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B.C. premier urges PM to provide foreign interference information to protect province

B.C. Premier David Eby speaks during an announcement in Delta, B.C., on Monday, March 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck B.C. Premier David Eby speaks during an announcement in Delta, B.C., on Monday, March 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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British Columbia Premier David Eby is pressing for urgent access to information from Canada’s spy agency to help combat foreign interference at the provincial level, citing allegations involving transnational organized crime, cybersecurity and murder.

Eby said Monday he sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying B.C. does not have the information it needs to intercept and address foreign interference that may be occurring in the province.

"How are we supposed to take action to address these issues?" he said at a housing related news conference in North Vancouver on Monday.

He described a series of situations with alleged foreign links, including the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader who was shot last June in Surrey, B.C.

Trudeau said in the House of Commons in September there was credible intelligence that India's government was involved, which it denies.

"We've seen the prime minister say that India was potentially directly involved in the murder of a British Columbian," Eby said, calling the claim "a massive and significant allegation that was profoundly disturbing to British Columbians."

Four Indian nationals have been charged with Nijjar's murder.

"We've had a state-level actor attack our computer systems in the heart of government operations," said Eby. "We've had ex-pat populations from Iran, from Ukraine, from China say that they are being harassed and are facing issues of interference from foreign governments here in B.C. Right here in B.C."

B.C. solicitor general Mike Farnworth said last month B.C. was confident recent cybersecurity attacks on its computer systems were likely the result of a state or state-sponsored actor targeting government networks.

Eby said the sharing of information by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is long overdue, and he urged Trudeau to quickly bring into force CSIS Act amendments that were introduced to Parliament last month.

"Serious allegations of foreign interference at the federal level are making headlines in B.C.," said Eby's one-page letter to Trudeau, dated June 14. "As we have discussed, our government does not have the information we need to intercept and address any alleged foreign interference at the provincial level."

Public Safety Canada says the amendments to the act are intended to allow CSIS to make "broader disclosure" of information beyond the federal government.

Eby’s letter said there are credible reasons to suspect state-level interference with B.C. residents who had personal connections or relatives in China, Iran, Ukraine, India and Russia.

It said his government also had “grave concerns” about the activities of transnational organized crime following a public inquiry into money laundering.

"I am grateful for your introduction of the amendments to the CSIS Act that will assist CSIS in sharing information with me and relevant provincial authorities," said Eby's letter. "This information sharing is long overdue."

Eby's letter also asked the prime minister to provide B.C. with information before the passage of the CSIS bill that could help protect the people of the province and its democratic institutions from foreign interference.

"So, when it comes to these kinds of things in the context of a federal inquiry that says there are members of Parliament that may potentially be compromised by foreign governments, it's a very straightforward ask: tell us the best information about what's happening in B.C.," he said at the news conference.

Led by Quebec judge Marie-Josée Hogue, the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions is examining allegations of foreign interference by China, Russia and other foreign states in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian federal elections.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2024.

 

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