Apr 11, 2024 - World

Trudeau at Canada election meddling inquiry rejects China interference claim

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testifies before a foreign interference inquiry in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday. Photo: David Kawai/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday "attempts by foreign states to interfere" in the country's 2019 and 2021 elections were made, but the polls "held their integrity" and "they were decided by Canadians."

The big picture: Trudeau made the comments at a public inquiry into allegations that the governments of China and other nations attempted to influence the outcome of the elections won by his Liberal Party.

State of play: A slide featuring details from a February 2023 Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) briefing stating that Beijing had "clandestinely and deceptively interfered" in the two elections was shown at the commission on Monday, per Reuters.

  • The unclassified CSIS summary also indicated the governments of India and Russia had also potentially tried to interfere in the elections.
  • All three governments deny election meddling.
  • Meanwhile, Trudeau pointed to "significant tensions" between Ottawa and Beijing as he rejected claims that Chinese officials favored his party.

Zoom in: The focus of much of Trudeau's testimony was on former Liberal lawmaker Han Dong, who resigned from the party in March 2023 to sit in Canada's Parliament as an independent after being accused of being "part of a Chinese foreign interference network" — allegations he denies.

  • Trudeau said he was briefed about the CSIS' concerns in regards to when Dong was a Liberal candidate in 2019, but he "didn't feel there was sufficiently credible information that would justify" removing him as a candidate.
  • Other officials have told the inquiry that reports of interference often did not meet the "threshold" necessary to alert the public.
  • Trudeau noted that intelligence briefings he receives can sometimes provide "very sensitive" information that "still needs to be confirmed" and "irregularities being observed are not enough to overturn a democratic event."
"A well-grounded suspicion does warrant more follow-ups but also might not hit the high threshold for overturning the result."
— Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
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