| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Canada: Official probing Chinese meddling in elections quits

Following opposition party criticism regarding his appointment, a Canadian official designated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s previous two elections has resigned on Friday. The senior statesman tendered his resignation in response to the backlash he faced.
Former governor general David Johnston recently released an interim report concluding that Beijing had attempted to interfere in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 elections but failed to change outcome of the votes. He was going to begin hearing in the next month with testimony from targetted diaspora communities as well as experts in national security and international relations. He was to submit a final report in October.
However, opposition parties accused that he was too close to Trudeau. They demanded an independent public inquiry instead.
“When I undertook the task of independent special rapporteur on foreign interference, my objective was to help build trust in our democratic institutions,” Johnston said in his resignation letter.
“I have concluded that given the highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work, my leadership has had the opposite effect.”
The alleged Chinese interference
The minority government led by Trudeau had faced pressure to explain the alleged Chinese interference in Canada’s elections. The claims were first reported by the local media. These reports cited leaked intellilgence documents and unnamed sources who said that China sought to influence or subvert the elections.
The reported accusations included secret campaign donations and Chinese operatives working for Canadian candidates or lawmakers in an attempt to influence policy.
Following Johnston’s appointment, three opposition legislators said Canada’s spy agency told them they had been the target of Chinese interference.
Recently, it had emerged that China had sought to intimidate a Canadian lawmaker and his relatives in Hong Kong because of his criticism of China.
Last month, Ottawa expelled a Chinese diplomat implicated in the scheme.
China had called the accusations ‘groundless’ and had reacted by expelling a Canadian diplomat. It had warned Canada that aligning with USA’s policy on China risked its relation with its second-largest trading partner.
In his preliminary findings, Johnston noted common foreign interference techniques included cyberattacks, online influence campaigns, disinformation and “the exploitation of human relationships.”

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