There has been a lot of talk about the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) report concerning foreign interference in Canada’s electoral and parliamentary process and rightly so.

The NSICOP’s report was redacted. Now instead of the stereotypical, menacing black line through text, the NSICOP opted to explain how many sentences were redacted, and the description of what the redacted text contained. Unlike most redacted documents, it gives an insight into what the full report says.

The key foreign actor threat in the report was laid out as: “People’s Republic of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Iran and “redacted”.[1] Most of the list is the usual suspects, but the “redacted” actor is more alarming. Is that actor an ally and then hence why was it redacted? Without any other information, it is speculation.

There were some eye-opening conclusions made in the report.  We really wanted the report to represent itself, so we compiled a series of highlights. The following are the key highlights of the report and some commentary.

People’s Republic of China (PRC):

China was found to be the

“most capable foreign by interfering with Canadian media content via direct engagement with Canadian media executives and journalists.”[2] By “…paying to publish media articles without attribution, sponsoring media travel to the PRC, pressuring journalists to withdraw articles and creating false accounts on social media to spread disinformation.”[3]

The organization primarily responsible for foreign interference is the United Front Work Department, a department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. In 2019, it is estimated that its budget was $1.9 billion US and approximately $600 million was allocated for foreign interference.[4] Given how the world has changed since 2019, with COVID-19 emanating from China, it would only be logical to assume that the UFWD’s budget has increased significantly.

The UFWD operates through a large network of front organizations such as “…state-owned enterprises, Chinese-registered private companies, Chinese student organizations, foreign cultural organizations, foreign media, members of Chinese ethnocultural communities, and prominent businesspersons and political figures….”[5] CSIS concluded, “that only a small number of people within community associations are witting co-optees or proxies.”[6]

“The *** network worked in loose coordination with one another and with guidance from the consulate *** to covertly support or oppose candidates in the 2019 federal election. The *** network had some contact with at least 11 candidates and 13 campaign staffers, some of whom appeared to be wittingly working for the PRC”[7]

“In this context, CSIS assessed that the PRC believes that its relationship with some members of Parliament rests on a quid pro quo that any member’s engagement with the PRC will result in the PRC mobilizing its network in the member’s favour. The PRC would show support for lawmakers in ridings with large numbers of ethnic Chinese voters and who maintain close relationships with the Chinese ethnocultural community, including through Chinese leaders and business people.”[8]

The NSICOP found that China has been funding political candidates through proxies, which is an offence.

“Canadians believed to be proxies for the PRC covertly encouraged individuals to donate money to the campaigns of candidates that the PRC favoured and promised to pay them back, which is an offence under the Canada Elections Act.”[9]

“[*** Five sentences were deleted to remove injurious or privileged information. The sentences described an example of the PRC using intermediaries to provide funds likely to support candidates in the 2019 federal election, including two transfers of funds approximating $250,000 through a prominent community leader, a political staffer and then an Ontario member of Provincial Parliament. CSIS could not confirm that the funds reached any candidate. ***][10]


Like China, India has been exerting its influence on journalists, interest groups and Members of Parliament:

“[*** This paragraph was deleted to remove injurious or privileged information. The paragraph described how India also takes advantage of networks and developed and built a network of contacts through whom it conducts interference activities, including journalists, members of ethnocultural communities and some members of Parliament. ***]”[11]

India has been “…countering what it perceived as pro-Khalistani efforts in Canada to include interfering in Canadian democratic processes and institutions, including through the targeting of Canadian politicians, ethnic media and Indo-Canadian ethnocultural communities.”[12]

The pro-Khalistan separatist movement in Canada has been a subject of ire for the Indian government as they see the movement as terrorists. The 1985 Air India bombing was tied to the Sikh militant group, Babbar Khalsa, which killed 329 people in an in-flight bombing. The Air India inquiry concluded that Talwinder Singh Parmar was the mastermind of the bombing. It should be remembered that the leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, had to go on record that he accepted the findings of the Air India Bombing Inquiry. This is after CBC’s Terry Milewski asked Singh several times if he would denounce posters of Parmar had turned up in Vaisakhi parades in Canada. Singh retorted that those questions were “racist”. Perhaps it was a rookie mistake for a new leader at the time, but it would not have quelled suspicions of an already suspect Indian government. Later, Singh had to defend that he gave a speech at a pro-Khalistan independence rally in San Francisco in 2015, which was two years prior to the Milewski interview.

India has been accused of reimbursing proxies, like the ones that China uses, who provided funds to electoral candidates.

