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Trudeau says China tried unsuccessfully to meddle in Canada's elections

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now to Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testified at a public hearing yesterday looking into whether he and his government knew about foreign interference, particularly Chinese interference, in the country's past two federal elections. The questioning focused on what Trudeau knew about Beijing's meddling ahead of the elections and what he did about it. NPR's Jackie Northam has this report.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Trudeau's testimony was part of a two-week public inquiry set up to determine whether countries such as China, Russia and India interfered in Canadian general elections in 2019 and 2021. The fury over possible interference came after an intelligence report was leaked to Canadian media, essentially saying the government ignored the threat by China, something Trudeau strongly refuted.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: There were inconsistencies, there were uncorroborated information in the leaks.

NORTHAM: And he went further.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUDEAU: There were also things that were flat-out wrong. We couldn't actually correct the record without sharing with adversaries some of the information or the methods that we use to keep Canadians safe.

NORTHAM: There were intelligence reports released during the commission saying China's activities are, quote, "sophisticated, pervasive and persistent," and that it uses members of the diaspora to help swing candidates' chances in the elections. Underpinning the hearings is a belief by critics that Trudeau's Liberal Party may have benefited from the election interference, although the prime minister said not a single district was affected. Some intelligence officials claimed Trudeau was briefed about the interference. He says often they were verbal discussions, not reports. Stephanie Carvin, a former national security analyst, now at Carleton University, says the truth may never be known.

STEPHANIE CARVIN: Was the prime minister actually briefed on these things? If so, what did he actually do about them? I'm not sure we yet have great answers to those questions, but certainly, the fact that there seems to have been a kind of breakdown in communications seems to have been fairly well-established by this commission.

NORTHAM: More than three dozen intelligence officials, politicians and analysts testified at the hearing. The preliminary report is due out in May.

Jackie Northam, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOS SANTOS CABALLEROS' "THE CHASE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.
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