Chinese election meddling could undermine Canada democracy, says spy agency

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Persistent Chinese election meddling has the potential to undermine Canadian democracy, Canada’s main spy agency said on Tuesday in the latest official warning about clandestine activity by Beijing.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) made its comments in an annual report issued days after an official inquiry found China had tried to interfere in the last two Canadian elections.

CSIS said China, known formally as the People’s Republic of China, or PRC, used deceptive methods in a bid to influence policy-making at all levels of government as well as in academia and the media.

“Such activity, which seeks to advance PRC national interests, has the potential to undermine Canada’s democratic process and its institutions,” it said. China regularly dismisses such charges.

China and organisations linked to the ruling Chinese Communist Party “remain an enduring threat to Canadian information, technology, democratic institutions, and diaspora communities”, CSIS said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government on Monday introduced draft legislation designed to counter foreign interference. It proposes a registry for people lobbying on behalf of another country and would allow CSIS more freedom to share information with the public.

Last week, CSIS Director David Vigneault told legislators that Chinese efforts to steal technology were “mind-boggling”.

The official opposition Conservative Party, well ahead in opinion polls, regularly accuses Trudeau of not doing enough to combat Chinese interference.

Trudeau told the official inquiry last month that despite Chinese meddling in the last two elections, the results were not affected. The Liberals won both votes, in 2019 and 2021.

The Chinese embassy in Ottawa, asked for a response to the CSIS report, noted that a foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing said on Monday that “China has never and will never have any interest in interfering in Canada’s internal affairs”.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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