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India now the 2nd biggest foreign threat to Canadian democracy after China, interference report concludes

Nine months after the prime minister accused India of involvement in the killing of a Canadian citizen, a damning new report has concluded that country is the second biggest foreign threat to Canadian democracy after China.

India is seeking to exert 'influence across all orders of government' in Canada, report says

An Indian man with white hair and bear points a finger up in the air

Nine months after the prime minister accused India of involvement in the killing of a Canadian citizen, a damning new report has concluded that country is the second biggest foreign threat to Canadian democracy after China.

The report released this week by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), a cross-party group of MPs and senators with top security clearances, mentions India 44 times in its 84 pages.

It alleges India is "interfering in Canadian democratic processes and institutions, including through the targeting of Canadian politicians, ethnic media and Indo-Canadian ethnocultural communities."

Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor at Carleton University and a former national security analyst, told CBC News India has been targeting diaspora communities in Canada for decades.

But the NSICOP report has added something new by describing attempts to interfere in Canada's democratic institutions "in the starkest terms we've ever seen," she said.

The report says that while India's foreign interference efforts are not as widespread as those of the People's Republic of China, they are "of significant concern."

"India seeks to cultivate relationships with a variety of witting and unwitting individuals across Canadian society with the intent of inappropriately exerting India's influence across all orders of government, particularly to stifle or discredit criticism of the Government of India," says the report.

The use of proxies

The heavily redacted NSICOP document repeatedly cites intelligence reports alleging "foreign actors" used "Canadians as proxies who act at their behest, creating a separation between the threat activity and the foreign actor."

"India has an active proxy, who has proactively looked for ways to further India's interests by monitoring and attempting to influence politicians," the report alleges.

While much of the report was redacted — blacked out — before it was published this week, the attached notes explaining those redactions offer details of India's alleged use of proxies.

One note says CSIS has information indicating an Indian proxy claimed to have "repeatedly transferred funds from India to politicians at all levels of government in return for political favours, including raising issues in Parliament."

Another note says India likely reimbursed "a proxy who had provided funds to candidates of two federal parties." NSICOP said the CSIS assessment of those incidents makes it clear the candidates were not aware the funds came from India.

'Media manipulation'

The report says "some elected officials, however, began wittingly assisting foreign state actors soon after their election."

Specific references describing the actions of those officials were redacted, but notes explaining the missing material say the committee has seen "specific examples of members of Parliament who worked to influence their colleagues on India's behalf."

The notes say that some MPs "proactively provided confidential information to Indian officials."

The report also explains how China used WeChat, a Chinese social media platform, to spread "misleading narratives" about Conservative MP Michael Chong.

"India also demonstrated the intent and capability to engage in this type of foreign interference through media manipulation," the report said.

Notes related to this allegation say that three sentences were removed from the report because they contained "injurious or privileged information."

"The sentences described an example of efforts to discredit a political party leader using materials drafted by Indian intelligence organizations," the report said.

Another note describes how India has built a network of contacts "through whom it conducts interference activities, inducing journalists" and members of "ethnocultural communities."

WATCH: Nijjar's accused killer arrested near gathering of major Sikh separatist leaders

Nijjar's accused killer arrested near gathering with major Sikh separatist leaders

2 days ago

Duration 2:14

The arrest in Brampton, Ont., of Amandeep Singh — one of four men charged in connection with the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar — happened just one day before a wedding in that city brought together many of India's Sikh enemies, CBC News has learned.

"India has two extremely good intelligence services and they view Canada as a threat," said Carvin. "They know what they're doing. They've been building this up over time, cultivating relationships across Canadian institutions and we see that in this report."

Carvin said India views Canada as the "heart of the Khalistan independence movement," which campaigns for an independent Sikh homeland in northern India.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, who was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., in June of last year, was a leader in Canada's Sikh diaspora and had been active in a group pushing for an independent Khalistan.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons last fall that Canadian security agencies are looking into "credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India" and Nijjar's death.

Four men have now been charged in that killing.

The NSICOP report says that while India traditionally has focused on the Khalistan movement in Canada, its interest is broadening.

"It became clear during the period of this review that [India's] efforts had extended beyond countering what it perceived as pro-Khalistani efforts in Canada to include interfering in Canadian democratic processes and institutions," the report says.

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