MP Han Dong prepares to address foreign interference investigation

A federal investigation into foreign interference will hear from the independent MP at the center of allegations of foreign meddling in Canadian elections.

Han Dong left the liberal group after it was alleged that he willingly participated in Chinese interference efforts and won his seat with Beijing’s help in 2019, claims he denies.

Special Rapporteur David Johnston found last May that there were “irregularities” with Dong’s nomination in 2019 and “well-founded suspicions” that they were linked to the Chinese consulate in Toronto, but that Dong was not aware of these issues.

Dong is scheduled to testify this afternoon, as is former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan, who is now deputy mayor of Markham, Ont.

Chan is suing CSIS and others over allegations that the spy agency was monitoring him and was concerned about inappropriate activities with Chinese officials.

This morning, campaign managers from the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP will testify at a panel.

The investigation will involve Walied Soliman, co-chair of the Conservative campaign in the 2021 election, as well as Azam Ishmael, who ran the Liberal campaign that year, and NDP national director Anne McGrath.

This afternoon, the inquiry will hear from Chan, followed by Dong’s former chief of staff, Ted Lojko, and then Dong himself.

The hearings are part of the investigation’s work examining possible foreign interference by China, India, Russia and others in the last two general elections.

MP Han Dong and political party officials prepare to address an investigation into foreign interference. #CDNPoli #ExternalInterference

Soliman was the Conservative representative on the Task Force on Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections during the 2021 race, and said the party had never been notified of any threats to the electoral process.

“Our party was seeing clear signs of manipulation in constituencies with significant Chinese diasporas,” he wrote on social media in February 2023. “Our concerns were never taken seriously.”

Former national security advisor Jody Thomas testified that the government provided a response to Soliman’s concerns, and nothing was found to suggest that “the constituencies he was concerned about were affected by attempts at foreign interference.”

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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of his cabinet and several senior government officials are also scheduled to appear at the hearings, which will conclude on April 10.

The initial report of the commission’s conclusions is due May 3.

The investigation will then move on to broader policy issues, looking at the government’s ability to detect, deter and counter foreign interference. A final report is expected by the end of the year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2024.

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