Canada Foreign Meddling Report Sparks ‘Traitors’ Accusation

(Bloomberg) -- The leader of Canada’s third-largest national party said some of the country’s lawmakers were “traitors” who should be banned from Parliament and face prosecution after he read a classified report on foreign interference in the democracy.

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“What they’re doing is unethical, it is in some cases against the law, and they are indeed traitors to the country,” said Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party.

Singh spoke on Thursday after reading an unredacted version of a report on foreign interference from Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. He declined to share the names of lawmakers allegedly accused in the report of working for foreign states, saying that doing so could jeopardize national security efforts.

A redacted version of the document was published on June 3 and said that China and India are the biggest perpetrators of foreign meddling. NSICOP is a senior, cross-party group of lawmakers with “top secret” security clearances.

The NDP supports Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in a Parliamentary confidence deal, but Singh accused the country’s leader of being soft on foreign interference.

Foreign Interference

“It’s clear that he accepted a certain level of knowledge of foreign interference and didn’t do anything,” Singh said at a press conference on Thursday, adding that the prime minister delayed swift action “and doing so sends a message that some level of interference is acceptable.”

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in an emailed statement that foreign interference shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“Our government has been clear – any attempt to interfere in Canada’s democracy is completely unacceptable,” LeBlanc’s office said. “Over the last number of years, we have taken action to detect, disrupt and counter those attempts,” including by establishing the public inquiry.

Canada is holding a public inquiry into foreign interference that last month concluded in an interim report that there were attempts from foreign actors, particularly China, to sway its elections in 2019 and 2021. The report said those efforts didn’t affect the outcome of the elections.

Trudeau ordered the hearings after media reports cited classified intelligence memos that Chinese meddling may have helped certain Liberal Party candidates get elected.

In his remarks about Trudeau, Singh referred to an alleged incident described in the report: In 2019, Liberal officials were notified by Canada’s spy agency CSIS about allegations of possible Chinese efforts to influence a nomination contest for a Liberal seat. After receiving caveatted information, and being advised by his campaign director not to remove the candidate, Han Dong, Trudeau didn’t intervene.

Dong, who was eventually elected, has rejected the accusations. He later resigned from the Liberal Party.

Conservative Party

Singh added that the document indicated that he, personally, was also a target of overseas efforts.

Singh also accused Trudeau’s main rival, Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre, of willful ignorance and dodging scrutiny on the subject, citing the report’s description that Conservative Party leadership races were also targeted for alleged interference.

Poilievre has opted not to accept confidentiality requirements to read the report, for fear they could hamstring his role in government scrutiny. Instead he has called for the names of witting accomplices in interference to be made public.

A Conservative Party representative said via email that if Singh “really has concerns that the prime minister has failed to take national security seriously and has failed to protect our democracy against foreign interference, then he should stop blindly supporting the Liberal government and let them face Canadians in an election.”

‘Vastly Relieved’

Other politicians have drawn different conclusions from the full report. On Tuesday, Green Party leader Elizabeth May said “there is no list of MPs who have shown disloyalty to Canada,” adding “I am vastly relieved.”

However, she did say that a parliamentarian, who no longer sits in the House of Commons and isn’t named in the report, shared confidential information with a foreign intelligence officer, and that that person should be investigated and prosecuted.

Singh’s NDP supports Trudeau’s Liberals, Canada’s biggest party, in votes, allowing them to form a government. Asked why he continues to do so given his concerns, Singh said he’s going to use his role in Parliament to demand answers, instead of pulling out of the pact and triggering a general election.

“The suggestion that an election is a solution to election interference is, I think, a fallacy,” he said.

--With assistance from Laura Dhillon Kane, Thomas Seal and Bill Faries.

(Updates with government’s comment in seventh paragraph)

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