“[*** Four paragraphs were deleted to remove injurious or privileged information. This case study described an example of India likely reimbursing a proxy who had provided funds to candidates of two federal parties. It noted CSIS’s assessment that none of the candidates were aware the funds were from India, and that meetings between newly elected members of Parliament who had received funding and Indian officials were to take place. ***]”[13]

“CSIS information that an Indian proxy claims to have repeatedly transferred funds from India to politicians at all levels of government in return for political favours, including raising issues in Parliament at the proxy’s request. CSIS did not share this information with the RCMP or with the Commissioner of Canada Elections.”[14]

Why CSIS did not provide this information to the RCMP or the Commissioner of Canada Elections is not further elaborated and should be a question that needs to be addressed. This is a breakdown of communication between the services.

Pakistan has been attempting to influence our elections. The NSICOP does not elaborate on the extent of Pakistani interference. Still, the reasoning is probably to usurp the pro-India/anti-Khalistan foreign influence that India has been attempting to exert on our system.  The NSICOP report found that:

[*** This paragraph was deleted to remove injurious or privileged information. The paragraph described how Pakistan has engaged in foreign interference in provincial and federal politics. The paragraph described how Pakistan interfered in candidate nominations, worked to support a preferred candidate’s election, including to mobilize voters and to fundraise, and efforts by a security and intelligence organization to counter these activities. ***][15]

Members of Parliament and Staffers

The NSICOP report was fair with its findings. Although there was evidence of foreign meddling, the NSICOP did try and exonerate some parliamentarians.

“In some cases, parliamentarians were unaware they were the target of foreign interference. [*** Two sentences were deleted to remove injurious or privileged information. The sentences described an example of India’s financial support to some candidates from two political parties, and CSIS’s assessment that the candidates were unaware of the source of the funds.”[16]

The following paragraph, however, raised alarming questions.

“Some elected officials, however, began wittingly assisting foreign state actors soon after their election. [*** Three sentences were deleted to remove injurious or privileged information. The sentences described examples of members of Parliament who worked to influence their colleagues on India’s behalf and proactively provided confidential information to Indian officials.”[17]

“[*** This paragraph was revised to remove injurious or privileged information. ***] The Committee notes a particularly concerning case of a then-member of Parliament maintaining a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer. According to CSIS, the member of Parliament sought to arrange a meeting in a foreign state with a senior intelligence official and also proactively provided the intelligence officer with information provided in confidence.”[18]

It should be remembered that Parliamentarians are not the only ones targeted by foreign actors. In fact, it is something that has not been mentioned by the media.  The report found that:

“Political staffers in particular are a sought-after proxy for foreign actors. Staffers can influence or exert some measure of control over a politician by influencing messaging and controlling the calendar of the elected official for whom they work to covertly support the interests of the foreign state. They have also been used to monitor their employers and report back to foreign state actors.”[19]

It is alarming, but it makes sense as political staffers are the ones who manage, and guide, the MP. They are also more than likely to reply to correspondence from constituents. This is what has been missed in the media even political staffers are targeted and may be more susceptible to foreign interference. For the most part, these staffers are vital to an MP’s managing of their day-to-day responsibilities and they do meet a lot of people and try to be known at events.

Obviously, something has to be done about foreign interference in Canada’s political process. It is not just the electoral process as foreign influence creeps into processes of the House and the day-to-day parliamentary proceedings. That is why there needs to be an open inquiry. No party wants an inquiry as it would be a painful discussion of all the political parties and how those MPs were selected and won their seats. In the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby , “controversial only means this you will lose votes; courageous means this will lose you the election”. For the sake of Canada’s future, it is paramount that this is not allowed to become yet another soon-forgotten Canadian scandal, the stakes are too high. Courage is something that the electorate still has hopes that politicians will have but cynicism is usually delivered. Time to be courageous.



All footnotes correlate with the NSICOP report, found here.

[1] p. 11

[2] p. 16

[3] p. 17

[4] p. 19

[5] p. 20

[6] p. 20

[7] p. 26

[8] p. 25

[9] p. 29

[10] pp. 28-29

[11] p. 27

[12] p. 20

[13] p. 29

[14] p. 29

[15] p. 27

[16] pp. 24-25

[17] p.  25

[18] p. 26

[19] p. 27

Feature Photo: “2019 Federal Election” – A Disappearing Act, Flickr, 2024

By Stewart Webb

The editor of DefenceReport and Senior Analyst, Stewart Webb holds a MScEcon in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and a BA in Political Science from Acadia University. A frequent guest on defence issues for CTV National News, and other Canadian media outlets, his specialities include commentary on terrorist/insurgent activity and Canadian defence issues. Stewart can be contacted at: [email protected]