2019 federal election a likely target for Russian meddlers, Comey warns


OTTAWA — Canada — like any number of democracies around the world — needs to be concerned about the threat of Russian interference in its elections, says former FBI director James Comey.

Any country that shares liberal, democratic and western values should be worried, considering how much of a threat those values are considered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the world’s most famous former investigators told an Ottawa audience Tuesday.

Comey headed up the controversial investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election before he was unceremoniously fired last May by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Speaking to a luncheon crowd at the Canada 2020 think tank’s annual conference in the national capital, Comey said it’s important for westerners to understand Russia’s role in the last U.S. election because “they will do it again.”

“[Russia] succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in the United States,” he said.

“This active measures campaign to undermine worldwide faith in our democracy—not just faith in the United States—was sophisticated, broad-based and one could argue hugely successful.”

Indeed, not far away from where Comey was speaking, a briefing was taking place across from Parliament Hill where a Canadian official said the fear of Russian infiltration would be a hot topic at this week’s two-day G7 summit in Quebec, which gets underway Friday.

Earlier this year, a leading NATO researcher said Canada should assume Russia will attempt to interfere in the 2019 federal election, because that would serve the Kremlin’s purpose of helping destabilize the military alliance.

Janis Sarts, the director of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, told The Canadian Press that Canada is a natural target.

Sarts cited the allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election, as well as its apparent attempts to disrupt votes in Germany, France, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, among other countries.

Russia is attracted to Canada because meddling could undermine Canadian policy in Europe, allowing Putin to demonstrate that “other countries are afraid of Russia,” Sarts added.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press