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Experts “in the event of an electoral incident” in 2019 were themselves afraid of interfering

Photo: Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press Nathalie Drouin was Deputy Minister of Justice in 2019.

Stephanie Taylor – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

2:21 p.m.

  • Canada

A senior official who was part of an expert panel to monitor threats to the 2019 federal election said some members were concerned that alerting the public would be seen as interfering in the process democratic.

Nathalie Drouin, who was then Deputy Minister of Justice, testifies Monday at the public inquiry into foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The 2019 group of senior officials ultimately issued no warning to the population regarding possible threats of interference, although it did discuss a disinformation campaign that targeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But the members of this “Public protocol in the event of a major electoral incident” then estimated that this campaign did not reach the threshold which would have made it possible to alert the population.

Ms. Drouin, now Prime Minister Trudeau's national security and intelligence advisor, said Facebook had removed a false article “proactively”, as part of its commitment to defending integrity of this election.

She and other senior officials testified about how this Public Protocol in the event of a major election incident worked, including how it received information provided by the various intelligence services.

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Ms. Drouin defended the group's decision to maintain a high threshold before informing Canadians of any attempted interference. She explained Monday that there was some risk that any intervention by the group of senior officials “could create more harm than good” — creating confusion and being seen as interference in a democratic process, in the midst of an election campaign in 2019.

She added that the group wanted to avoid being seen “as taking a partisan position.”

Partial information

Monik Beauregard, who was assistant deputy minister of Public Safety at the time, said Monday that the information received by the group of senior officials was useful, but often incomplete.

Ms Beauregard, now retired from the senior civil service, declared that the members of the group often received only partial information and that the reports were accompanied by reservations, in particular on the reliability of the sources.

Ms. Beauregard explained to the commission of inquiry that the committee must therefore assess the credibility and reliability of the information received, emphasizing that it is rare to act on the basis of a single report without further corroboration.

As the October 2019 vote approached, the commission of inquiry revealed that Canada was alert to possible threats of electoral interference from countries such as China, India, Russia and Pakistan.< /p>

Senior officials within the group testified Monday that they were aware that students had been bused to a contest for the controversial Liberal Party nomination in 2019 in Toronto, but that the details surrounding this report were uncorroborated.

The group of senior officials also wondered whether it could act in the case of a nomination campaign, given that political parties set most of the rules, exception of financing which is regulated by Elections Canada.

Nomination races generally take place outside of electoral campaigns, emphasized Ms. Drouin. She said the group contacted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other agencies to ask them to provide any new information about the nomination race.

She added that the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections and the Liberals were also briefed on the information, in part because the commissioner's mandate includes investigating “potential funding irregularities.” », underlined Ms. Drouin on Monday.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116