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<p class=David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, center, surrounded by Alia Tayyeb, deputy head of signals intelligence at the Security Center of Telecommunications (CSE), and Dan Rogers, Deputy Advisor for National Security and Intelligence at the Privy Council Office.

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Managers of different communication services Canadian intelligence agencies testified Thursday before the Commission of Inquiry on Foreign Interference, promising to “make public as much information as possible,” even if the vast majority of documents submitted are classified.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">It won't be business as usual, assured David Vigneault, the big boss of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), affirming to adopt a different approach, tailor-made for this commission.

Mr. Vigneault testified before the public inquiry with Alia Tayyeb, deputy head of signals intelligence at the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and Dan Rogers, deputy advisor for national security and intelligence at the Privy Council Office.

All agreed, committing to greater transparency in the context of this investigation, while nearly 80% of the documents received so far by the team of Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue are classified. Of these, 80% have the highest protection ratings, meaning they are considered top secret or higher.

Of course, we want to maximize transparency in the context of this investigation […] but our goal is also to ensure the safety of Canadians. There is therefore a balance which is very important to preserve.

A quote from Dan Rogers, Deputy Advisor for National Security and Intelligence at the Privy Council Office

Public inquiry into foreign interference

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According to Mr. Rogers, if information is withheld, it&#x27 ;is because they are necessary to maintain the operations that Canadians rely on for their safety and security.

However, he promises to consider this commission differently. We therefore propose methods such as summaries [intended for the public], closed hearings and transcriptions, in order to maximize the level of transparency. […] But ultimately, there will always be information that needs to be kept secret, he said.

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The president of the public commission of inquiry into foreign interference, Judge Marie-Josée Hogue.

The head of CSIS, for his part, wanted to emphasize that his agency has evolved over time, claiming to have increased its level of communication with elected officials not only at the federal level, but also in the provinces, territories and municipalities to talk about issues like foreign interference and espionage.

To increase the resilience of Canadians in the face of these threats, there is a need for transparency which directly relates to the mandate of this commission.

A quote from David Vigneault, director of CSIS

Thursday, Mr. Vigneault mentioned the possibility of disclosing, with the passage of time, certain information that was considered confidential, secret or top secret.

I think it's important for the rest of the commission's work to see that temporality has an impact, he said.

He gave as an example a document produced in 2021 in which certain passages were revealed as part of the work of the public and independent inquiry. The harm is different in 2024 or 2023, he summarized, referring to the national security risks associated with disclosure.

On Wednesday, a former high-ranking CSIS officer, Alan Jones, spoke about the temporality of partially or entirely declassifying documents. 1 of Canadian intelligence Richard Fadden, who also testified Wednesday, indicated that a culture of secrecy has taken hold over time within intelligence agencies.

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Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, during his testimony to the Commission on foreign interference. (Archives photo)

We could be a little more open despite this culture, he reiterated Thursday, speaking to Alec Castonguay on the Midi Info show on ICI First.

There are always secrets to keep but our great allies, like the United States and France are a little more open than us.

A quote from Richard Fadden, former director of CSIS

The commission's mandate, published last year, states that it must assess the possibility of interference by China, Russia and other foreign state or non-state actors in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The Trudeau government agreed to hold this investigation at the beginning of the summer following several months of pressure from the opposition and the resignation of the special rapporteur on foreign interference, David Johnston. /p>

Appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr. Johnston believed that there was no reason to launch a public inquiry into the #x27;foreign interference, particularly due to the sensitivity of the information concerned.

He resigned last June, shortly after a vote by the majority of House deputies calling for his departure.

Judge Hogue considers she that there is a way to carry out a public inquiry, while maintaining a level of confidentiality for national security purposes.

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Former Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, David Johnston

The issue of foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections came to light following a series of media revelations, notably by the English-language network Global and the daily newspaper The Globe and Mail, in November 2022.

Several reports, citing anonymous sources, have detailed attempts at interference orchestrated by China during the last two federal election campaigns, including the financing of a clandestine network of candidates. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would have been warned by the intelligence services in January 2022, according to these revelations, which the head of the Canadian government denies.

On Wednesday, the Global network published extracts from a memo prepared for the Minister of Democratic Institutions in February 2023 confirming that China did indeed attempt to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. /p>

China represents by far the greatest threat to Canada, we can still read in this document that Radio-Canada was able to consult.

China's foreign interference activities are broad in scope and significant in terms of resources spent. […] These activities are sophisticated, pervasive and directed against all levels of government and civil society across the country.

A quote from Excerpt from a CSIS memo dated February 2023

Diaspora communities are particularly at risk of being targeted by foreign interference, according to various official reports.

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Protesters in front of parliament in Ottawa to protest against China's actions against the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group (archives)< /p>

At the end of October, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Protection of Personal Information and Ethics also recommended the creation of a register of foreign agents to protect these communities, and more particularly the community of Uighurs targeted by the activities of the Communist Party of China in Canada.

Wednesday, an NGO for the defense of the rights of Uighurs, URAP, announced his decision to withdraw from Commissioner Hogue's federal investigation into foreign interference.

The body is withdrawing from the investigation due to a lack of confidence in the commission for giving intervener status to individuals like MP Han Dong, Markham Mayor Michael Cham and Senator Yuen Pau Woo, whom Uyghur activists suspect of having links with the Chinese Communist Party.

Preliminary hearings of the commission of inquiry continue until Friday including the testimony of the Minister of Public Safety, Dominic LeBlanc.

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