Feds to unveil new measures to combat election interference
Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2019 7:32PM EST
OTTAWA -- The federal government is set to unveil new measures on Wednesday aimed at further shoring up Canada’s electoral system and combatting expected foreign interference.
Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould will be joined by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in unveiling these next steps, with the next federal election just nine months away.
The announcement comes after work across government departments and federal intelligence agencies to enhance Canada’s readiness to defend the democratic process from cyber threats.
“We are preparing for all foreign interference and we take all these threats very seriously. We’ve seen a number of countries around the world and as a government we’re going to take a whole of government approach,” Gould told reporters on Parliament Hill on Tuesday.
Canada is taking steps to protect the electoral system. This includes passing new legislation to keep out foreign spending; working with Elections Canada to prevent voting infrastructure from being hacked; and, collaborating with social media companies on plans to combat fake news and disinformation from interfering with public opinion during the campaign.
As well, at the G7 in Charlevoix, Canada signed onto a multi-pronged commitment on defending democracy from foreign threats. Among the pledges in the agreement: establishing a “rapid response mechanism” with the aim of better co-ordinating, identifying, and responding to threats to the respective G7 countries’ democracies; and to “support public learning and civic awareness aimed at promoting critical thinking skills and media literacy on intentionally misleading information.”
Scott Jones, who is the head of the government’s new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, told CTVNews.ca in the fall that one aspect that was still being worked out was when -- and how -- to approach informing the public about concerning online behaviour or content that comes to federal authorities’ attention, without being seen as a branch of the public service interfering in the campaign.
“We want to make sure that we’re helping to enable others to have that conversation, probably we’re not the best place to be the ones to call it out during the election itself,” Jones said at the time.
Citing examples including foreign interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election and disinformation that flooded the Brexit referendum, as well as the Cambridge Analytica Facebook data scandal, both Canadian and international intelligence services have warned we’re not immune to some form of cyber interference happening here, and that the 2019 federal campaign will be playing out in a new threat environment.