For the Foreign Interference Inquiry to Count, It Must Lead to Real Change

For the Foreign Interference Inquiry to Count, It Must Lead to Real Change
Commissioner Justice Marie-Josée Hogue listens during the Public Inquiry Into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions in Ottawa on April 2, 2024. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Phil Gurski

Sigh. Another instance of intelligence in Canada ignored.

Stop me if you have heard this one before:

A Canadian spy agency approaches a senior government bureaucrat and says it has solid intelligence that a foreign power tried to interfere with and influence a federal election.  The bureaucrat in question has a vested interest in ensuring that the vote is free, fair, and unencumbered. In the end, said bureaucrat does nothing with the intelligence but still insists the election went off without a hitch.

Welcome to the Great White North!

The spy agency referred to above is of course the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) which took the initiative to warn the government, the bureaucrat is none other than Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault, and the alleged foreign power is the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The actions against our democracy took place not once, but twice, in 2019 and 2021. On both occasions, a minority Liberal government retained office: the PRC wanted a result of this nature to come about.

Mr. Perrault decided that “no action could be taken” regarding the intelligence, but would not answer several questions at the public inquiry into foreign interference, citing “national security concerns.”

Is it just me or is his statement the ultimate in ironies? A man who ignored national security information on the elections in 2019 now says he cannot talk about it for the same reason. As they say, you cannot eat your cake and have it too!

That the PRC is meddling in our state is not the highest-kept secret in the land. There is enough publicly available information, much of it already disclosed at the inquiry, to demonstrate that China is, as alleged, guilty (as are other nations, but that is fodder for a future discussion). Hiding behind “if I told you I’d have to kill you” is no longer funny.

It is true that intelligence must be protected and shared with only those with a “need to know” and a high-enough security clearance in order to safeguard sources and methods.  Yet, in my experience working at CSIS (from 2001-2015), the agency can pass on relevant, timely information to those who indeed need to know in ways that do not compromise the manner in which it was collected. Mr. Perrault’s intransigence that he cannot is without basis.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it now: The inquiry is a waste of time and money.  Nothing—or at most very little—to be presented before it has not already been known for years. Equally as ancient is the government’s inability to—and lack of interest in—acting upon what it was told.

Worse, the appearance of some witnesses at the inquiry, and here I am thinking specifically of Falun Gong and Uyghur Canadians, may very well put them and/or their families at risk from a PRC which wants more than anything to project its image as a worker’s paradise and a kindly father to its people. (While many parenting models exist, I am not sure a caring dad would incarcerate one million Xinjiang Muslims in prisons—sorry, “training centres”—based solely on their faith.)

The inquiry will run its course, some nuggets of interest may arise (but not many I’d wager), and the inevitable “recommendations” will be issued. If, however, this public show is anything like its predecessors, the suggestions made will be duly read, filed, and forgotten about, destined to gather dust on a shelf somewhere (or relegated to a folder on a laptop placed in the back of the closet).

In the meantime, the PRC will keep doing what it does well and will smirk at Canada’s incompetence when it comes to running its own elections. If you think it will not try to pull the same trick in next year’s polls please contact me: I have some prime real estate in downtown Ottawa I can sell you for a good price (yes, much of the capital’s core is empty post COVID-19, but no I have nothing to offer).

This episode is yet one more instance of our terrible intelligence culture, the lack of understanding of what intelligence is, and what it can do to help decision-makers. We’ve seen this movie before and I fear we will see it again. It is becoming the “Terminator” of Canadian politics, with the exception that it will never end.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Phil Gurski spent 32 years working at Canadian intelligence agencies and is a specialist in terrorism. He is the author of six books on terrorism.