“The fundamental building blocks of Canada’s democracy” are being threatened by “clandestine and coercive” efforts, primarily from China and Russia, to influence politicians, students and the media, a parliamentary committee said on Thursday.
“The threat is real, if often hidden,” the national security and intelligence committee of Canadian parliamentarians warned in its annual report.
“The threat to Canada from foreign interference is increasing. The perpetrators have become more brazen and their activities more entrenched,” the report said, singling out China and Russia as the main culprits.
The interference has targeted elected officials and their staff, student associations and hundreds of media outlets in Canada that publish or broadcast in languages other than English or French, the report said, adding that “Canada has been slow to react to the threat of foreign interference” and “must do better.”
The report cites as an example China seeking to “harmonize international Chinese-language media with its own by attempting to merge the editorial boards of those outlets with PRC [People’s Republic of China] media. This would result in the PRC controlling the message in Chinese-language media, thereby undermining the free and independent media in Canada.”
Several Chinese state-owned propaganda outlets operate in Canada, including Xinhua, People’s Daily and the China News Service.
Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant followed by China’s detention of two Canadians in apparent retaliation plunged Canada-China relations to a new low.
The report also said Russian agents under diplomatic cover have engaged in “threat-related activities”. Details were redacted.
Canada imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.