Canadians will cast their ballots in the next federal election on or before October 21, 2019. In the wake of a growing trend of foreign interference worldwide, the right to a free and fair election — a fundamental condition of democracy — is under threat, as Canada’s national cryptologic agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), has reported (2017, 5; see also CSE 2019, 5). As well, there is growing evidence that in recent years foreign interference has influenced other elections, in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany (Bradshaw 2018, 4).
In fact, Canada’s democratic process has been targeted before, by low-sophistication cyber activity during the last federal election, in 2015 (CSE 2017, 33). The media reported that “hacktivist” groups had leaked high-level federal documents taken from secure government computers (ibid.; Humphreys 2015). Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that there was “not much direct interference” by Russia in that election, but he refused to provide further details, citing legislation exempting the government from disclosing information for “reasons of international affairs” (cited in Bryden 2018).
While the 2015 federal election was not a major target, Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould has said that it would be “naive” to assume that Canada is not a target for cyber attacks (The House 2019a). Both Minister Gould and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland have emphasized that Canada must be ready to identify and counter such attacks.