Canada’s spy agency has noted an “alarming escalation” of espionage and foreign interference since the beginning of the pandemic, with countries like China threatening or intimidating people in Canada into namely supporting a specific electoral candidate.
“These activities are real, they’re persistent, they’re increasing, and it’s not hypothetical, we see it everyday in our work. And these activities will be targeting all level of governments, whether it’s federal, municipal, provincial,” veteran CSIS intelligence analyst Noura Hayek told attendees of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws conference.
Hayek, who now heads one of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) public outreach units, described foreign interference as one of the “most serious” and “most complex” threats currently facing Canada. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia are at the forefront of the threat, she said.
Foreign “adversaries” are acting against Canadian politicians, political parties and electoral processes to influence public opinion and undermine the country’s democratic system, she told a panel on the impact of disinformation on elections.
“Certain state actors, such as the PRC, they really try and manipulate our democratic system to further their own interests or to discredit our institutions.”
CSIS actively investigated a number of threats related to the 2021 federal election.
“Foreign states and their proxies are threatening and intimidating people in Canada,” she added. “The point is to attempt to influence their behaviour and their opinions. Individuals may be threatened or they have fear of reprisals if they fail to comply, for example, to vote for a specific person or contribute funds to a foreign state’s preferred party or candidate.”
From The Shadows Emerges Knowledge