Yes, Justin, There is a Serious Foreign Interference Threat in Canada–and, by the way, the RCMP is Stretched to the Limit and Beyond in a Number of Fields

It certainly is time that the Liberal government started taking national security rather more seriously–particularly China’s nefarious activities within our overseas Chinese community, both those living here and those here temporarily such as the some 80,000 students [image at top refers to Chinese meddling in Australian politics].

Three stories on foreign interference, note Confucius Institutes at 3):

1) Globe and Mail:

China, Russia conducting ‘brazen’ interference in Canada, intelligence committee warns

Parliament’s national intelligence and security committee is warning that China and Russia are increasingly conducting foreign interference activities in Canada and trying to influence politicians, academics, students and the media here.

In a report tabled in the House of Commons and Senate Thursday [the annual report is here], the all-party committee outlined specific areas where Beijing and Moscow are threatening the country’s sovereignty and security as they try to influence government decision-making at all levels.

“The threat is real, if often hidden,” the report said. “The perpetrators have become more brazen and their activities more entrenched.”

Committee members were granted a high security clearance to read and hear sensitive intelligence briefings. Some key parts of their report were redacted.

“The committee believes there is ample evidence that Canada is the target of significant and sustained foreign interference activities,” David McGuinty, a Liberal MP who chairs the committee, said, reading from the report, which only named two countries, China and Russia as perpetrators [emphasis added, and there is also a fair amount of influence/interference activity by India, including its diplomatic missions, within the Indo-Canadian community–see, e.g., here].

“These states target Canada for a variety of reasons, but all seek to exploit the openness of our society and penetrate our fundamental institutions to meet their objectives.”

The MPs called for a “whole of government approach” to fighting this meddling, saying if foreign interference is left unchecked, it will “slowly erode the foundations of our fundamental institutions including our democracy itself.”

The committee paid particular attention to the activities of China, saying it is conducted “clandestine and coercive measures” that target and threaten individuals around the globe, including those living in Canada [emphasis added].

“Foreign interference activities are targeted at three key areas: the electoral process at all stages, elected officials and their staff; and sub-national areas of government,” the report said.

There is also growing concern among Canadian security agencies about the relationships between overseas Chinese student associations on campuses and China’s embassies and consulates, the committee said, noting reports of “growing ideological pressure” from Chinese diplomats to toe the party line [emphasis added]

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia manipulate mainstream media and “ethnic media” in Canada to push their messages.

There are approximately 650 publications and 120 radio and TV programs in Canada that are published or broadcast in languages other than English and French, some of these are “heavily influenced and manipulated, either unwittingly or wittingly” by foreign states, the report said.

“The PRC is seeking to harmonize international Chinese language media with its own by attempting to merge the editorial boards of those outlets with PRC media,” the report said. “This would result in the PRC controlling the message in Chinese-language media, thereby undermining the free and independent media in this country [emphasis added].”

On Russia, the committee said that some of Moscow’s intelligence officers “under diplomatic cover, have engaged in threat-related activities.”

2) CTV:

‘The threat is real,’ top-secret committee says of foreign interference in Canada

The top-secret National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) has found that the federal government has been slow to react to the threat of foreign interference…

“The government must do better,” reads the 180-page report…

NSICOP spent part of the last year digging into classified information and consulting top-level intelligence authorities on Canada’s national security and the measures currently in place to counter foreign interference. Despite the efforts taken to shore up Canadian intelligence and elections agencies, more needs to be done to keep up with the evolving threat, the committee has found.

…Canada is not alone in being targeted, it’s a challenge being faced by all NATO countries, who the report said are being targeted by the same states, “using many of the same techniques.”

The committee is issuing a reminder to parliamentarians that upon being sworn-in and recurring during their time in office, MPs and Senators should be briefed on the risks they face in terms of interference and extremism; and ministers should exercise discretion when it comes to whom they meet with…

3) UPDATE: CBC:

China and Russia’s meddling ‘a clear threat to the security of Canada’: report

One of the main ways foreign actors try to seek influence in Canada is through targeting and manipulating ethnocultural communities here, said the committee’s report.

