OTTAWA. The federal government represents a “wide range” of new measures aimed at further protecting Canada’s electoral system from foreign interference and increasing Canada’s readiness to protect the democratic process from cyber threats and disinformation.
This includes an explanation of how Canadians will be informed about serious attempts to intervene during the campaign. In order for a group of five people consisting of five people to publicly state these attempts, they must be considered as “subversive” and are believed to affect Canada’s ability to conduct free and fair elections.
Karina Gould, Minister of Democratic Institutions, Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Security, and Harjit Sajjan, Minister of Defense, will publicize these next steps, and only nine months before the next federal election.
A senior official who spoke with reporters in the background before the ministers announced that a “wide range” of new measures is the result of “unprecedented” cooperation between Canadian national and cybersecurity agencies, special services and federal departments, including Global Affairs Canada.
Among what's new:
The Security and Intelligence Task Force, targeting foreigners and dealing with security issues (SITE), to prevent “covert, covert or criminal” attempts to intervene in elections;
New civic literacy campaign on disinformation on the Internet;
The expectation that social networking platforms suppress misinformation and increase transparency;
Advising political parties on improving their security and holding secret briefings on threats to senior party leadership.
New interdepartmental level “Public incident report with critical elections” for impartial informing Canadians during the campaign; and
Activating the “rapid response mechanism” in Global Affairs to identify, respond and share information about threats.
The “rapid response mechanism” was a new initiative, which Canada joined at the G7 meeting in Charlevoix. It was part of a multilateral commitment to protect democracy from external threats. It will include monitoring foreign activity on social networks to look at trends and determine where Canada may be vulnerable.
These measures complement ongoing efforts to secure the Canadian electoral system, such as: passing C-76 bans foreign spending; working with elections in Canada to prevent hacking of the voting infrastructure; and collaborating with companies working in social networks, in the framework of plans to combat false news and misinformation from interfering with public opinion during the campaign.
The C-76 bill also gave the Canadian Commissioner for Elections new powers to conduct investigations into election interference and is forcing social networking platforms to create databases of their advertisements during the campaign.
In the coming months, the Communications Security Service will also publish an update of its report on cyber threats to the Canadian democratic process, including threats to political parties, politicians and the media.