CSIS, CSE confirm foreign actors attempting to influence upcoming federal election

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and Canada’s cyber defence agency, the Communications Security Establishment, have confirmed that foreign actors are attempting to influence the upcoming federal election.

In joint reporting by The Toronto Star and BuzzFeed News, the CES confirmed it has “briefed senior political staff of one federal party about ‘covert and overt’” influences. CSIS has also confirmed that there are “threat actors.”

“Threat actors are seeking to influence the Canadian public and interfere with Canada’s democratic institutions and processes,” Tahera Mufti, a spokesperson for CSIS, said in an emailed statement to the publications. Neither agency divulged the type of influence, the report said.

CSIS said it was briefing major political parties on “covert and overt foreign interference activity,” the article said. It added that CSIS did not confirm if these interferences have already begun.

In a statement to the news agencies, CSIS said that the parties were briefed so they can “strengthen internal security practice and behaviours.” It did not discuss any specific threats or who would be involved.

Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould told MobileSyrup that she felt the existing regulations were good enough to protect Canadians from influence.

“I feel prepared right now, but that being said, the very nature of these disinformation campaigns is to be covert and be undetected,” Gould said.

“But I do feel that the plan and the approach we’ve put in place puts us in the best position to be prepared should something occur.”

At the time of the interview in late May, Gould said that no threats have come up yet.

“I think our elections legislation is very robust. Is it perfect? Well, we don’t know what we don’t know yet, but for the things that we do know, we tried to update the legislation to ensure Canadians would have transparency in who is trying to communicate with them and make informed choices,” she said.

This past December, Bill C-76 the act to amend the Elections Act, received royal assent. There were some new provisions that regulate digital platforms in preparation for the election. Those regulations include limits on political advertising by parties, reporting requirements for third parties and not allowing foreign entities to donate during elections.

For example, it would mean digital platforms needed to create an ad registry for political ads and if a registry is not created, then per violation of a political ad, the digital platform faces a $2,000 CAD fine.

Source: The Toronto Star, BuzzFeed News