Canada’s upcoming by-election in Toronto will face increased scrutiny against interference

Canada’s upcoming by-election in Toronto will face increased scrutiny against interference
Canada’s upcoming by-election in Toronto will face increased scrutiny against interference

Shortly after Justice Marie-Josée Hogue confirmed that foreign interference activities had taken place during the last two federal elections, the government announced that the by-election in the riding of Toronto-St Paul’s will take place under close surveillance.

The Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc, announced Tuesday that additional measures would be introduced to “protect” the election against any potential attempt at interference.

A working group composed of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment, Global Affairs Canada and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will notably carry out increased surveillance in this riding and produce two reports — l one confidential and the other public — on the attempts at interference detected.

The classified report will also be provided to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other ministers.

“The additional measures we announced to ensure the integrity of the by-election in Toronto-St Paul’s are in addition to the range of measures our government has put in place in recent years to combat corruption. “foreign interference,” declared a spokesperson for Minister LeBlanc.

The Hogue Commission recently revealed that foreign interference activities had indeed taken place, but that these acts had no impact on the election of the Liberal Party of Canada in the last two general elections. The judge, however, noted in her report that nomination races “can be entry points for foreign states who want to interfere in our democratic process.”

The government will have to call two more by-elections in the coming months.

These enhanced surveillance measures were first announced last summer in preparation for four by-elections. The public report ultimately concluded that no computer security incident targeted Elections Canada last year.

Threats are increasing

Called to testify before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, Assistant Deputy Minister and Deputy Director of CSIS Nicole Giles said the scale of threats linked to foreign interference is “increasing significantly.”

“It is increasingly difficult for individuals to be able to identify the reality of the information behind what they see online,” she said.

The Liberals recently tabled Bill C-70, entitled “An Act respecting the fight against foreign interference”, which notably provides for broader communication of critical information and the establishment of a transparency register on foreign influence.

The new registry would require certain people to register with the federal government to guard against such activities.

Nicole Giles judged that the new bill could still be improved, without however identifying the flaws.

The seat of this Liberal stronghold was vacated by long-serving Liberal MP and former cabinet minister Carolyn Bennett. She announced last year that she was leaving office in Toronto-St Paul’s, after 27 years in politics.

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