Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Ing&eacute ;Foreign interference: will the investigation be transparent? | Public inquiry into foreign interference

Open in full screen mode< p class="StyledImageCaptionLegend-sc-57496c44-2 sbxsP">Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, president of the public commission of inquiry into foreign interference.

  • Rania Massoud (View profile)Rania Massoud
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    On the first day of the hearings on foreign interference, one question is on everyone's lips: to what extent the federal inquiry will be able to- Does it demonstrate transparency given the high level of confidentiality of the information shared and the people called to testify?

    It is precisely to answer this question that the president of the commission, Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, wanted to hold preliminary hearings for a week on the challenges related to public disclosure of classified information and intelligence.

    These first hearings will therefore not deal with the substance of the subject, she made it clear in her opening speech at the launch of these hearings on Monday.

    The commission's mandate, published last year, states that it must assess the possibility of interference by China, Russia and other foreign state or non-state actors in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

    The commission also wishes to look into allegations also targeting the role that India could have played during these two elections.

    Public inquiry into foreign interference

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    Foreign interference in our democratic institutions is a very serious issue which requires us to push investigation, analysis and reflection as far as possible to ultimately identify the best ways to counter or [.. .] to limit its effects, Ms. Hogue said on Monday.

    My team and I intend to do everything we can to get to the bottom of this and understand what the country may have faced and what it may still be facing in terms of foreign interference, she added. .

    A public commission of inquiry, as its name suggests, mainly aims to enlighten the public. The mandate entrusted to it thus involves a fundamental duality: respecting the laws and rules applicable to classified documents and maximizing the transparency of its work.

    A quote from Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, president of the federal commission of inquiry into foreign interference

    It is This is quite a challenge, as the commission itself admits, whose mandate was approved by all parties in the House of Commons.

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    China is suspected of interfering in Canadian affairs. Pictured: China's flag flies in front of the Chinese Embassy building in Ottawa.

    The Trudeau government agreed to hold this investigation at the beginning of the summer following several months of pressure from the opposition and the resignation of the special rapporteur on foreign interference, David Johnston. /p>

    Appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mr. Johnston believed that there was no reason to launch a public inquiry into the #x27;foreign interference, particularly due to the sensitivity of the information concerned.

    He resigned last June, shortly after a majority vote in the House calling for his departure.

    Judge Hogue believes that there is a way to carry out a public inquiry, while maintaining a level of confidentiality at for national security purposes.

    Will the commission also have to hold closed hearings? Given the amount of classified information involved, it is very likely yes.

    A quote from Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, chair of the federal commission of inquiry into foreign interference< /blockquote>

    On Monday, she promised to find ways to communicate the essence of the information she will obtain in closed hearings. For example, through a summary.

    It is also possible that certain people called to testify before the commission, and fearing for their safety or that of their loved ones, request that their identity and/or certain information remain confidential, she added. Such requests are also likely to result in closed hearings.

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    Former Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, David Johnston

    The issue of foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian elections came to light following a series of media revelations, notably by the English-language network Global and the daily newspaper The Globe and Mail, in November 2022.

    Several reports, citing anonymous sources, have detailed attempts at interference orchestrated by China during the last two federal election campaigns, including the financing of a clandestine network of candidates. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would have been warned by the intelligence services in January 2022, according to these revelations, which the head of the Canadian government denies.

    The commission of inquiry must also hear the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, the Minister of Public Safety, Dominic LeBlanc, as well as national security officials and lawyers.

    But for the national security expert and former head of the Asia-Pacific bureau at CSIS, Michel Juneau-Katsuya, the Canadian population should not expect many revelations from this commission of inquiry, affirming that Judge Hogue will not be able to reveal everything.

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    Michel Juneau-Katsuya, former executive and senior intelligence officer for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

    The investigation risks coming to nothing, according to him, stressing that the mandate of the commission is very narrow and the list of witnesses is not exhaustive. He asserts that it is Canada's credibility that is at stake, particularly with its allies, while the investigation process has dragged on for years.

    The more time passes, the more the integrity of our institutions is compromised, he said, now that India has been added to the list of countries suspected of interference in addition to China and Russia.< /p>

    We really have a problem with foreign interference, we need to protect ourselves by adopting a law, but we haven't done it.

    A quote from Michel Juneau-Katsuya, national security expert

    In an interview with CBC, Stéphanie Carvin, professor of international relations at Carleton University and former national security analyst at CSIS, hopes that these hearings will give victims of interference the opportunity to speak out. before the commission, even if it is done confidentially. I hope the victims will be heard, said Ms. Carvin.

    For too long, we have viewed foreign interference as a non-Canadian problem. We've looked at this as a foreign issue or one that doesn't impact Canadians. But that’s not true, she said.

    In March, the Liberal government announced that it had dedicated $56 million over five years to fight foreign interference. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is expected to receive the lion's share of this envelope by April 2026, to support efforts to investigate threats and proactively work with diaspora communities who are particularly at risk of harm. ;be targeted by foreign interference.

    At the end of October, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Protection of Personal Information and Ethics also recommended the creation of a register of foreign agents.

    The United States and Australia already have such registers, and a transparency system is expected to come into force in UK next year.

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