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Foreign interference is 'huge challenge,' French PM says after meeting with Trudeau

French PM meets Trudeau

Foreign meddling attempts are a "huge challenge" that require countries to keep their citizens informed, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said Thursday during an official visit to Ottawa.

"We are seeing it in many places," Attal said, including online, where cyberattacks and misinformation are often part of the foreign interference landscape.

Last month, the French government said it was experiencing attacks with "unprecedented intensity" and established a special crisis centre to restore online services.

"What we need to do is to alert everyone about the risks of this interference," Attal told a joint news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It came just one day after Trudeau testified at a Canadian inquiry into interference attempts in the last two federal elections.

In his testimony, Trudeau described pushing back on intelligence he was provided, including by asking detailed questions about the extent to which it was substantiated.

Asked about that testimony on Thursday, Trudeau said leaders must think critically and question the information they are given, although he still has confidence in Canada's security apparatus.

"No government, no leader, should simply be a passive receiver of information and intelligence," he said, adding that leaders have a role to play in "questioning sources and pulling out contradictions."

"That actually is part and parcel of the work that we all need to do to make sure that everything is done to keep Canadians safe," Trudeau continued.

"It is a very active role that we play."

Trudeau was also asked to comment on concerns over far-right populism that abound in Europe.

He said in French that when push comes to shove, he is confident that members of the public will be able to see through messages of division and hate in deciding what kind of country they want to build.

In a thinly veiled allusion to the arguments of his Conservative political opponents, Trudeau said optimism is less "spectacular" a draw on social media and he believes that voters will opt not to "set everything on fire and go home."

During their meetings, Attal and Trudeau agreed to a suite of new initiatives to deepen bilateral ties between Canada and France.

Chief among them is a French commitment to join Canada's global carbon pricing challenge, an effort to rally the international community around a signature climate policy that is causing Trudeau much political misery at home.

The European Union had previously signed on, along with the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Chile, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and South Korea.

France and Canada are also set to work more closely together on wildfires and clean energy.



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