Ottawa moves to clamp down on potential meddling in next federal election

Only disruptive incidents that harm Canada’s free and fair election will be publicly disclosed

The federal government is creating a new mechanism to warn Canadians if malicious actors try to manipulate the outcome of this fall’s election.

It is establishing a “critical election incident public protocol,” under which five senior public servants will decide when an incident is egregious enough to warrant going public in the midst of a campaign.

The protocol is intended to avoid the dilemma that faced James Comey, the FBI director during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, when he was confronted with evidence of Russian interference apparently aimed at boosting Donald Trump.

With no rules for dealing with such a situation, Comey decided not to reveal the interference during the campaign.

The five public servants who will be charged with determining what should be revealed during a Canadian federal campaign are: the clerk of the Privy Council, the government’s national security adviser, and the deputy ministers of justice, public safety and global affairs.

OPINION: Fake news, or the truth – who decides?

“Nothing is more important to this government than protecting our democracy and ensuring the next election is fair and free,” Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in a news conference Wednesday, alongside Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould.

Officials say the threshold will be high: only disruptive incidents that harm Canada’s ability to hold a free and fair election will be publicly disclosed.

The protocol will apply to either domestic or foreign actors who launch cyberattacks or use orchestrated disinformation campaigns through social media to undermine the integrity of an election.

Officials say there is no intention to police routine political spin during a campaign.

The protocol will apply only during the official campaign, known as the writ period. Outside the writ period, national-security agencies will inform the prime minister and minister of democratic institutions of any interference and it will be up to them to decide what to disclose publicly.

Sajjan said the Canadian government has been working with other G7 countries worried about their own elections to come up with joint plans for monitoring and dealing with foreign threats such as hackers trying to break into election systems.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New MP Taylor Bachrach makes his first trip to Bella Coola

Bachrach said he is keen to get to know his riding and the members of his constituency

Bachrach rejects calls for police action against demonstrators

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP says only way out of crisis is “true nation-to-nation” talks

Nuxalk Nation celebrates first carpentry graduates

11 students graduated from the community’s first carpentry program

Bella Coola leave their mark on All Native Basketball Tournament as they reach Intermediate final

Nuxalk Braves bring home a strong second place finish; three individual awards for Marlon Edgar-Apps

All Native Basketball: Finals matchups start to take shape as title games approach

Two Prince Rupert sides in contention, while two dynasties are on the brink

Protecting privacy key to stopping spread of COVID-19, B.C. health officials say

The number of coronavirus cases in B.C. remains at seven

Toffoli scores OT winner as Canucks beat Habs 4-3

Demko makes 37 saves for Vancouver

Private clinics would harm ‘ordinary’ people using public system in B.C.: lawyer

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in 2018 that the government would begin to fine doctors $10,000

B.C. terminates contract with hospice society refusing assisted death

Delta Hospice Society loses hospital service fund of $1.5 million

Child in hospital following fatal crash that killed father, sibling on B.C. highway

The single vehicle crash occured near Kamloops on Highway 5A

‘Die!’: Vernon councillor mailed death threat

This story contains information that might be sensitive to some readers

Hidden message connects Castlegar homeowners decades apart

The Rodgers family was surprised when a message fell out of the walls as they were renovating

Two B.C. men plead guilty to bus-terminal assault of man with autism in Ontario

Parmvir Chahil and Jaspaul Uppal due to be sentenced in June for aggravated assault

Most Read