Spy director stands by bold assertions in CSIS briefing notes on foreign interference

OTTAWA — The head of Canada’s spy agency says he stands by the stark conclusions contained in a series of briefing notes, including that China "clandestinely and deceptively interfered" in the past two federal votes.

But David Vigneault says he also agrees with top bureaucrats who concluded there was no significant threat to Canada’s free and fair elections in 2021 and 2019.

Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, is testifying for a second time before a federal inquiry into foreign election interference.

He was asked to appear virtually to face fresh questions about the briefing materials, which weren’t available the first time he took the stand.

The CSIS memos that have since been tabled at the inquiry make several bald assertions, declaring that state actors can conduct foreign interference "successfully" in Canada because there are few legal or political consequences.

The documents also say that threat will persist until foreign meddling is viewed as an existential threat to Canadian democracy — and governments respond forcefully and actively.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press The head of Canada’s spy agency is slated to face fresh questions today on exactly what the federal government was told about foreign meddling. CSIS Director David Vigneault appears as a witness at the Public Inquiry Into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions, in Ottawa, Thursday, April 4, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick −−>The head of Canada’s spy agency is slated to face fresh questions today on exactly what the federal government was told about foreign meddling. CSIS Director David Vigneault appears as a witness at the Public Inquiry Into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions, in Ottawa, Thursday, April 4, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick −−>

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