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Election Integrity and Security Including Foreign Interference

This web page will help you understand the various people and procedures involved in protecting Canada's federal electoral system.

As maintaining the integrity of the electoral process is at the core of everything Elections Canada does, the agency has created an Electoral Integrity Framework. This framework outlines six essential principles against which Elections Canada's programs and services can be measured and helps structure analysis and decision making to support the consistent and rigorous application of the provisions outlined in the Canada Elections Act: accessibility, fairness, independence, reliability, security and transparency.

There are various measures that can be used to protect an election. The entire system needs to be looked as a whole—what makes an election secure is not just one component. It involves the proper application of procedures, adherence to electoral law, and the coordination of the various players involved.

Here are the cornerstones of electoral security in Canada's federal electoral system:

Elections Canada's Role in Electoral Security

With the support of national security and intelligence agencies, Elections Canada can focus on its top priority: administering elections and making sure Canadians can exercise their democratic rights to register, vote and be a candidate.

There are safeguards present at every stage of the electoral process:

In addition to overseeing the safeguards:

We maintain a strong security position and abide by government-wide best practices.
  • With the support of our security partners, we maintain up-to-date situational awareness of new and emerging threats.
  • We adhere to all security control requirements within the Government of Canada security policy suite (personnel, physical and cyber)
  • Elections Canada leverages extensive monitoring capabilities that are supported by the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, which allows for anomalies to be quickly detected across all platforms and systems.
  • We have implemented security by design, making security a foundational part of every new IT system or process that we develop.
  • All new technology solutions are designed to meet the stringent Government of Canada cyber security suite of policies and standards.
  • We continually train employees and field staff on how to safeguard information and practise good cyber safety.
We monitor the information environment (the news media, the Web, social media, etc.)

This allows us to detect:

  • 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 rights to register, vote or be a candidate
  • Social media accounts and websites that impersonate Elections Canada, which could lead to confusion
We provide Canadians with information on the ways to register and vote, on how to be a candidate and on the safeguards that protect the integrity of our elections.
  • Before and during an election, we run a multimedia campaign so that Canadians have easy access to reliable information.
  • We put all our communications—TV and radio ads, videos, social media content—in a repository on our website to make it easy to find out whether an advertising or communication product actually came from us.
  • We provide accessible information about the safeguards built into each step of the electoral process.
We offer ongoing civic education programming to build the knowledge, understanding, interest and skills required for future electors and electors to participate in the electoral process
We review and audit the financial returns of political participants to ensure compliance, and refer any possible contraventions of the Canada Elections Act to the Commissioner for investigation.
  • Elections Canada has a multi-year risk-based audit plan for the review of political entities' financial returns (candidates, political parties, and electoral district associations)
  • All financial returns are required by law to be published on Elections Canada`s website
  • Extensive supporting materials and training are provided to political entities to promote compliance

Transparency is also one of the key pillars of electoral democracy and exists throughout the entire electoral process:

  • Electors vote in a public place, where candidates can have representatives and other observers present.
  • Votes are counted in front of candidates' representatives or other designated observers.
  • Political contributions must be disclosed, candidates and parties must account for all of their spending, and the financial returns of all candidates are made public and posted online.
  • An independent audit is conducted at every election and by-election to make sure that poll workers exercise their duties properly.
  • After each election, Elections Canada publishes a number of post-election reports, which include an assessment of how the event unfolded and an outline of what can be done to improve the administration of elections. In addition, the Chief Electoral Officer recommends changes to the Canada Elections Act. The aim of these reports and recommendations is to provide better services to electors or to improve the way Elections Canada does business.

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Working with Security Agencies and Partners

Election interference, foreign or domestic, is a serious matter. Canadians should know there are safeguards in the electoral process to mitigate these threats. They should also be aware that everyone involved in elections can be targeted, and we all have a role to play in securing elections. Agencies such as CSE and CSIS have produced reports about the threats to Canada's democratic process.

There is no one simple solution that eliminates threats to election security while maintaining an accessible, fair and transparent electoral process. These threats—including criminal acts, terrorism, cyberattacks, domestic and foreign interference and attempts at spreading inaccurate information— are complex and reach beyond our borders and the realm of election management.

Elections Canada coordinates with other federal organizations that contribute to election security, including:

We meet regularly with these agencies and departments to share information; discuss our distinct and complementary roles, responsibilities and protocols under potential scenarios; plan communications; and detect and respond to any threats to the integrity of an election, while remaining independent.

As the environment continues to evolve, these working relationships remain crucial to ensuring the overall security of elections. We work with agencies such as CSE and CSIS, which have mandates to monitor for and investigate foreign interference and have both produced reports about the risks this interference poses to various parts of Canada's democratic process.

In addition to the ongoing collaboration described here, the Government of Canada has implemented a Critical Election Incident Public Protocol for election periods. If the Government becomes aware of an interference attempt during an election, heads of national security agencies will brief senior public servants , who will then notify the Prime Minister, political party officials and Elections Canada. A public announcement would be made to inform Canadians about any incident that threatens the integrity of an election.

The Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force, which includes CSE, CSIS, Global Affairs Canada and the RCMP, also works independently to identify threats of covert, clandestine or criminal activity by foreign actors.

The Task Force would inform Elections Canada if a threat could affect the agency's ability to administer an election.

Working with Security Agencies and Partners

Text version of graphic illustrating the different government agencies involved in protecting elections.

Illustration of the different government agencies involved in protecting elections

Infographic is separated into three rows, with text above the first row saying "During an election" and text above the next two rows saying "During and outside of election periods." A graphic to the left of the three rows displays a hand holding a ballot, inserting it into a ballot box with a maple leaf on the front with text "Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections Task Force" underneath it, also called the SITE Task Force. Below this text are symbols for the CSE (Communications Security Establishment), CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service), GAC (Global Affairs Canada) and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police).

Next to the graphic of the ballot box, an arrow points to a box that says "Panel: Clerk of Privy Council, National Security Advisor, Deputy Ministers of Justice, Public Safety and Foreign Affairs." From this box is an arrow with the words, "If the threat requires a public announcement" which points to another box that lists "Political Parties, Elections Canada, Prime Minister." An arrow points from this box to a red circle with text that says "Panel makes an announcement." If a threat is detected during an election, these agencies report to this panel, who in turn will inform Elections Canada and other agencies if the threat requires a public announcement.

The second row begins with an arrow with text saying, "If there are potential violations of the Canada Elections Act," and points to a box with text saying "Commissioner of Canada Elections." The third row directly underneath the second row begins with an arrow with text saying "If threats or information relates directly to electoral administration matters" and points to a box with text saying "Elections Canada." At the end of the two rows is a red circle with text that says "Makes a separate public announcement." Outside of an election, the SITE task force does not exist, but the agencies will report to the Commissioner of Canada Elections if they detect a threat. The agencies will inform Elections Canada of the threat only if it will interfere with administering an election.

At the local level, during an election we work with the RCMP and police of jurisdiction to ensure a safe environment at the polls.

Understanding Foreign Interference

The expression "foreign interference" refers to actions and behaviours that go far beyond the realm of election administration. When interference does affect the administration of elections, the impacts are similar to those found in other subsets of election interference, including domestic interference.

As mentioned above, CSE and CSIS have produced reports about the threats to Canada's democratic process.

Security agencies also monitor, deter and investigate foreign interference. If they detect potential violations of the Canada Elections Act, they inform the Commissioner of Canada Elections of them. They only share with Elections Canada information that is relevant to our administration of elections.

There are few aspects of the Canada Elections Act that can fall under the umbrella of foreign interference.

The Act prohibits the involvement in specific ways of a foreign individual and entity in our elections. Such prohibition has mostly to do with the political financing regime:

  • Only Canadians and permanent residents can make financial contributions
  • Foreign individuals or entities cannot register as third parties
  • Third parties cannot use foreign funds

The Act includes rules—such as a ban on making contributions using funds from someone else and cash contributions of $20 or more—to prevent circumventing the political financing regime.

The Act also prohibits undue influence by foreigners, meaning that no person or entity can unduly influence a voter to vote or refrain from voting, or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate or registered party, at the election. Potential violations of the Canada Elections Act are reviewed by the Commissioner of Canada elections.

