thumb-2024-04-02-india-foreign-interference This article is more than 1 month old

Canadian Intelligence Says India Likely Used ‘Clandestine Activities’ to Interfere with Canada’s 2021 Federal Election

Documents tabled at Foreign Interference Inquiry allege India used ‘proxy agents’ and secretly provided ‘illicit financial support’ to candidates

Documents newly tabled at the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference show Canada’s spy agency believes the Government of India is Canada’s second top foreign interference threat and likely used “clandestine activities” to interfere in the 2021 federal election.

“The Government of India (GoI) had intent to interfere and likely conducted clandestine activities,” states an intelligence report titled “Government of India foreign interference activities in the 2021 general election.”

Another intelligence report suggests those “clandestine activities” include India’s use of Canadian-based “proxy agents” and the provision of “illicit financial support” to candidates.

Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference (Luke LeBrun, PressProgress)

The intelligence report includes unclassified summaries of intelligence on India prepared for the public inquiry by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), which state that the spy agency believes the Government of India is targeting Canadian elections and diaspora communities as part of a wider attempt to “align Canada’s positions with India’s interests on key issues.”

“Government of India (GoI) officials, including their Canada-based proxy agents, engage in a range of activities that seek to influence Canadian communities and politicians,” the unclassified intelligence report states. “Where these activities include deceptive, clandestine or threatening activities, they are deemed to be foreign interference.”

One report states Canada’s spy agency has a “body of intelligence” indicating Indian “proxy agents may have attempted to interfere in democratic processes,” something that reportedly includes “the clandestine provision of illicit financial support to various Canadian politicians.”

The report suggests the secret funds are designed to “secure the election of pro-(Government of India) candidates or gaining influence over candidates who take office.”

“In some instances, the candidates may never know their campaigns received illicit funds,” the CSIS report cautions.

CSIS intelligence summary (Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference)

A witness statement filed with the inquiry indicated that senior officials at CSIS consider India a “clear second to (China) in terms of the level of (foreign interference) threat” and that Indian foreign interference was an “area of focus for more than one regional office.”

“All interviewees agreed that the (foreign interference) by India was corrosive to Canadian democratic processes and to regional community cohesion.”

CSIS’ report indicates “Indian (foreign interference) is aimed primarily at Canadian politicians and Canadian democratic processes at all levels of government,” and that “foreign interference activity can begin before the formal writ period with candidate nomination races at the party level, and through the individual electoral district campaigns.”

The intelligence reports also indicate that the “targets” of Indian foreign interference are most often members of the Indo-Canadian diaspora communities.

CSIS specifically makes note of a March 2023 joint report published by the British Columbia Gurdwaras Council (BCGC) and Ontario Gurdwaras Committee (OGC) warning that Indian government foreign interference is threatening Canada’s democratic institutions.

“The report notes that the community assess the (Government of India) is covertly attempting to infiltrate and undermine democratic processes and repress criticism of the (Government of India) in Canada.”

CSIS intelligence summary (Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference)

Specifically, the BCGC and OGC report states, “combatting Indian interference is critically important to maintaining Canada’s democratic institutions and meaningful Charter rights and freedoms, as well as stopping the further marginalization of a racialized community whose interests and democratic rights are currently being compromised and ignored.”

CSIS’ intelligence appears to validate some concerns raised by the BCGC/OGC, noting that the Government of India is attempting to “suppress” lawful political advocacy within Canada’s Sikh diaspora community, particularly “supporters of an independent Sikh homeland that they refer to as Khalistan.”

“The (Government of India) does not differentiate between lawful pro-Khalistan political advocacy and the relatively small Canada-based Khalistani violent extremism,” the report notes. “It perceives anyone engaged in Khalistani separatism as a seditious threat to India.”

The Sikh community has repeatedly been targeted by the government of India, both through social media targeting, threats, and most recently, the murder of Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey in June 2023.

CSIS’ reports add that while the “targets of Indian (foreign interference) are often members of the Indo-Canadian communities,” there are also “prominent non-Indo-Canadians” who have been targeted by the Government of India’s foreign interference activities too.

The spy agency also finds “Indian officials in Canada have increasingly relied on Canadian and Canada-based proxies and the contacts in their networks to conduct (foreign interference)-related activities,” explaining that this “tactic obfuscates any explicit link between the (Government of India) and its (foreign interference) activities.”

“Proxies liaise and work with Indian intelligence officials in India and Canada, taking both explicit and implicit direction from them.”

CSIS’ report defines a “proxy agent” as a “specific individual who takes explicit and/or implicit direction from a foreign state while obfuscating the link between influence activities and a foreign state.”


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Rumneek Johal
Rumneek Johal is PressProgress' BC Reporter. Her reporting focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism.

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