Hearings of the commission of inquiry into foreign interference begin

(Ottawa) The hearings of the public and independent commission of inquiry into foreign interference begin Monday in Ottawa, with this week’s sessions aimed at examining what must remain confidential for the purposes of protecting national security .

Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, who presides over the proceedings, must hear factual witnesses and recognized experts.

Among those scheduled to testify during the week are Pierre Trudel, professor at the University of Montreal, and Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The Minister of Public Security, Dominic LeBlanc, is also expected, as is the current leader of CSIS, David Vigneault.


The current leader of CSIS, David Vigneault

“These hearings are qualified as preliminary insofar as they will make it possible to prepare for the next public hearings during which the Commission will examine the substantive questions arising from its mandate,” the commissioner argued in a press release in December.

Mme Hogue must submit a first report no later than May 3. The final report is expected by December 2024.

The preliminary hearings must be spread over five days, according to the planned schedule. “The experts will help the Commission and the public understand both the risks that may arise from the disclosure of classified information and the practices that can be adopted to enable the disclosure of as much information as possible given legal and national security constraints applicable,” we can read in a notice published by the commission.

Another round of hearings is scheduled to take place next March.

The issue of foreign interference made headlines starting in November 2022, with the publication of a series of articles by the Global network and the daily newspaper The Globe and Mail.

The reports included allegations of activities by Beijing to influence the outcome of the 2019 and 2021 Canadian general elections. Sources suggested that Justin Trudeau’s government showed inaction despite advice it received from CSIS.

For example, Global reported, citing unnamed intelligence sources, that the prime minister was warned of a broad alleged effort of Chinese interference in the 2019 election campaign, including funds allegedly affected by at least 11 candidates.

The man Mr. Trudeau had appointed as special rapporteur on foreign interference, David Johnston, concluded in a report that China “used proxies and attempted to influence numerous Liberal and Conservative candidates in various subtle ways.”


The Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, David Johnston

However, according to the former governor general, “nothing allows us to conclude that the 11 candidates worked or are working in concert or that they understood the intentions of the agents.”

The reports from Globe and Mail revealed that Conservative MP Michael Chong was targeted by Beijing in an attempt to intimidate him. This led to the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat who was in Canada, Zhao Wei.

Mr Chong was granted the right to participate fully in the public inquiry chaired by Justice Hogue.

Mr. Chong’s status in the inquiry is more prominent and distinct from that of the federal Conservative Party, which was granted intervener status.


Conservative MP Michael Chong

The commission, according to its mandate, will not be limited to the activities of Beijing and will have to take into consideration those of “Russia and other foreign state or non-state actors,” Minister LeBlanc has repeatedly emphasized.

Judge Hogue’s team also requested that India be included in the transfer of government documents relevant to its investigation.

Mr. Trudeau revealed in the House on September 18 that Canadian intelligence services were investigating “a possible link” between the Indian government and the assassination in British Columbia of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh leader, last June . It was the same day that Commissioner Hogue took office.

The Prime Minister mentioned “credible allegations”, which exacerbated tensions between India and Canada. New Delhi called the allegations “absurd and motivated” by politics.

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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