It should also be noted that there are mechanisms in the Act to contest an election in an electoral district. In a contested election proceeding, a judge determines whether there were irregularities, fraud, or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result.

Elections Canada has a mandate to ensure that Canadians are well-informed about the electoral process. We do this in three ways, as elaborated on below:

Outreach and Voter Information
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  • During elections, deliver comprehensive Voter information Campaign to position EC as the authoritative source of information about when, where and the ways to register and vote
  • Repository of EC communication products on the EC website
  • Work with stakeholders to spread the word and provide correct voter information
Pre-empting, Detection and Response
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  • Pre-empting and "pre-bunking"
  • Detecting inaccurate narratives and assess potential impact
  • Respond with accurate information using EC communication channels, reaching out to the source(s), escalating to digital platforms and/or security agencies
Civic Education
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  • Work with educators and civic society groups to offer education programming to build knowledge, understanding, interest and skills required for future voters and voters to participate in the electoral process
  • Promote fact-checking services and encourage vigilance

Since we know that foreign interference can sometimes take the form of false or inaccurate information on the electoral process that is spread on purpose, Elections Canada is exploring more education initiatives in multiple languages to help strengthen the resilience of new Canadians and future electors against such false information, as well as to bolster their overall understanding of the process.

In Meeting New Challenges: Recommendations from the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada following the 43rd and 44th General Elections, which was tabled in June 2022, the CEO also made recommendations to improve the Act that are relevant in the context of foreign interference:

  • Recommendation 4.2.1 proposes expanding the rules on undue influence by a foreign individual and entity to the pre-writ period.
  • Recommendation 2.3.1 proposes a regime to more effectively prevent the use of foreign funds by third parties.
  • Recommendation 8.4.1 proposes to ban the use of untraceable instruments such as prepaid credit cards and to adopt specific rules for contributions in cryptocurrency.
  • Recommendation 4.1.1 proposes to prohibit knowingly making false statements about the voting process in order to disrupt the conduct of the election or to undermine the legitimacy of the election or its results.

The CEO could also make more recommendations in the future.

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The Commissioner of Canada Elections' Role in Electoral Security

  • The Commissioner of Canada Elections is the independent officer responsible for ensuring that the Canada Elections Act (the Act) is complied with and enforced.
  • The Commissioner of Canada Elections manages its own relationships with security agencies, independently of Elections Canada.
  • When Elections Canada becomes aware of a potential wrongdoing under the Act, the agency refers that information to the Commissioner of Canada Elections for consideration and possible investigation.
  • Members of the public who think that someone may be breaking election law can contact the Commissioner of Canada Elections to make a complaint.
  • If a complaint falls within the Office's mandate, the Commissioner can investigate and, if required, take compliance or enforcement action.
  • Breaking federal election law can lead to serious consequences, including undertakings, administrative monetary penalties, compliance agreements and criminal charges.

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Electors, Political Entities and Others' Role in Electoral Security

Many players are involved in the democratic process, including political parties, candidates, third parties, digital platforms, the media and civil society groups. We regularly consult and engage with these different entities on issues related to the electoral process. Everyone involved must do their part. They can do so by:

  • understanding and adapting to the threats they face
  • protecting their IT infrastructure and data
  • ensuring that the information they produce and share is accurate
  • promoting 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. 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 federal elections, about where, when and the ways to register and vote; and about the safeguards in the electoral process. Contact us if you have questions.

Some information on the Internet and social media is reliable, but some information can be either mistakenly misleading (misinformation) or deliberately misleading (disinformation). During an election, there may be more information available than usual. To exercise your right to vote, it is important that you have accurate information.

Elections Canada is the official source of information about the federal election process. Look to us for facts about where, when and the ways to register and vote, and about the safeguards in the electoral process.

Tips to make sure that you are getting reliable information

To learn more, check out our videos.

Check the Source (1) – Election security

Transcript of video 1

Visual: A woman in her living room is scrolling through her social media feed on her tablet device. Close-up of her tablet as she scrolls through various social media posts. She stops at a video news story featuring a reporter.

Narrator (voice Over): On the internet, anybody can be a broadcaster.

