Canada’s spy agency claims India tried to interfere in 2019, 2021 elections

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OTTAWA: The Canadian spy agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has claimed that the Governments of India and Pakistan had attempted to interfere in Canada’s federal polls in 2019 and 2021, reported Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Documents made public by the CSIS, late Thursday night (local time) alleged that the Government of India had “intent to interfere and likely conducted clandestine activities”, including using an Indian government proxy agent in Canada. The report claims those “clandestine activities” include the provision of “illicit financial support” to candidates.

The Canadian spy agency alleged that the Government of India is targeting Canadian elections and diaspora communities as part of a wider attempt to “align Canada’s positions with India’s interests on key issues”. Similar allegations had come to the fore earlier this year and had been strongly denied by the Ministry of External Affairs.

On February 8, the MEA spokesperson said, “We have seen the media reports about the CCIS inquiry into Indian interference in Canadian elections. We strongly reject such baseless allegations of Indian interference in Canadian elections, it is not the Government of India’s Policy to interfere in the democratic process of other countries. In fact, it is Canada which is interfering in our internal affairs and we have raised this with them”.

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

The CSIS report further claims that it has amassed “a body of intelligence” that shows an Indian Government’s “proxy agent may have attempted to interfere in democratic processes” by providing illegal financial support to pro-Indian candidates, according to CBC. “Any such financial contribution could have remained unknown to the candidate”, CSIS said.

However, the memo from CSIS lacks specifics and does not identify the electoral districts or candidates that might have been targeted by the alleged interference. CCIS further claims that in 2019 the Government of Pakistan officials in Canada attempted to clandestinely influence Canadian federal politics to further the Government of Pakistan’s interests in Canada, reported CBC.

The reports all include warnings that the summaries could be based on unverified, single-source, or incomplete information. David Vigneault, the Director of CSIS, stated during the public inquiry that the intelligence might need further investigation.

The CBC report also stated that both Pakistan and India were not under scanner during this phase of the foreign interference public inquiry. The proceedings mostly focused on alleged foreign interference by China, but the two South Asian countries came to the fore when other documents were investigated in the inquiry.

In July 2021, the Security Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force, comprising high-ranking civil servants from various Canadian agencies conducted a briefing for political parties regarding insights gleaned from the 2019 election.

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

The document, further said that “none of the activities met the threshold to pursue criminal investigations”. (ANI)

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