Enhancing citizen preparedness

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada has a strong plan in place to safeguard our democratic processes from threats of foreign interference as we approach the 2019 General Election.

However, new technologies and advances in how we consume information may potentially allow adversaries to use cyber-enabled means to influence Canada’s democratic processes.

Canada’s best defence is an engaged and informed public. 

To enhance citizen preparedness, the Government of Canada is implementing a Critical Election Incident Public Protocol ahead of the 2019 General Election. This is a simple, clear and non-partisan process for informing Canadians if serious incidents threaten the integrity of the 2019 General Election. It would be used to respond to egregious incidents that meet a high threshold, occurring during the writ period, and that do not fall within Elections Canada’s areas of responsibility for the effective administration of the election.

In addition, the Government has dedicated $7M towards a Digital Citizen Initiative to support digital, news and civic literacy programming. Helping Canadians better understand online deceptive practices can reduce the impact of efforts by malicious actors.

The Government is supporting skills development, awareness sessions, workshops and learning material for Canadians. These activities would help citizens to:

  • critically assess online news reporting and editorials;
  • recognize how and when malicious actors exploit online platforms; and,
  • acquire skills on how to avoid being susceptible to online manipulation. 

Canadian Heritage is also investing $19.4 million over four years, starting in 2019-2020, in a new Digital Citizen Research Program to help Canadians understand online disinformation and its impact on Canadian society, and to build the evidence base that will be used to identify possible actions and future policy-making in this space. This investment will also enable Canada to take part in international multi-stakeholder engagement aimed at building consensus and developing guiding principles on diversity of content online to strengthen citizen resilience to online disinformation.

The Government is also leveraging Get Cyber Safe, the national public awareness campaign created to educate Canadians about Internet security, and including greater linkages to cyber threats to Canada’s democratic processes.

The Communications Security Establishment released a 2019 Update on Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process. This report helps sensitize Canadians to cyber threats ahead of the 2019 General Election.

On December 13, 2018, the Elections Modernization Act (Bill C-76) received Royal Assent. The Bill contains several measures to make the electoral system more secure, accessible and transparent. For instance, it expands the education mandate of Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, clarifies prohibitions related to false statements and foreign interference, and prohibits the use of foreign funds by third parties for partisan advertising and activities.

Taken together, all of these measures will foster a more informed public. By being aware of the tactics used online to deceive, Canadians are better equipped to think critically about what they read and share online. This is the best defense against efforts by foreign actors to manipulate opinions on social media and online platforms.


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