Visual: Close-up of video news story featuring reporter. A photo of Parliament Hill can be seen in the background. The banner on the video reads "Voting Age Lowered to 10 Yrs".

Narrator: That makes it hard to tell who's credible and who's not.

Visual: Close-up of the woman as she raises her eyebrows. Close-up of the video news story as the reporter wraps up with a smile and a "thumbs up" gesture.

Narrator: Even the most realistic content may be inaccurate or deceptive.

Visual: Wide shot of the same reporter sitting in a messy basement bedroom smiling at his web cam. As he closes the laptop, the banner and the image of Parliament Hill disappear. He lays back comfortably onto his bed.

Narrator: Before you vote, make sure you're getting news and information from reliable sources.

Super: Make sure you're getting news and information from reliable sources.

Narrator: Don't believe something just because someone you know shared it.

Visual: Close-up of a tablet screen showing the woman's social media feed. Zoom into a video news story featuring the same reporter. Zoom into the profile picture of the person who shared the story.

Narrator: Find out where it originally came from,

Visual: Pan down the reporter's social media post to a link to the originating URL. The link is clicked. Cut to a website featuring the reporter smiling a "thumbs up gesture". Several Canadian themed parody news videos appear on the page.

Narrator: and then decide if it's trustworthy.

Visual: Cut back to the woman in her living room scrolling through her tablet device. Icons representing various posts and new stories are superimposed above her head.

Narrator: Take a minute to find out where your news comes from.

Visual: Using flicks of her finger, the woman discards social media content that is fake or misleading. One by one the icons disappear above her head.

Narrator: Our democracy is important, let's take it seriously.

Narrator: When it comes to voting in federal elections, your official source of information is Elections Canada.

Visual: Fade to black. A large X appears with the campaign tagline "It's Our Vote". The tagline fades while the X flies off to settle into the X in the Elections Canada logo which appears on screen. The URL appears on screen, followed by the toll-free number 1-800-463-6868.

Check the Source (2) – Election security

Transcript of video 2

Visual: A familiar-looking painting hangs in an art gallery. A man removes his glasses to look closer. The painting is a bad reproduction of the Mona Lisa.

Narrator (voice Over): Some fakes are easy to spot.

Visual: The man turns his attention to his smartphone and begins scrolling through his social media feed with his thumb.

Narrator: It can be a lot harder to identify misinformation online.

Visual: Close-up of his smartphone as he scrolls. Various social media posts include fake news and misinformation.

Narrator: News feeds and websites can be misleading.

Visual: Close-up of a social media post from an art gallery advertising the "real" Mona. Wider shot of the man in gallery chuckling - he realizes he's been fooled.

Narrator: Before you vote, make sure what you're seeing is real and accurate.

Super: Make sure what you're seeing is real and accurate.

Visual: As the man continues to scroll through his social media feed, he comes to an election-related post that announces: "Election Postponed Until Wednesday". A large red circle with diagonal line covers a voting placard. Morph to a close-up of the suspicious post.

Narrator: When you see election information online double-check it.

Visual: Close-up of the smartphone screen as an internet search window is opened and the words "Election Postponed" are typed into the search bar. The search results reveal a widely-covered election hoax circulating online.

Narrator: Check if other reliable news outlets are covering it.

Visual: Close-up of the smartphone screen as one search result is clicked revealing a news story titled "Election Hoax Circulating Online".

Narrator: Or if other people have already debunked it.

Visual: Cut back to a scene of the man sitting on a bench in the gallery looking at his smartphone.

Narrator: Don't let false information affect your decision-making.

Visual: Cut to a wider shot as the man scans his social media feed more carefully. Icons representing various posts and new stories are superimposed above his head. Using a flick of his finger, he discards content that is fake or misleading.

Narrator: Democracy is a shared responsibility.

Narrator: When it comes to voting in federal elections, your official source of information is Elections Canada.

Visual: Fade to black. A large X appears with the campaign tagline "It's Our Vote". The tagline fades while the X flies off to settle into the X in the Elections Canada logo which appears on screen. The URL appears on screen, followed by the toll-free number 1-800-463-6868.

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