Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top aide declined to say Friday when Trudeau first learned of the allegations that China rigged the recent election, citing security concerns. Canadian authorities have launched several investigations into claims of interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections, accusations Beijing denies. Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, spoke in Ottawa before a parliamentary committee investigating alleged Chinese election interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections, which Trudeau’s Liberals won. Telford told the committee that these matters are extremely sensitive and the law limits what he can speak in this public setting. She later said it was “highly possible” that Trudeau was informed around January 2022 about alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 election.
Katie Telford Testimonial
Opposition lawmakers said Telford’s limited responses were frustrating. Hours before the committee meeting, the government’s national security and intelligence adviser provided the committee with documents listing the formal briefings Trudeau received. Trudeau has received at least five formal reports from security officials about foreign interference since 2021, according to documents seen by Reuters.
Trudeau says China tried to meddle in the election but did not change the result. He has pointed to closed-door, bipartisan investigations that found the attempted foreign interference was unsuccessful. Canadian media have published detailed reports, citing anonymous intelligence sources, alleging Chinese government-led schemes to interfere in Canada’s last two elections. Beijing has denied those accusations, saying it has no interest in interfering in Canada’s internal affairs.
Trudeau’s main rivals, the Conservatives, have pounced on media reports as evidence that Trudeau has not dealt hard enough with China during his more than seven years in power. Tensions between China and Canada soared in late 2018 when Canadian police detained an executive from Chinese company Huawei Technologies Co, followed by the arrest of two Canadians on espionage charges in Beijing. All three were released in 2021.
Liberal MPs in the committee tried to prevent Friday’s committee appearance from happening. They filibustered in the House of Commons for hours, over two heated weeks, to stop a vote calling for her to appear. The Privy Council Office filed documents Friday showing that Trudeau has received at least six reports on foreign election interference since October 2018. The document adds that the lists are not exhaustive because records of the reports may be incomplete.
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