Trudeau to testify on foreign interference: report

On Friday, the Commission on Foreign Interference said more than 40 persons of interest, including senior government officials, will speak on foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. Among those set to testify is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau to testify on foreign interference: report
The Canadian Press / Sean Kilpatrick
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has followed through on an earlier pledge to testify before the public inquiry into foreign interference.

"Willingly and with very much enthusiasm," he said on September 8.

"I think it's important for Canadians to know exactly everything this government has been doing [regarding] foreign interference and to talk frankly about the challenges that we continue to face in our democracies around the world."

On Friday, the Commission on Foreign Interference noted that more than 40 persons of interest, including senior government officials, will speak on foreign interference in the most recent federal elections.

Representatives from Elections Canada and the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, including cabinet ministers, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are expected to testify as early as Wednesday when hearings resume, reported The Epoch Times.

The schedule of witness testimonies will be made available but is not currently public. The commission is expected to table an interim report in May and a final report in December.

On September 7, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc tapped Québec Court of Appeal Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, a 2015 Conservative appointee, to lead the public inquiry into foreign interference as commissioner.

Hogue assumed the position on September 18, overseeing a week of hearings thus far in late January.

She expressed optimism that the inquiry would provide Canadians with “a better understanding” of the foreign threats to Canadian democracy in 2019 and 2021, and how their government will maintain the integrity of future elections.

Hogue will also consider the flow of intelligence to decision-makers concerning those elections.

While Trudeau’s cabinet earlier acknowledged it failed to act on a 2021 pre-election warning of active Chinese agents in federal ridings, intelligence officials claimed they did not threaten Canada's electoral integrity.

Special rapporteur David Johnston worked closely with intelligence agencies last year to disclose to the public what he could through an initial report. 

He reached several conclusions about the allegations of foreign interference, including the "growing threat" posed by governments abroad to influence local political candidates.

However, Johnston ruled against a public inquiry into election interference, but lauded his willingness to recommend public hearings into materials that are not classified. The first phase of the inquiry in late January tabled heavily redacted CSIS documents.

Opposition MPs on May 31 demanded a public inquiry into alleged election fraud by foreign agents. All but government caucus members voted for an inquiry last March 2, March 23 and May 31 but the Liberals, backed by the NDP, refused to act upon the will of Parliament.

"There have been widespread calls for a public inquiry from media, opposition parties and parliament through a motion passed in the House of Commons," said the special rapporteur.

"When I began this process, I thought I would come to the same conclusion that I would recommend a public inquiry," he added.

Johnston later resigned under incredible pressure from parliamentarians amid conflict-of-interest concerns related to his past ties to the Trudeau family.

Further pressure intensified from Opposition parties and for an inquiry until the Liberal Party caved over the summer. 

But controversy remains as the Conservatives have yet to receive the same access to relevant documents as the federal government. With full standing, MPs can question witnesses and access some of the classified documents.

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 — the primary focus of the commission’s efforts.

A treasure trove of top-secret CSIS documents outline how Beijing directed Chinese students studying in Canada to work as campaign volunteers and illegally returned portions of donations. They also explained how China spread misinformation and provided undeclared cash donations in the 2021 election.

On May 1, the feds confirmed a 2021 plot by Chinese diplomats to intimidate Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives in response to a Parliamentary motion condemning China's mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims.

"The Trudeau Liberals have known these top-secret reports for two years and did nothing," claimed Conservative Immigration critic Tom Kmiec.

China has repeatedly denied all allegations of electoral fraud, chalking them up to “ulterior political motives” and “some Canadian politicians and media spreading lies and disinformation against China.”

However, verified media reports confirmed that the same Chinese spy also targeted the families of NDP MP Jenny Kwan. Canada expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei a week later.

On August 10, Trudeau’s cabinet confirmed it was "highly probable" the Chinese Embassy used Chinese-language WeChat to slander Chong last May. Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu blamed a similar WeChat campaign for his 2021 election loss.

Former Conservative leader Erin O'Toole, an earlier target of Chinese interference for his strong stance against the Chinese regime, will also be allowed to cross-examine witnesses.

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