RCMP investigating 'foreign actor interference activities,' Lucki says, prompting China talk in the House
The RCMP has confirmed it is investigating "broader foreign actor interference activities" in Canada, but Commissioner Brenda Lucki is declining to provide more details given the investigations are "ongoing."
This confirmation came in a letter Lucki sent to the House of Commons committee studying foreign interference in Canadian elections.
This study was prompted by a Global News report that China allegedly interfered in Canada’s 2019 federal election, partly by funding the campaigns of at least 11 candidates, and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was briefed about the allegations in January. CTV News has not independently verified Global News’s reporting, which Trudeau has also disputed.
Lucki's correspondence does not name any country in relation to the investigations, but she did appear to back up what other federal officials have said: that the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force—of which the RCMP is part— "did not have any criminal investigations into election-related activities" in the context of the 2019 federal general election.
Lucki said this was because "there was no evidence at the time."
Now, the top Mountie says, the RCMP is "aware of foreign actor interference in relation to a broad range of activities, including interference in democratic processes."
And while "open dialogue on the impact of foreign actor interference on Canada, its citizens, and its democratic processes is critical in helping defend against these threats," Lucki said she is unable to provide the committee more information in order to protect the integrity of the work underway.
Lucki's letter prompted a series of questions to Trudeau during question period on Tuesday, specifically related to the 2019 federal election interference allegations.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked Trudeau directly whether he was informed of such allegations.
Trudeau responded that law enforcement officials take foreign interference seriously, and that he can ensure all Canadians that the 2019 and 2021 elections were free and fair.
In a back-and-forth between the Conservative leader and prime minister, Poilievre repeatedly asked not whether there was electoral interference, but rather whether Trudeau was told of allegations there was.
“I can confirm, based on the news reports that a number of people have been remarking on for the past number of weeks, that I have never gotten any information from any of our security agencies, or police officers, or intelligence officials, or public servants, any information on anyone receiving, as a federal candidate, money from China, as the allegations highlighted,” Trudeau emphasized.
He added there are always concerns about foreign interference in Canada generally, and in elections specifically, but that “Canadians can be reassured that the integrity of our elections was not compromised.”
Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet also addressed the alleged interference with the prime minister in question period — including how Trudeau’s handled it on the world stage — calling the issue confusing, and asking why it hasn’t been made public which 11 ridings may have been implicated.
Blanchet also said it’s hardly reassuring that Trudeau is sharing what he doesn’t know, as opposed to what he does know. He said Trudeau needs allies, instead of posturing for other world leaders. This, after a video of a tense interaction at the G20 Summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trudeau was widely shared earlier this month, when talking points from an unofficial conversation between the two were given to the media, listing interference as a subject they discussed.
Asked by reporters on Tuesday about the RCMP investigations, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said he'd defer to Lucki and the lead investigators into the matter, but that the federal government takes allegations of foreign interference "very seriously."
"CSIS and the RCMP do have existing protocols where they share information and intelligence, and those protocols are laid out by law and by statute,” Mendicino said. “What’s important is that they are able to do that work independently. And our job on the elected side of government is to equip them with the tools that they need to gather the intelligence, to gather the information, to gather the evidence that they need to root out potential foreign interference and where appropriate, to prosecute it in our courts.”