THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

Russian election-meddling in Canada linked to Arctic ambitions: report

Analyst says Moscow’s ability to inflict serious damage is relatively low because Canadian society is not as divided

A new University of Calgary study is predicting Russian interference in the federal election campaign to serve what it describes as the Kremlin’s long-term interest of competing against Canada in the Arctic.

The study’s author, Sergey Sukhankin, said in an interview that Moscow’s ability to inflict serious damage is relatively low because Canadian society is not as divided as countries targeted in past elections, including the United States presidential ballot and Britain’s Brexit referendum in 2016, as well as various attacks on Ukraine and the Baltic states.

“The Kremlin has a growing interest in dominating the Arctic, where it sees Russia as in competition with Canada. This means Canada can anticipate escalations in information warfare, particularly from hacktivists fomenting cyber-attacks,” writes Sukhankin, a senior fellow with the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. think-tank, who is teaching at the University of Calgary.

“Perceived as one of Russia’s chief adversaries in the Arctic region, Canada is a prime target in the information wars, with Russia potentially even meddling in the October 2019 federal election. Ottawa should be ready for a new surge in cyberattacks, disinformation and propaganda levelled against Canada in the near future.”

Sukhankin argues that Moscow’s disinformation efforts are designed primarily for domestic Russian consumption, and are not intended to sway Canadian voters.

It is part of a broader Kremlin effort to show the “ugly side of democracy and liberalism” to a Russian audience, and to portray Canada as being unduly influenced by the United States and the “Ukrainian lobby” in Canada, he writes.

“Russia uses patriotism and this anti-fascist sentiment to convince the domestic audience and Russian-speakers abroad, primarily in Ukraine, Belarus and the three Baltic states, that Russia is the only country to stand against far-right sentiments and nationalism. This is basically used by the Russian side to garner domestic solidarity,” he said in an interview.

ALSO READ: Most Canadians would trade free social media for privacy, government action: survey

Sukhankin’s argument echoes previous warnings about potential Russian interference from the Liberal government, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and the country’s intelligence agencies.

The government has appointed a group of five senior public servants to guard against foreign election meddling during the campaign. The public servants will be able to brief members of all political parties about potential threats and will have the power to go public during the campaign to sound the alarm against malign acts of interference that they together deem a fundamental threat.

Canada expelled four Russian diplomats last year in connection with the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain that has been blamed on Moscow. (The Kremlin denies the charge).

At the time, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the diplomats were intelligence agents who were undermining Canadian democracy.

As Sukhankin’s paper notes, Freeland has been a frequent target of Russian propaganda as part of a broader attempt to brand Canada as “russophobic” and having an “affection for fascism,” including a soft-spot for Nazism that dates back to the 1930s.

The goal is to justify Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula — the most serious breach of Europe’s border since the Second World War — which President Vladimir Putin has said was necessary to protect “Russian-speakers in Ukraine against their physical extermination,” writes Sukhankin.

Russia’s disinformation about Canada also focuses on three other areas, according to the report.

These include ridiculing Canada’s military presence in Latvia as part of NATO’s deterrent against Russia, portraying the country as a “useful satellite” of the U.S., and calling it a testing ground for “immoral Western values” because of its support of same-sex marriage and legalizing of cannabis.

ALSO READ: Should voting be mandatory in federal elections?

Mike Blanchfield, 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

Hearing ahead for blind community’s B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case against Victoria bus stops

The Canadian Federation of the Blind says bike lanes can be dangerous

Saanich man dies from injuries after serious crash on Six Mile Road

Police continue to investigate cause of fatal crash

View Royal resident spots bear in Portage Park

West Shore RCMP confirms report of sighting, Conservation notified

Close call has North Saanich councillor appealing for traffic safety

Coun. Jack McClintock is using an incident involving his daughter to highlight traffic safety

Accessibility for disabled still an issue in Sooke

Room for improvement, says councillor

COVID-19: B.C. landlords can’t evict if they decline rent assistance

Emergency order ‘incentive’ for federal program, Carole James says

B.C. Hockey League prepping for 2020-21

League reviewing different scenarios and start times in compliance with provincial regulations

Duncan’s Queen Margaret’s School pioneers thermal imaging in school reopening

Private school is first in B.C. to use new tech post-COVID-19

Investigators probe death of CN employee at Surrey rail yard

Transportation Safety Board is investigating an ‘occurrence that took place during switching operations’

Trans Mountain starts B.C. leg of pipeline twinning project

Mostly finished in Alberta, Burnaby terminal expanding

NDP getting COVID-19 wage subsidy ‘indirectly,’ B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson says he’s heard no concerns from public

Love flourishes at Peace Arch Park, but COVID-19 concerns loom

South Surrey park becomes only place for international couples to meet

Most Read