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Canada spy chief says elections not compromised, looking into media leaks

file photo: csis director vigneault waits to testify before the senate national security and defence committee in ottawa
FILE PHOTO: Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director David Vigneault waits to testify before the Senate National Security and Defence Committee in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 10, 2019

There was no major foreign election interference in Canada’s last two votes, the head of the country’s spy agency said on Thursday, but there is an investigation underway into media reports citing secret intelligence on Chinese influence.

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault, speaking before a parliamentary committee on foreign election tampering, said he agreed with panel investigation findings that the outcomes of the 2019 and 2021 elections had not been compromised.

Vigneault said he had a “robust exchange” with both panels and “based on my information and my experience” he agreed with their conclusions.

He declined to confirm recent unverified Canadian media reports, which cited anonymous intelligence sources, pointing to specific attempts by China to interfere in both elections. Vigneault said CSIS and other domestic security partners were investigating the sources of the leaks.

“The bread and butter of a intelligence organization is our ability to collect secrets and keep secrets and use those secrets with the appropriate people,” he said. “When that ability is threatened, it undermines the confidence of our partners domestically and internationally.”

Canada is a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance with the UK, United States, New Zealand and Australia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged that there were interference attempts by China, but insisted the outcomes of the votes were not altered. On Monday, Trudeau denied one report saying a Liberal candidate who is now a member of parliament had been supported by Beijing.

China denies those allegations, saying it has no interest in meddling with Canada’s internal affairs.

Canadian opposition parties have this week stepped up their push for a broad public inquirywhich Trudeau has not yet endorsed, into alleged foreign election interference, particularly by China.

The same committee that collected testimony on Thursday went on to debate a motion on whether to set up a more broad inquiry.

Vigneault on Thursday said CSIS would participate if a public inquiry was launched, but added that discussing classified information would be a “key conundrum,” echoing earlier remarks by Canada’s top security adviser Jody Thomas.

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