Canada: Keeping It Canadian: Guarding Against Foreign Interference In The Modernization Of The Canada Elections Act

Last Updated: August 9 2019
Article by Elisabeth Neelin and Marie-Pier Desmeules

We are told by the Communications Security Establishment ("CSE") that in 2018, "half of all advanced democracies holding national elections had their democratic process targeted by cyber threat activity".1 The CSE also judged it "very likely" that Canadian voters will encounter some form of foreign cyber interference ahead of the 2019 Canadian federal elections.

In this context, the Canadian government enacted the Elections Modernization Act (also known as Bill C-76) to address these growing concerns over foreign interference in the Canadian democratic process.

Since the coming into force of the new Act on June 13, 2019, foreign entities and individuals are all but completely excluded from any form of participation in Canadian elections. The Act comes at the issue from a number of angles, reinforcing and adding restrictions on the source of funding for third parties for a wide range of political activities and the types of expenses that foreign third parties can incur in relation to Canadian political activities, barring any form of undue influence by foreign entities or individuals, and, finally, enacting a ban applicable to all sellers of advertising space.

a) Prohibition on Foreign Funding for Political Activity

Under the previous version of the Act, non-Canadian citizens and non-permanent residents were banned from giving contributions to Political Actors.2 Under the amended version of the Act, the legislator has brought the prohibitions on foreign intervention one step further by banning the use of foreign funds from political activity.

Political actors are not the only ones who are barred from using foreign funds in connection with political activities. Third parties, which can be any individual or entity, including trade associations, interest groups and even corporations, who engage in political activities are also restricted in the source of the funding for those activities.

Indeed, no third party can use funds from a foreign entity for:

  • a partisan activity (i.e., activities, such as making telephone calls to electors or organizing rallies, carried out by third parties that promote or oppose a political actor, like a candidate or a political party),
  • advertising that promotes or opposes a political actor, such as a candidate or a political party at any time, not just during pre-election and election periods,
  • election advertising, which is an ad placed during an election period that promotes or opposes a registered political party or a candidate or which relates to issues raised by any of the parties or candidates ("issue ads"), or
  • an election survey (i.e., an opinion survey of whether persons intend to vote at an election or who they voted for or will vote for at an election or regarding an issue raised by any of the parties or candidates).

For the purposes of this prohibition a "foreign entity" under the Act is (i) an individual who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident; (ii) a corporation or entity incorporated, formed or organized outside Canada that does not carry on business in Canada or whose only activity carried on in Canada consists of doing anything to influence the electors' vote at an election (iii) a trade union that does not hold bargaining rights for employees in Canada, (iv) a foreign political party, or (v) a foreign government or an agent of a foreign government.

Unlike other definitions of foreigner under the Act, there is no carve out for people who, although not citizens or permanent residents, reside in Canada. For instance, a foreign student studying in a Canadian University would be considered a foreign entity and could not give funds to a third party for the purposes set out above. However, as we will see below, that same student can engage directly in political activity during an election period.

b) Prohibition on Spending by Foreign Third Parties

Beyond prohibiting third parties from using money from foreign sources, the Act restricts what foreign third parties can spend money on during the pre-election and election periods. Foreign third parties are prohibited from incurring partisan activity expenses, election advertising expenses, election survey expenses and partisan advertising3 expenses during a pre-election or election period.

c) Prohibition to Unduly Influence Electors

No foreigner can, during an election period, unduly influence an elector to vote or refrain from voting or to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate or political party at the election. For this prohibition, a "foreigner" is the same as a "foreign entity" with the exception for those residing in Canada. Under the Act, Foreigners "unduly influence" an elector where they knowingly incur any expense to directly promote or oppose a candidate, political party or leader of a political party or where one of the things done by them to influence the elector is an offence under a federal or provincial law or regulation.

The Act carves out certain exceptions to this otherwise broad prohibition and excludes the following activities from the definition of "unduly influencing" an elector:

  • Expressing an opinion about the outcome (or desired outcome) of the election,
  • Encouraging the elector to vote in general, or
  • Transmitting to the public through broadcasting or the media an editorial, a debate, a speech, an interview, a column, a letter, a commentary or news.

d) Prohibition on the Sale of Advertising Space to Foreigners

The new Act also seeks to involve new stakeholders in the fight against foreign intervention in the Canadian democratic process. To this end, the Act includes a ban aimed not at foreigners but at those who provide the means for a foreigner to place an election ad. Under the Act, no person or entity is allowed to sell any advertising space to a foreigner for the purpose of enabling the foreigner to transmit an election advertising message. Election advertisements include both messages related to candidates and parties and so-called issue ads which are more difficult to identify for parties whose only political involvement is the sale of advertising space. Sellers who knowingly violate this offense are subject to a fine up to $50,000 and imprisonment up to five years, or to both.


With the adoption of these new and reinforced prohibitions, we can expect a heightened scrutiny in a wide range of political activities from the Commissioner of Canada Election. Foreigners and Canadians dealing with foreigners should be ready to answer to the Commissioner in all matters relating to foreign involvement in elections.

The next and last article of our short series outlining the recent changes brought to the Act will turn to the new powers of the Commissioner to enforce the Act and conduct investigations into suspected violations of the Act.

*For more information on the scope and definitions of regulated election-related content, we refer you to the first article of our short series entitled "In the Name of Transparency: The Modernization of the Canada Elections Act".


1 CSE 2019 updated Report on Cyber Threats to Canada's Democratic Process.

2 For the purposes of this prohibition, "Political Actors" mean: registered political parties, registered associations, nomination contestants, candidates or leadership contestants.

3 Partisan advertising are ads placed during a pre-election period that promote or oppose a political actor such as a political party or potential candidate, with the exception of issue ads.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions