PM’s national security adviser says she’s seen ‘no evidence’ of foreign interference in election | CBC News

Canada’s top national security adviser says she’s seen no evidence that any candidates in the 2019 federal election were influenced by financing from the Chinese government.

Jody Thomas, who advises Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on intelligence and foreign threats, testified before the House of Commons defence committee Thursday.

She was there to answer questions from the committee about Arctic security.

But the opposition Conservatives questioned her instead about a Global News report which last month cited unnamed sources claiming Trudeau was warned last January that China was trying to interfere in Canadian politics and allegedly funded at least 11 candidates in the federal election three years ago.

“The news stories that you have read about interference are just that — news stories,” Thomas said. “I’ll just say it — we’ve not seen money going to 11 candidates, period.”

It has been alleged that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP are investigating a prominent Toronto businessman in the Chinese community over large, covert transfers of cash to candidates to advance the interests of Beijing during the 2019 campaign, and that Trudeau was given a series of briefings by CSIS beginning in January of this year.

According to the Global News report, the briefings did not conclude that Beijing funded any campaigns directly.

Thomas, who took over the national security post in January, said the prime minister is briefed regularly on the general topic of attempted foreign interference in Canada.

She cast doubt on suggestions the country’s spy agency delivered a specific series of warnings about attempts to influence the vote in this country.

‘I’m saying I do not know’

“There is a news report on election interference. There is not necessarily a CSIS report that equates to that news report,” Thomas said. “The prime minister has been thoroughly briefed.”

She said she remains concerned about the possibility of foreign political interference and denied she was refuting the published report.

“I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying I do not know,” Thomas said.

“There is a blurring of what’s been reported to the prime minister and what’s been reported in the press, and so I’m trying to differentiate them … I have asked the question [about] 11 candidates and the connection to the money that was in that report.

“I know nothing of that. I have seen no evidence of it.”

Thomas did not explain what she meant by “blurring” and did not explain the status of investigations into the claims.

Since the interference allegations first surfaced last month, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault told MPs on a separate committee that he has not received any reports about China interfering in the 2019 federal election.

WATCH | Trudeau says he was never briefed on any candidates receiving money from China:

Trudeau states he was never briefed on candidates receiving money from China

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Leader of the Official Opposition Pierre Poilievre debate Chinese interference allegations during question period.

The Commons procedure and House affairs committee is conducting its own parliamentary investigation of the claim that agents of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) were actively trying to influence the outcome of the election.

At least two Conservative MPs on the defence committee asked Thomas on Thursday whether she was “shielding” the prime minister — a suggestion that drew a sharp response from Thomas, a former deputy minister of defence.

“I’m not sure that my personal integrity needs to be attacked in this committee,” Thomas told Conservative MP Shelby Kramp-Neuman.

“I have not been shielding the prime minister. The prime minister’s briefed, regularly. He’s very interested in this subject, has directed work for agencies to do.

“But to imply that bureaucrats and officials, deputy ministers [and] agency heads are shielding the prime minister, I find to be a bit offensive. We are briefing regularly and those briefings are received and acted upon.”

In the spring of 2020, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), a group of parliamentarians that reviews matters of national security behind closed doors, issued a report warning of “significant and sustained” efforts to meddle in Canadian affairs by China, Russia and other state actors. The report spoke about foreign interference in general but said more needs to be done to safeguard elections.

The NSICOP report found that the federal government has been slow to react to the threat of foreign interference.

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