On Monday, David Johnston ended his brief term as special rapporteur by quietly handing the prime minister his second and final report into Chinese interference.
The office of the 'independent' special rapporteur said the document is a "supplement to the confidential annex" of his earlier report and would not be made public. Instead, he provided Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a two-paragraph cover letter on its contents.
In his letter, Johnston said he provided a revised confidential annex to the Privy Council, which they would send to the Prime Minister's Office, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.
"To the extent that I or my legal team can be of assistance to the Government of Canada [or anybody charged with investigating this important issue] as it pursues its next steps on foreign interference, we will make ourselves available," wrote Johnston.
The Privy Council Office said opposition party leaders with a security clearance would also receive a copy.
On June 9, Johnston announced he would resign as special rapporteur because the role became 'too cluttered in political controversy' for him to continue.
"When I undertook the task of the independent special rapporteur on foreign interference, my objective was to help build trust in our democratic institutions," he wrote.
"I have concluded that, given the highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work, my leadership has had the opposite effect."
The former governor general has continued to dispute claims of bias owing to his personal relationship with the prime minister. He condemned the "baseless accusations" against him that "diminish trust in our public institutions."
"I have been fortunate in my public life to have served as chair of or member of advisory committees or task forces on dozens of occasions over the years, with appointments by prime ministers, several premiers, several ministers and on none of those predication has my impartiality or integrity been questioned."
"When I began this process [on foreign interference], I thought I would come to the same conclusion that I would recommend a public inquiry," said Johnston when disclosing his initial report on May 23.
The former Governor General acknowledged opposition parties have repeatedly called for an independent, public inquiry.
On March 23, the Commons PROC Committee voted 172-149 in favour of a Public Inquiry. However, the federal government did not adopt the non-binding motion.
"Our democracy is built on trust in our institutions, democracy and each other," said Johnston. "Foreign interference threatens that trust and undermines the trust in our government's ability to protect our democracy."
"Canadians deserve answers into whether the government failed to protect our democracy."
While the former governor general stopped short of recommending a public inquiry, he reached several conclusions on the allegations of foreign interference, including the "growing threat" posed by foreign governments attempting to influence political candidates.
According to anonymous security sources, Chinese diplomats and their proxies worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered "hostile" towards Beijing during the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
A top-secret CSIS document — leaked to the press but not publicly disclosed — outlined that Beijing directed Chinese students studying in Canada to work as campaign volunteers. It also revealed that China spread misinformation and provided undeclared cash donations in the 2021 election.
Johnston acknowledged that common interference tactics included 'disinformation' campaigns and the "abuse of human relationships" but clarified that "individual pieces of intelligence must be viewed with skepticism."
"The limited leaked intelligence and subsequent reporting have led to misapprehensions relating to incidents alleged to have occurred in the 2019 and 2021 elections," he said.
Johnston articulated that without the "benefit of the full context," the leaked materials can be "misconstrued." He adds that "foreign interference is not usually embodied in discrete one-off pieces of intelligence."
In that initial report, the special rapporteur concluded the constraints of national security laws made a public inquiry untenable. The special rapporteur said he worked "closely" with intelligence agencies to disclose what he could.
Johnston instead planned to hold public hearings to educate Canadians about how foreign interference happens and how to manage it better.
He recommended Trudeau invite national security agencies and the three Opposition leaders to review the conclusions of the Inquiry report as part of a "necessary step in transparency and accountability."