India, Pakistan attempted to interfere in Canada’s elections: CSIS

5 April 2024
India, Pakistan attempted to interfere in Canada’s elections: CSIS

The governments of India and Pakistan attempted to interfere in Canada’s federal elections in 2019 and 2021, Canada’s spy agency said in documents made public late Thursday night.

In 2021, the government of India had “intent to interfere and likely conducted clandestine activities,” including using an Indian government proxy agent in Canada, according to an unclassified summary written by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Two years earlier, in 2019, “Government of Pakistan officials in Canada attempted to clandestinely influence Canadian federal politics with the aim of furthering the Government of Pakistan’s interests in Canada,” CSIS wrote.

The stark assessments are contained in documents that were tabled as part of the federal commission of inquiry into foreign interference. The public inquiry is examining possible meddling by China, India, Russia and others in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.


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The reports all bear notes of caution about the summaries being possibly uncorroborated, single-sourced or incomplete. CSIS Director David Vigneault told the public inquiry that intelligence is not necessarily fact, and said it may require further investigation.

Pakistan a ‘limited foreign interference actor’

The government of Pakistan’s foreign interference against Canada was “primarily to promote political, security and economic stability in Pakistan and to counter India’s growing global influence,” read one CSIS assessment, noting that Pakistan was a “limited foreign interference actor” in 2019 and 2021.

In the case of the 2019 election, CSIS said the Canadian government conducted what it called a “threat reduction measure” ahead of the vote, meant to “reduce the foreign interference threat posed by the Government of Pakistan.”

“The situation was monitored and assessed to have effectively reduced the threat of interference,” CSIS wrote.

David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency, appears at the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions hearings, in Ottawa on Feb. 1. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

CSIS says its intelligence shows India’s government also meddled in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

India supported pro-Indian candidates

CSIS alleges that in 2021, the Indian government’s foreign interference activities “were centred on a small number of electoral districts.” The government of India targeted those ridings, CSIS wrote, because there was a perception by India that “a portion of Indo-Canadian voters were sympathetic to the Khalistani movement or pro-Pakistan political stances.”

The Khalistan movement is a separatist movement with the goal of carving out an independent Sikh nation in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The Indian government has long maintained that the Punjabi independence movement undermines India’s national security.

Some Sikhs have historically been seeking an independent Sikh homeland in northern India called Khalistan. Experts say the history of the movement is complex, emotional and evolving.

The CSIS summary goes on to say that it has amassed “a body of intelligence” that indicates a government of India “proxy agent may have attempted to interfere in democratic processes” by providing illegal financial support to pro-Indian candidates.

“Any such financial contribution could have remained unknown to the candidate,” CSIS said.

The CSIS memo does not identify the specific ridings or candidates that may have been subject to India’s meddling in 2021.

CSIS describes the proxy agent as “a specific individual who takes explicit and/or implicit direction from a foreign state while obfuscating the link between influence activities and a foreign state.”

Proxy agents are based in Canada and don’t necessarily have to belong to a specific diaspora community, CSIS explains, and “are witting participants in furthering the objective of the foreign state in specific circumstances.”

Representatives of different diaspora communities in Canada testified before a federal commission of inquiry on foreign interference. They say they’ve faced harassment and intimidation from their home countries on Canadian soil, affecting both them and their families abroad.

The documents are a series of unclassified summaries of intelligence primarily authored by  CSIS, with “input and agreement” from the Communications Security Establishment – Canada’s other spy agency which focuses on electronic surveillance – Global Affairs Canada, the Privy Council Office, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Public Safety Canada.

Pakistan and India have not been the focus of testimony during this phase of the foreign interference public inquiry, which began last week. The proceedings have largely been geared toward alleged foreign interference by China. But the two South Asian countries have come up in other documents tabled at the inquiry.

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A public summary of a classified CSIS briefing provided to political parties dated June 2019 lists India and Pakistan among other state actors that could engage in meddling in Canada.

Redacting a word that appears right before the word “Pakistani” in a sentence, the briefing goes on to say “Pakistani officials in Canada have likely tried to clandestinely influence and support Canadian politicians of Pakistani descent, with the aim of furthering Pakistani interests in Canada.”

Three of the five paragraphs about India in that briefing note are largely redacted, but it notes “Indian officials have utilized a network of contacts, which includes politicians, academics, businesspersons, media personalities and community leaders, to monitor Canadian-based individuals that are of interest to the Government of India.”

CSIS also wrote it has observed that there have been “Indian interference activities targeted at Canadian Members of Parliament, Provincial Legislative Members… outside the scope of regular diplomatic norms.”

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In July 2021, the Security Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force – a Canadian government body consisting of senior civil servants from the RCMP, CSIS, Global Affairs and the CSE – held a briefing to political parties about lessons learned from the 2019 election.

SITE wrote that in 2019, it observed “foreign interference activities targeting certain ridings and candidates in relation to the election, directed largely from China, and to a lesser extent from India and Pakistan, through the use of human agents.”

The document, went on to say that “none of the activities met the threshold to pursue criminal investigations.”

The document had a section about Pakistan, which was completely redacted.

On India, SITE said in that briefing the country is “actively conducting foreign interference and targets Canadian political figures. Working through Indian officials in Canada, India engages in a range of activities that seek to influence Canadian communities and politicians in order to advance its political interests.

“India is interested in engaging its diaspora in Canada to shape political outcomes in its favour.”

Source: cbc

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