Foreign interference activities, according to CSIS, have ‘become routine.’
As Canada’s spy agency warns that China’s efforts to slant the news and sway Canadian media outlets “have become commonplace,” opponents are increasing calls for Ottawa to take a firmer stance on foreign media involvement.
The warning was included in briefing documents prepared for Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service David Vigneault in advance of a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this year.
The focus of the discussion was on the rise of foreign influence in Canada, which CSIS describes as “more sophisticated, frequent, and insidious.”
According to the documents received through an access to information request, one-way foreign powers — including the People’s Republic of China (PRC) — try to impose pressure on other countries is through media outlets.
It states that “in particular, PRC media influence actions in Canada have grown mainstream.”
“Primary targets of PRC-directed foreign-influenced efforts include Chinese-language media outlets operating in Canada and members of the Chinese-Canadian community.”
Foreign states use both traditional print periodicals, radio and television shows, as well as non-traditional online sources and social media channels to achieve their objectives, according to CSIS spokesperson John Townsend.
“Foreign powers may target mainstream news outlets as well as community sources in an attempt to impact public opinion, debate, and secretly influence participation in the democratic process,” he said.
“Given Canada’s diverse ethnic makeup, foreign powers may try to leverage or compel individuals inside communities to help them influence what is published by Canadian media outlets to their benefit.”
China has an effective influence network, report finds
Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu says he is all too familiar with the strategy. He said he was the target of a misinformation campaign carried out through Chinese language media outlets and social media during the 2017 federal election.
“If this is regular behaviour, then we should be quite concerned,” he said.
After introducing a private member’s bill requiring foreign government agents to register and report on their actions, Chiu said he was harassed online as anti-Chinese. By over 3,000 votes, he lost the B.C. riding of Steveston-Richmond East to Liberal Parm Bains.
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