an email to CBC News that it’s hard to predict if and when a player’s home jurisdiction may be called into question later on. He also said where a player is registered and eligible to play can become an issue in competition, even in leagues below the elite level.
“It’s good if everything has been properly documented,” said Merk.
Both Chadwick and Mendoza said vetting player eligibility should come later, and only for high-level players with the potential to land on national team rosters. They also said it’s wrong children have to worry about being eligible to play while a transfer is being processed.
In the end, both Donkers and Chadwick got their transfers quickly enough that it didn’t keep them off the ice. In Chadwick’s case, the local hockey association worked with Hockey Canada to get an exemption to allow him to play while the transfer was processed.
Mark Donkers’s transfer came from Mexico, but it didn’t happen until a day before his tournament.
For both players, the uncertainty and having to scramble was unsettling.
“I was very shocked that I had to do this,” said Mark Donkers. “I was very stressed out in the moment because I did not want to miss the tournament.”
Noor Othman has four boys enrolled in hockey, two were born in Lebanon, one in Syria where the family was fleeing civil war. The transfer process was confounding, especially given that she’s an Arabic speaker working to learn English. Chadwick and other parents worked together to understand the rules and fill out the forms.
Othman’s son Muhammad is 10. He doesn’t like any rule that applies to him but not his Canadian-born teammates.
“I just want to play and be like the other Sarnia Sting,” he said.
On TikTok, Chinese State Media Pushes Divisive Videos About U.S. Politicians – Forbes
Inflation and interest rates to slow Alberta economic growth: ATB
Young and old more likely to face severe flu. Here's why doctors think it happens – CBC News
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet’s surface
News21 hours ago
Educated immigrants face underemployment as Canada leads G7 in educated workforce
News22 hours ago
Trudeau says nothing is off the table when it comes to Smith’s new ‘sovereignty’ act
News20 hours ago
Largest recorded Alberta earthquake probably natural, scientist says
News23 hours ago
Senate motion to strip ‘Honourable’ title could affect at least two former senators
Sports15 hours ago
Maple Leafs extend win streak to five games as Marner enters record book – Sportsnet.ca
News21 hours ago
Snowfall gridlock in Metro Vancouver turns 45-minute commute into 12-hour frustration
News21 hours ago
Parti Québécois still refusing oath of office to King as Quebec legislature resumes
News22 hours ago
Ministerial staff shared information about soldiers’ role in “Freedom Convoy”