Vancouver Mayor Briefed on Foreign Interference by Intelligence Agency’s ‘Expert on China’ Ahead of Municipal Election

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he was briefed by national intelligence officials on foreign interference ahead of the October municipal elections, with a senior Canadian Security and Intelligence Service official who was “a subject expert on China” meeting with him and his co-chief of staff, according to the  Vancouver Sun.“They briefed me for almost two hours on foreign interference in domestic politics,” he said, adding that he was provided with past examples of risks and what to look out for going forward. Stewart said it “raised concerns” when the officials refused to tell him the specific reasons for requesting the briefing, and they only said that such a briefing is “highly usual.” CSIS spokesperson Brandon Champagne told the Vancouver Sun that the agency routinely reaches out to people, including elected officials, to provide briefings on “the potential threats to the security and interests of Canada,” as well as “specific threats,” though he declined to provide details of CSIS’s interaction with Stewart. “CSIS delivers these briefings in order to promote awareness of foreign interference and the actions of other hostile actors to strengthen individual security practices and protect Canadians and their interests,” Champagne said. Threats at the Federal Level Experts and intelligence officials have heightened alerts of foreign influence operations at different levels of politics in Canada in recent years, with China being top on their list of warnings. Last week, former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole revealed that communist China’s disinformation campaign had cost his party seats during Canada’s 2021 federal election. In particular, he said the misinformation operation targeting members of his party was launched through WeChat—a Beijing-controlled social media platform, which O’Toole said has roughly 600,000 users just in B.C.’s Lower Mainland alone, and affects roughly 2 million Canadians who are getting news through it. Marcus Kolga, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and founder of DisinfoWatch.org, has warned about Beijing’s use of disinformation during the election that targeted Tory candidates like Kenny Chiu, who was seeking reelection in B.C.’s Steveston–Richmond East. WeChat disinformation that “falsely accused Chiu of seeking to ‘suppress the Chinese community’” sprang up after he introduced a private member’s bill aimed at increasing transparency by requiring entities working on behalf of foreign governments to register as foreign agents. “Such disinformation is intended to influence Chinese-speaking voters and could affect the election’s outcome,” Kolga said in an article published in September 2021. Earlier this week, June Yves Côté, commissioner of Canada Elections, told CBC News that foreign interference and disinformation campaigns targeting both Canada and its allies have a “negative effect on defunctioning the basic institutions that are at the heart of the democracies.” On June 23, The Canadian Press also reported that prior to the 2021 election, a federal research unit, Rapid Response Mechanism Canada, detected what was likely a Chinese Communist Party information operation to discourage Chinese Canadians from voting for the Conservatives. The analysis is “another piece of evidence that the communist leadership in Beijing interfered in the last general election by spreading disinformation,” Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong told CP. Follow Andrew Chen is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.

Vancouver Mayor Briefed on Foreign Interference by Intelligence Agency’s ‘Expert on China’ Ahead of Municipal Election

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says he was briefed by national intelligence officials on foreign interference ahead of the October municipal elections, with a senior Canadian Security and Intelligence Service official who was “a subject expert on China” meeting with him and his co-chief of staff, according to the  Vancouver Sun.

“They briefed me for almost two hours on foreign interference in domestic politics,” he said, adding that he was provided with past examples of risks and what to look out for going forward.

Stewart said it “raised concerns” when the officials refused to tell him the specific reasons for requesting the briefing, and they only said that such a briefing is “highly usual.”

CSIS spokesperson Brandon Champagne told the Vancouver Sun that the agency routinely reaches out to people, including elected officials, to provide briefings on “the potential threats to the security and interests of Canada,” as well as “specific threats,” though he declined to provide details of CSIS’s interaction with Stewart.

“CSIS delivers these briefings in order to promote awareness of foreign interference and the actions of other hostile actors to strengthen individual security practices and protect Canadians and their interests,” Champagne said.

Threats at the Federal Level

Experts and intelligence officials have heightened alerts of foreign influence operations at different levels of politics in Canada in recent years, with China being top on their list of warnings.

Last week, former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole revealed that communist China’s disinformation campaign had cost his party seats during Canada’s 2021 federal election.

In particular, he said the misinformation operation targeting members of his party was launched through WeChat—a Beijing-controlled social media platform, which O’Toole said has roughly 600,000 users just in B.C.’s Lower Mainland alone, and affects roughly 2 million Canadians who are getting news through it.

Marcus Kolga, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and founder of DisinfoWatch.org, has warned about Beijing’s use of disinformation during the election that targeted Tory candidates like Kenny Chiu, who was seeking reelection in B.C.’s Steveston–Richmond East. WeChat disinformation that “falsely accused Chiu of seeking to ‘suppress the Chinese community’” sprang up after he introduced a private member’s bill aimed at increasing transparency by requiring entities working on behalf of foreign governments to register as foreign agents.

“Such disinformation is intended to influence Chinese-speaking voters and could affect the election’s outcome,” Kolga said in an article published in September 2021.

Earlier this week, June Yves Côté, commissioner of Canada Elections, told CBC News that foreign interference and disinformation campaigns targeting both Canada and its allies have a “negative effect on defunctioning the basic institutions that are at the heart of the democracies.”

On June 23, The Canadian Press also reported that prior to the 2021 election, a federal research unit, Rapid Response Mechanism Canada, detected what was likely a Chinese Communist Party information operation to discourage Chinese Canadians from voting for the Conservatives.

The analysis is “another piece of evidence that the communist leadership in Beijing interfered in the last general election by spreading disinformation,” Conservative MP and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong told CP.


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Andrew Chen is an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.