Members of Canadian opposition parties will not be able to ask questions in the upcoming foreign interference inquiry, a judge has decided.
Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue on Monday laid down a ruling dividing participants in the inquiry into two groups. The Conservative and New Democratic Parties will be granted “intervenor standing,” giving them the ability to make submissions and see public evidence. Those with “party standing” will be able to see all evidence and question witnesses.
The Liberal Party of Canada itself appears not to have applied for status.
Hogue sorted through dozens of applications from various groups and individuals who wanted a presence in the inquiry. The judge said she granted party standing to those who “have something on the line in the commission's findings,” the National Post reported.
“This type of interest generally arises either from some form of personal or reputational interest in the outcome of the Commission’s work. It may also stem from the formal role an applicant plays in countering foreign interference or in the electoral process,” Hogue wrote in her ruling.
Former Liberal turned independent MP Han Dong was granted standing for the factual phase of the inquiry. Dong is at the centre of allegations that China interfered with Canadian elections.
Along with the government and the commissioner of elections, several diaspora group from the Chinese, Russian, and Ukrainian communities were granted full party standing. A media coalition consisting of CBC/Radio-Canada, the Toronto Star, CTV News, Global News, QMI and TVA was also granted party standing for a phase of the factual part of the hearing, according to CTV News.
Hogue warned participants that she would not allow the inquiry to become a partisan debate. She noted that the Conservatives have indicated that MP Michael Chong, who was the direct target of a disinformation campaign by the Chinese government, would play a leading role in the party's presence at the commission. Hogue advised Chong that he would be able to apply for independent status similar to Dong's, since his interest in the inquiry may be different than the Conservative Party's.
Hogue wrote that she will not allow the commission to become a “partisan debate between opposing political factions.”
“All must participate in this Inquiry with the sole purpose of assisting the Commission and not for any partisan purpose,” she wrote.
The inquiry, announced in September, is intended to find out whether Russia, China, or other foreign actors interfered in the last two Canadian federal elections. Hogue is expected to begin holding hearings in late January, with an interim report to be issued in late February. A final report should be issued by the end of 2024.
An additional set of hearings in fall 2024 are set to focus on whether or not the government is adequately able to counter foreign influence, from a policy perspective.