RCMP ‘aware’ of intelligence related to foreign interference and parliamentarians

Canada’s national police force says it is “aware” of a “broad” range of intelligence looking into parliamentarians allegedly working with foreign governments.

The RCMP’s statement comes two days after a stunning report by the federal national security committee of parliamentarians alleging sitting federal politicians have “wittingly” participated in foreign interference operations.

“The RCMP can confirm there are investigations into a broad range of foreign interference in Canada, including matters which intersect with democratic institutions,” the statement, sent late Wednesday afternoon, read.

The RCMP statement added they were not aware of all of the specific allegations contained in the committee’s report.

“The RCMP will not provide comment whether there is an active criminal investigation into any parliamentarian. The RCMP has spoken publicly about the problem of foreign interference and believe more public attention to this matter is necessary.”

At the same time, the Mounties said, they must exercise “significant caution” in speaking publicly about ongoing investigations that have “the potential to cause damage to reputations prior to meeting an appropriate level of proof” or interfere with the probes.On Monday, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) made the stunning allegations that current federal politicians are “wittingly or semi-wittingly” working with foreign governments to interfere in Canadian politics.

“Some (of the activities) may be illegal, but are unlikely to lead to criminal charges, owing to Canada’s failure to address the long-standing issue of protecting classified information and methods in judicial processes,” the report read.

The committee pointed to several activities parliamentarians have allegedly engaged in, including soliciting political support from foreign missions, accepting money or favours from diplomats, and in one case sharing confidential information with a known foreign intelligence agent.

The report rattled the parliamentary precinct in Ottawa, with opposition parties demanding Wednesday that the government release the names of the MPs or senators that intelligence agencies believe to be compromised.

“I can’t believe the following needs to be said: parliamentarians’ duty is not to a foreign state but to the people of Canada. Will the prime minister release the names of these parliamentarians?” asked Conservative MP Michael Chong – who has himself allegedly been targeted by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The Liberal government resisted those calls Wednesday, suggesting it would be irresponsible to release intelligence information.

“No government, including the government of which he was a member, are going to discuss particularities of intelligence information publicly,” said Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, the government’s point man on the foreign interference file.

Part of the issue is how to translate the type of intelligence collected by agencies like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) – which can have varying levels of corroboration – into evidence that the RCMP can collect and use to build a case.

Another issue is revealing how that intelligence is collected in a court case, potentially burning sources or revealing sensitive methods for collecting information.

So while CSIS may have collected intelligence about parliamentarians, it may not rise to the level of criminal evidence – or the government may not want to divulge in open court how that intelligence was gathered.

The RCMP said Wednesday that it was an “active” participant in the NSICOP review “and provided detailed information about RCMP knowledge and understanding of the threat” of foreign interference.

The police force said with regard to the last two general elections, it didn’t initially launch investigations into alleged foreign interference – but “after receiving additional information” that has changed.

“It would be inappropriate at this time to speak to any specific incidents, however, foreign interference is one of the highest priorities under the RCMP’s federal policing mandates,” the statement read.

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