Top-secret committee releases report highlighting foreign interference in Canada

Three reviews in one report . . .

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSCIOP), a multi-partisan body, released a redacted version of its second annual report last Thursday. The 180-page NSICOP report, which was first presented to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last August, highlights findings and recommendations from three reviews conducted last year: issues of diversity and inclusion in Canada’s security and intelligence community, the government’s response to foreign interference, and national security and intelligence activities of the Canada Border Services Agency.

'The threat is real' and subnational . . .

The report notes explicitly that the threat of foreign interference in Canada, particularly from China and Russia, is real and that it extends well beyond the federal government and elections. “Provincial, municipal and Indigenous governments wield important power in areas that are of interest to states engaged in foreign interference activities . . . (m)any of the same tactics used to target elected officials at the federal level are replicated with provincial, municipal and Indigenous officials.” The report also points to interference in Canadian mainstream and foreign language media, ethnic communities, and academic institutions.

How should Canada counter 'significant and sustained' interference?

The NSICOP report calls for a new cross-government strategy to counter foreign interference. One of the challenges it notes is that key targets such as subnational governments, Indigenous governments, media, academia, and ethno-cultural communities lack adequate security clearance to be briefed on such matters. The report recommends a “significant and sustained” and “whole of Canada” strategy. This may prove challenging in a Canada, where provinces, municipalities, Indigenous communities, academic institutions, and multinational corporations all have the ability to pursue international engagement on their own terms and have been doing so for decades.