How Elections Canada Contributes to Election Security
There is no one simple solution that eliminates cyber and information threats to democracy while maintaining freedom of expression. These threats are complex, reaching beyond our borders and the realm of election management.
A shared responsibility
In the current environment, delivering a secure election requires collaboration among many players. Federal agencies, political actors, media, digital platforms, civil society and individual Canadians must all play a role.
Elections Canada coordinates with other federal organizations that contribute to election security, including:
- The Commissioner of Canada Elections, whose office is charged with enforcing the Canada Elections Act and investigating complaints about possible offences under the Act
- The Communications Security Establishment (CSE)
- The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS)
- The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
- The RCMP
- Public Safety Canada
- Global Affairs Canada
- Canada's National Security and Intelligence Advisor
We meet regularly with these agencies to share information; discuss roles, responsibilities and protocols under potential scenarios; and plan communications.
Collaboration is not new for Elections Canada. It's been our practice to work with national security agencies before each election to plan how we respond to potential incidents in the election period.
In parallel to Elections Canada's collaboration described here, the Government of Canada has introduced other initiatives to safeguard elections.
Elections Canada's role
With the support of national security agencies, Elections Canada can focus on its top priority: administering the election and making sure Canadians can exercise their democratic right to register, vote and be a candidate.
To help deliver on its priority in this changing election environment, Elections Canada has taken several steps:
- We improved our security posture and practices.
- Working closely with CSE and other security agencies, we have made major investments to strengthen our IT infrastructure, monitor systems 24/7, and protect our data.
- We have implemented security by design—that is, making security a foundational part of every new IT system or process that we develop.
- We train employees and field staff on how to safeguard information and practice good cyber hygiene.
- We provide Canadians with information on the ways to register and vote, about how to be a candidate, and on the safeguards that protect the integrity of our elections.
- Before and during the 2019 election, we ran a multimedia information campaign so Canadians had easy access to reliable information.
- We put all our communications—TV and radio ads, videos, social media content—in a repository on this website.
- We monitor the information environment (the media, the Web, social media, etc.) to find out about:
- incidents that could affect the smooth administration of a general election or by-election
- inaccurate information on the electoral process, which could prevent people from exercising their right to register, vote, or be a candidate
- social media accounts and websites that impersonate Elections Canada, which could lead to confusion
- We correct the record.
- If we see incorrect information about the electoral process, we proactively communicate correct information.
- If we see fake accounts or websites impersonating Elections Canada, we ask that they be removed. Elections Canada has contacts at digital platforms who handle cases of impersonation of Elections Canada; this impersonation is illegal.
- We study best practices in combatting emerging threats to democracy, and learn from the experiences of other democracies and election agencies.
Areas outside Elections Canada's mandate
Many aspects of an election are outside the mandate and control of Elections Canada because they are not regulated by the Canada Elections Act.
For instance, we are not responsible for:
- ensuring the cyber security of political parties, candidates, or other participants in the democratic process
- correcting inaccurate or misleading information related to political party platforms or policies
- regulating organic (unpaid) content on the Internet or social media
- policing truth in election advertising (apart from requiring ads to carry a tagline saying who paid for them, and prohibiting false statements about certain specific topics, with the intention of affecting the election results)
The roles of politicians, platforms and others
Many players are involved in the democratic process, including political parties, candidates, third parties, digital platforms, media and civil society groups. Everyone involved must do their part. They can:
- protect their IT infrastructure and data
- ensure that the information they produce and share is accurate
- promote digital literacy and critical thinking
As an individual Canadian, you have a role to play as well. You can take steps to protect yourself and others:
- Be cyber safe. Learn about cyber security risks that could affect you and how you can protect yourself—visit the Government of Canada's Get Cyber Safe website.
- Be aware that some of what you see online may not be what it seems. Carefully consider whether the source is reliable and the information is correct.
- Look to Elections Canada for facts about elections and where, when and the ways to register and vote, and about the safeguards in the electoral process. Contact us if you have questions.