Office of Election Commissioner dismissed 116 complaints of foreign interference, zero attempted prosecutions

'Foreign components in investigations almost always give rise to delays, complexities and other challenges,' wrote staffers in a briefing note.

Office of Election Commissioner dismissed 116 complaints of foreign interference, zero attempted prosecutions
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
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At least 116 complaints of alleged foreign interference in Canada’s last two general elections were dismissed without any attempts at prosecution, reveals a new story from Blacklock’s Reporter. 

Staffers at the Office of Elections Commissioner Caroline Simard are shown to have complained that investigations into foreign interference are essentially too hard.

“Foreign components in investigations almost always give rise to delays, complexities and other challenges,” read a November 1 briefing note. “A significant amount of time and resources will often be required simply to obtain the evidence located outside Canada. If evidence is under the jurisdiction of a country with which Canada does not have cooperation agreements it may even be impossible to acquire the evidence.”

According to the commissioner’s office, there were 16 allegations of interference in the 2021 campaign, all of which were dismissed. There were 158 complaints made in the 2019 campaign, 100 of which were dismissed. The briefing note that was the subject of the Blacklock’s story did not clarify the results of the remaining 58 complaints. 

The Canada Elections Act prohibits a wide variety of activities by foreign agents with regards to elections. Foreign agents may not use funds for partisan activities, unduly influence voters, or “knowingly incur any expense to directly promote or oppose a candidate.” Foreign agents are also forbidden from using any type of intimidation tactics to compel a voter to vote a certain way, or not vote. 

The Elections Commissioner to date has never prosecuted a foreign interference case. The briefing note stated, “There have been no formal measures taken.”

Foreign interference in elections has been a hot-button issue for months, as new details are revealed about the extent of China's influence on Canadian politics. A May 1 bombshell story in the Globe and Mail revealed that a Chinese Ministry of State Security officer wanted information on relatives Conservative MP Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont.) in order to impose sanctions on them. Chong had tabled a parliamentary motion declaring Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs to be genocide in February 2021. The Globe story was followed by the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat, Zhao Wei, from Canada on May 8. 

Fascinatingly, intimidation efforts against Chong were the subject of a ‘secret’ pre-election memo as early as July 20, 2021. Judy Thomas, national security advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, testified before the House affairs committee on June 1, 2022 that she never read the memo, since she had been on a month-long vacation. Chong himself was never informed about specific threats to himself or his family. “At a minimum, I would have expected my government to have a duty of care to inform me that my family was being targeted,” he said. 

In March, David Johnston was appointed Independent Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference. He released a report in May in which he concluded that “Foreign governments are undoubtedly attempting to influence candidates and voters in Canada." 

"Much has been done already, but considerably more remains to be done to strengthen our capacity to resist foreign interference," Johnston wrote. He later abruptly resigned on June 9, citing the politicized atmosphere surrounding his appointment. Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre had criticized Johnston's history with the Trudeau family. 

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  • By Sheila Gunn Reid

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