Foreign Interference in Elections: Interim RCMP Commissioner Calls for Ability to Use Security Intel in Criminal Probes

Foreign Interference in Elections: Interim RCMP Commissioner Calls for Ability to Use Security Intel in Criminal Probes
Signs outside an advance polling station in Burnaby, B.C., on Sept. 10, 2021. (Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters)
Marnie Cathcart

Amid recent allegations over China interfering in Canadian federal elections, the interim head of the RCMP says the national police force needs to be able to use intelligence from Canada’s national security agency as evidence in criminal investigations.

“For a criminal investigation, you have to be able to demonstrate how the investigation began. And with the full and frank disclosure that we face, and any files that we bring before the courts, that is challenging,” Interim Commissioner Michael Duheme told CTV’s Question Period program airing on April 2.

“Sometimes when you want to use some intelligence, that’s not accessible or it cannot be used for law enforcement purposes.”

Duheme said that while the RCMP has an “excellent relationship” with Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), “The reality is that the service collects some information that we cannot use in a criminal investigation.”

He said the RCMP “would like to use more” of the intelligence but there are challenges about revealing “trade secrets” in how the information was collected.

He also said he believes efforts have been made to change legislation to overcome the question of using intelligence as evidence, and he was “very concerned” about foreign interference and feels more needs to be done.

“I think we have to take it one step further. And really, really, really drill down and see what are the options so we can overcome the question of intelligence evidence,” he said.

“I’ve seen it through a criminal lens as to what we’ve been involved with [in terms of] foreign actor interference. I also see it ... when the service [CSIS] briefs the roundtable at the deputy minister level,” he added.

Duheme was appointed interim RCMP commissioner effective March 18 following the retirement of former commissioner Brenda Lucki.


In recent months, media reports based on leaks of confidential national security documents have provided details on China’s alleged interference in Canada’s last two federal elections. The leaks allege the Liberal government was aware a Chinese interference network was providing funds to some candidates and influencing elections in some ridings.
Opposition politicians have been calling for a public inquiry. However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead on March 15 appointed former governor general David Johnston as “independent special rapporteur” on the foreign interference issue.
Public Safety Canada had earlier announced the launch of public consultations on creating a “foreign influence transparency registry” in Canada. In a March 10 news release , the department said these consultations “with key stakeholders and the Canadian public will inform the path forward, including potential legislation.”

“The input received through this consultation will help develop new measures to bolster Canada’s national security,” it said.

On March 12 Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the consultation process will continue until May 9 but did not provide any timeline for when such a registry would be implemented.
Foreign states regularly seek to influence Canadian policies, officials, or democratic processes through routine diplomatic engagement and other lawful ways, Public Safety Canada says on its website.

It says, however, that some states engage in foreign interference to advance their own interests and influence Canadian federal officials and decision-makers, such as by hiring “individuals, some of whom may be high profile, to act on their behalf without disclosing ties to the foreign state.”

A foreign agent registry would require individuals or entities acting on behalf of a foreign state to register with the Canadian government, the department said.