THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

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

Students from AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni write anti-bullying messages and draw colourful chalk art around their school for national anti-bullying Pink Shirt Day, Feb. 24, 2021. (PHOTO COURTESY LISA ARBANAS)
Chalk art brightens public walkway on Pink Shirt Day

Students from AW Neill Elementary in Port Alberni write messages of hope

Mary Mason of Owls Path Foundation presents plans for a Nuu-chah-nulth Cultural Centre to Port Alberni city council. The structure pictured in this image is the Copenhagen Opera House. (SCREENSHOT)
Nuu-chah-nulth cultural centre pitched for Port Alberni

Three possible locations put forward for multi-million-dollar centre

An endangered Vancouver Island marmot suns itself on rocks at Mount Washington, near the Comox Valley. Learn more about this endangered species with the Alberni Valley Nature Club. (PHOTO COURTESY SANDY MCRUER, AV NATURE CLUB)
Marmots, underwater mysteries part of Alberni Valley Nature Club lineup

Club kicks off membership drive with series of Zoom chats

The current exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre. The art gallery has COVID-19 protective measures in place. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
ARTS AROUND: Rollin Art Centre puts out a call to artists

Port Alberni’s Community Arts Council will hold a pandemic-inspired art exhibit

Staff and students at Shelter Farm work in a greenhouse during the last growing season. The farm has wrapped up for winter and is setting its sights on expansion of programs for spring. (PHOTO COURTESY GUY LANGLOIS, SHELTER FARM)
Port Alberni Shelter Farm grows with the seasons

Food production, processing the next step

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

(Pxhere)
B.C. research reveals how pandemic has changed attitudes towards sex, health services

CDC survey shows that 35 per cent of people were worried about being judged

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Some Canadians are finding butter harder than usual, resulting in an avalanche of social media controversy around #buttergate. (Brett Williams/The Observer)
#Buttergate: Concerns around hard butter hit small B.C. towns and beyond

Canadians find their butter was getting harder, blame palm oil in part one of this series

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s board is forwarding a motion on illegal dumping to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities’ upcoming annual general meeting. (Kane Blake photo)
Island communities asked to join forces in seeking help fighting illegal dumping

RDN resolution to be forwarded to Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon speaks in the B.C. legislature, describing work underway to make a small business and tourism aid package less restrictive, Dec. 10, 2020. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants

Business owners expect months more of lost revenues

Most Read