Commission on Foreign Interference | There was interference, without affecting the results of the ballots, says Judge Hogue

(Ottawa) There is no doubt that foreign states engaged in foreign interference activities during the 2019 and 2021 general elections. But these clandestine and deceptive maneuvers carried out by authoritarian countries like China did not affect the results of these two ballots, concludes Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, who chairs the Commission on Foreign Interference.

In an initial report eagerly awaited by the political class, Judge Hogue warns, however, that foreign interference remains an evolving and growing threat.

Everything must therefore be done to detect, prevent and counter it. Otherwise, Canadians’ confidence in their democratic institutions risks fraying, she warned.

“Acts of foreign interference were committed during the last two federal general elections, but they did not undermine the integrity of our electoral system, the strength of which has not been shaken. Voters were able to vote, their votes were duly recorded and counted, but there is no suggestion that there was any interference whatsoever in this regard,” the judge argued in her 227-page report.

The foreign interference that took place also had no impact on the identity of the party that formed the government in the last two elections. These acts of interference which were carried out (…) nevertheless tainted the electoral process in the sense that they had repercussions on the process which preceded the vote itself.

Extract from the report of Judge Marie-Josée Hogue

That said, Justice Hogue believes that it is “possible” that the disinformation campaign carried out by organizations linked to the Beijing regime on social networks such as WeChat and targeting outgoing Conservative MP Kenny Chiu in the riding of Steveston-Richmond- East, in British Columbia, during the 2021 election, “led to the election of one candidate more than another.” But she does not have the irrefutable proof to confirm this.

The judge cannot conclude either, as former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole argued before the Commission, that the disinformation campaign waged against him and his party during the last election campaign, due to the positions judged hostile towards China, would have caused this political party to lose up to eight constituencies.

I note that several people have suggested that foreign interference impacted many seats in the 2021 elections. In my view, the evidence before me does not support such a conclusion.

Extract from the report of Judge Marie-Josée Hogue

But she adds further “whether the electoral results are affected or not, the fact remains that foreign interference is widespread, insidious and harmful to Canada’s democratic institutions. »

“The mere possibility that disinformation carried out and encouraged by a foreign authority could have had a decisive impact in a constituency is serious. »

In the case of the race for the Liberal Party nomination in the riding of Don Valley-North in 2019, won by candidate Han Dong, it would have been tainted by maneuvers by people close to officials of the Chinese communist regime. Among other things, foreign students of Asian origin were bused in large numbers to the inauguration grounds in an effort to support it.

While Justice Hogue did not have the mandate to determine what happened at this nomination meeting, she maintains that this incident shows to what extent nomination races “can be gateways for “Foreign states that wish to interfere in our democratic processes.”

She notes that the eligibility criteria for voting in the Liberal Party nomination races “are not very strict” and the control measures in force “do not seem vigorous.” It also intends to examine this aspect “carefully” during the second phase of the Commission’s work.


Liberal MP Han Dong

Recall that Mr. Dong left the Liberal caucus last year after the Global News network reported that he suggested to a Chinese diplomat stationed in Toronto that Beijing should delay the release of two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig , so as not to help the Conservative Party’s electoral cause. Mr. Dong, who has since served as an independent MP, denied the allegations and filed a lawsuit against Global News.

In her report, the judge notes that foreign interference activities have nevertheless affected public confidence in Canadian democracy. She also notes that these activities do not affect the entire Canadian population equally. They cause more harm to diaspora communities in the country, such as the Chinese and Indian diaspora, among others. “Their experiences should not be ignored and special attention should be given to them. »

The report submitted by Judge Hogue is the result of several months of investigation and 21 days of hearings, including 15 days which took place in public. In all, 66 witnesses were heard and the Commission was able to consult thousands of pages of documents affecting national security that were not redacted.

In a statement she read after the unveiling of her initial report, the judge emphasizes that her findings are not necessarily definitive. They could be modified in light of the work of the second phase, which will focus in particular on the way in which secret information concerning foreign interference circulated between intelligence agencies and the government and the measures which were taken to counter this threat .

This fall, the Commission will hear from experts on measures the federal government should adopt to better detect and counter clandestine and deceptive activities carried out by authoritarian regimes. The final report containing its recommendations must be tabled no later than December 31, less than a year before the next federal election, scheduled for October 2025.


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