“Some individuals willingly act as agents of a foreign power for a variety of reasons, including patriotism or the expectation of reciprocal favours,” it said.

But others are pressured into doing foreign actors’ bidding through threats, harassment and the detention of family members abroad, the report said,

The People’s Republic of China uses its growing wealth to mobilize its interference operations and can call on its citizens to contribute, said the committee, which is made up of both MPs and senators.

“It is likely that citizens can be compelled to assist PRC state actors in interference efforts if and when those efforts fall under the broader definition of ‘national intelligence work’ and ‘national intelligence efforts,'” the committee’s report says…

It names Confucius Institutes and Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSAs), two organizations that offer support for international students.While the committee notes the CSSAs are not nefarious in and of themselves, “there is growing public concern about the relationship between the associations and the [People’s Republic of China] embassies and consulates.”

Confucius Institutes are funded by the Chinese government to teach Chinese language and culture. CSIS pointed the committee to New Brunswick, which recently shut down a Confucius Institute due to community complaints related to foreign interference.

The Canadian report quotes the findings of a U.S. Homeland Security committee which found that “Confucius Institute funding comes with strings that can compromise academic freedom.”

“The Chinese government approves all teachers, events, and speakers,” the U.S. government committee said. “The Chinese teachers sign contracts with the Chinese government pledging they will not damage the national interests of China.”..

[Post from 2014 (!!!): “What Does Confucius Say? Well, the Institutes are Chicom Fronts“]

The report goes on to recommend a number of ways the government should respond, 

McGuinty said the government needs to craft a new strategy, across departments, to counter the threat. The report highlighted Australia, a Five Eyes ally, which has set up a national counter foreign interference coordinator [emphasis added]

I must say that I am impressed with the seriousness of the NSICOP’s work, something which I did not anticipate. Now the poor Mounties:

RCMP issues dire warning about its ability to police terrorism, foreign interference and cybercrime

The RCMP is sounding an alarm over what it calls “significant resourcing challenges” as demands on its terrorism-fighting and cybercrime investigators grow — and is warning that if it doesn’t get help soon, it might not be able to properly police those files.

The RCMP flagged potential problems in a pair of recent reports — its 2020-2021 departmental plan, tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday, and its most recent financial records.

“Without sufficient technology, tools and information systems, there is a risk that federal policing may not be able to meet critical operational requirements,” says the departmental plan, which outlines the RCMP’s plans for the year to come.

“Overall, there is a risk that without new funding, federal policing will be unable to deliver on its already narrowed and focused scope [emphasis added].

The document says the RCMP’s federal policing unit will concentrate its efforts on high-priority investigations related to terrorist activities, foreign interference, organized crime, money laundering, serious and organized cyber-enabled criminal activities and foreign-influenced cybercrime…

According to its December quarterly financial report, quietly posted online late last month, government-wide cuts in recent years have put “significant financial pressures” on the national police force.

Given the increasing demands on RCMP resources, particularly on national security files, the RCMP is facing significant resourcing challenges [emphasis added],” the report said…

Related Stories

B.C. RCMP orders immediate spending cuts amid predicted $10.7M shortfall

RCMP’s ability to police digital realm ‘rapidly declining,’ commissioner warned

Short-staffed RCMP looking at ‘everything’ to attract new recruits

Scope of right-wing extremism vexed security officials, documents show

And will there now be any extra funding, what with COVID-19 and all that?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

13 thoughts on “Yes, Justin, There is a Serious Foreign Interference Threat in Canada–and, by the way, the RCMP is Stretched to the Limit and Beyond in a Number of Fields”

  1. A concerned friend with experience in international relations suggests:

    ‘First off: a foreign agents registration act to include Canadian “consultants” acting on behalf of foreign governments. Should be broad enough to encompass the “cultural” & media people working on behalf of foreign governments, without necessarily censoring their output. And, for sure, all the members of the Canada-China business associations.”‘

    Mark Collins

    Like

    1. Prof. Chas. Burton right on the yuan, as usual:

      Mark Collins

      Like

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