RCMP opens foreign interference investigation into 2021 general election

RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme opened a criminal investigation into 2021 election interference by an undisclosed number of individuals active in the campaign. 'We received information that prompted us to open an investigation,' he said.

RCMP opens foreign interference investigation into 2021 general election
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The RCMP has launched a criminal investigation into the 2021 election interference by foreign agents, according to Commissioner Michael Duheme. 

Testifying at the China inquiry, Duheme would not divulge specifics, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. “We received information that prompted us to open an investigation,” he said. 

The probe concerns an undisclosed number of individuals active in the campaign, but Duheme did not detail how many.

“Are we talking about five, fifty?” asked Sujit Choudhry, counsel for New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan. Federal lawyers objected. “There is no need to answer the question,” said Foreign Interference Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue.

In 2021 testimony at the Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, then-Commissioner Brenda Lucki said her police service received hundreds of tips alleging interference by foreign agents. “We get an average [of] 120 tips a day and we follow up obviously with all of them,” she said at the time.

Lucki clarified that as the volume of tips increases, the threat percentages significantly decline. “Some of it is just information that people might feel,” she said. “If it doesn’t meet the threshold of a criminal offence, we normally can’t deal with it.”

On Thursday, Commission counsel drilled Duheme on the nature of those tips, but did not receive considerable detail if any, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“Were you made aware of any information about alleged People’s Republic of China foreign interference in the 2021 election?” asked Morgan. “I am not 100 percent sure if it was during the election,” replied Duheme.

Last March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s National Security Adviser, Jody Thomas, confirmed that China remains a growing threat to Canada.

"We cannot paint an overly optimistic picture,” she testified at the House affairs committee. “Our adversaries adapt quickly and find innovative ways to interfere in our affairs, so we must continue to learn."

MPs on the committee quoted media reports of Chinese agents interfering through ‘misinformation’ campaigns, illegal donations, and as international students volunteering on select Liberal campaigns.

In February 2023, The Globe and Mail cited anonymous intelligence officials, who claimed China used a "sophisticated strategy" to interfere in the 2021 general election.

Chinese diplomats and their proxies worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered "hostile" towards Beijing during the 2019 and 2021 general elections. 

A trove of CSIS documents disclosed to the publication outlined that Beijing directed Chinese students studying in Canada to work as campaign volunteers. They also explained how China spread ‘misinformation’ and provided undeclared cash donations to candidates.

According to a heavily redacted intelligence report, security officials have been aware of Chinese interference for nearly four decades.

“Were you made aware of an alleged foreign interference network in the Greater Toronto Area?” asked Commission counsel Lynda Morgan. “I don’t recall having anything in writing,” replied Duheme.

“Were you made aware of any information in relation to MP Han Dong and alleged foreign interference in Don Valley North?” asked Morgan. “Not to my recollection,” he replied.

China used open political tactics and secret operations to influence and exploit the Chinese diaspora in Canada, according to the report published in 1986. It said China deployed potent techniques to accomplish these goals.

On April 2, Independent MP Han Dong testified that international Chinese students from out of town voted in his 2019 Liberal nomination. 

“I didn’t understand it as an irregularity,” Dong said at the China inquiry. The Commission disclosed a confidential intelligence memo alleging the Chinese Consulate in Toronto of busing foreign students to win the nomination for Dong.

That contravenes Trudeau's claim that foreign agents did not attempt to influence the most recent general elections.

Global News earlier reported that "community leaders and 'co-opted' political staffers 'under broad guidance' from the Toronto consulate serve as intermediaries between Chinese officials and the politicians Beijing was seeking to influence."

“Some intelligence reporting indicated students were provided with falsified documents to allow them to vote despite not being residents of Don Valley North,” the memo reads. “The documents were provided by individuals associated with a known proxy agent.”

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