Prime Minister welcomes Independent Special Rapporteur’s report and recommendations

2023 May 23

Canada’s democracy is strong and it is stable. This did not happen by accident, and it will not continue without effort. I want to thank the Independent Special Rapporteur for the important work he is doing and for the report we received today. We will take the necessary steps to implement his recommendations, and as a government, we will continue to take action to strengthen and protect our democracy

The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

The Government of Canada remains vigilant against any attempts to undermine our democracy and continues to take action to protect and uphold Canadians’ confidence in our democratic institutions.

Today, the Independent Special Rapporteur, the Right Honourable David Johnston, released his first report. This report independently and impartially reaffirms that the 2019 and 2021 federal elections were free and fair. It should give Canadians continued confidence in the strength of our democracy.

This report acknowledges that foreign interference is a serious threat and makes recommendations to detect, deter, and counter it, which we accept. The former Governor General determined that the next step in his work will be to hold public hearings. We fully support this work, including the intention to create a dialogue with Canadians, particularly in diaspora communities often targeted by interference. As recommended, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) will review the confidential portion of this report so that they can provide their own assessment. Letters have been sent to opposition leaders offering security clearances, so they can receive the relevant intelligence and work is already underway to improve the flow of intelligence from the public service to the political level. These additional steps will serve to give Canadians further confidence in this report’s findings, which align with the findings of the Panel in 2019 and 2021, as well as the independent reviews of their work. These processes have all now confirmed that these elections were free and fair.

This report and its recommendations are the result of document review and analysis, as well as extensive interviews conducted by the Independent Special Rapporteur, including with members of the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force, current and former ministers, senior officials, various party leaders, intelligence specialists, and Panel members responsible for administering the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol.

Since 2015, we have taken significant action to protect the integrity of our elections, including through our Plan to Protect Democracy which established the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol, the SITE Task Force, the Panel of the senior most federal public servants, the Rapid Response Mechanism, funding to strengthen resiliency and combat disinformation, and more.

We have also taken more recent measures, such as the establishment of a new National Counter-Foreign Interference Coordinator and the launch of public consultations on a Foreign Influence Transparency Registry.

Work is also underway to implement the recommendations outlined in the Government of Canada’s plan to counter foreign interference in Canada’s democratic institutions. This includes continued engagement with Canadians about the threat of foreign interference; reviewing existing legislation, such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) Act, the Criminal Code, the Security of Information Act, and the Canada Elections Act; and exploring possible improvements to the SITE Task Force and the Cabinet Directive governing the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol. As an additional measure to protect by-elections from any potential foreign interference, Minister LeBlanc recently announced that the SITE Task Force will provide enhanced monitoring and assessing of foreign interference threats during the by-election period.

By taking these actions and necessary steps, the Government of Canada continues to safeguard our electoral processes and strengthen confidence in Canada’s democratic institutions.