Investigation into foreign interference | Public hearings to resume on Wednesday

(Ottawa) The commission on foreign interference is scheduled to hear from members of diaspora communities on Wednesday, the start of two weeks of testimony on allegations of foreign interference and how the government has responded to them.

The hearings will focus on allegations of foreign interference by China, Russia, India and other countries in Canada’s last two general elections.

The commission of inquiry, led by Quebec judge Marie-Josée Hogue, expects to hear testimony from more than 40 people, including community members, representatives of political parties and federal election officials.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of his cabinet and various senior government officials are also expected to appear at the hearings, which will take place from March 27 to April 10. A preliminary report from the judge is expected by May 3.

The investigation will then move, in a second phase, towards broader political questions, such as the government’s ability to detect, deter and counter foreign interference. A final report is expected by the end of the year.

Attempts to interfere in Canadian affairs have long been a reality. A 1986 intelligence report noted that Beijing used political tactics and covert operations to influence and exploit the Chinese diaspora in Canada.

In February last year, the daily The Globe and Mailciting classified documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said China had worked to ensure the victory of the liberal minority in the 2021 general election and to defeat conservative politicians seen as hostile toward Beijing

The following month, the federal government announced that an independent rapporteur would look into foreign interference, one of several measures aimed at countering interference and building confidence in the electoral process.

Former Governor General David Johnston, who was then appointed, said in a report released last May that there were “serious deficiencies” in the way intelligence is communicated and handled, from security agencies to government .


David Johnston

However, he found no examples of ministers, the Prime Minister or their offices knowingly or negligently failing to act on information, advice or recommendations.

David Johnston added that several leaked documents raising legitimate questions have been misinterpreted by some media outlets, likely due to a lack of context.

Finally, he ruled against a public inquiry, saying a commissioner would face the same obstacles of secrecy that have marred his work. “It would be unsatisfactory, as would my process, because it cannot be done in public,” he wrote.

However, as new leaks were cited in the media and opposition parties mounted pressure, the government announced in September that Mme Hogue would lead a public inquiry.

Preliminary public hearings were held in late January on the complexity of addressing national security issues as transparently as possible.

Despite this, Mme Hogue said earlier this month that she had agreed to a federal request to present some evidence in private hearings.

The commissioner said she was convinced that the disclosure of certain classified information could harm Canada or its allies.

As part of federal efforts announced in March 2023, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Intelligence, known as NSICOP, was tasked with assessing the state of foreign interference in federal election processes, notably attempts at interference during the last two general elections.

The NSICOP report was recently submitted to federal ministers. A declassified version of the report is to be tabled in Parliament.

The National Security and Intelligence Review Office, an independent, external review body, also provided the government with a classified report earlier this month on the release of intelligence on foreign political interference.

The watchdog said on Monday it believes it is “in the public interest to report on this matter” and will therefore send an amended version of the document to the prime minister, which will then be tabled in Parliament .

The body stressed that it was consulting with the government to ensure that the report did not contain damaging or privileged information. “(The NSIRA) hopes that this process will be concluded in a timely manner. »


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