Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has called a judicial inquiry into allegations that foreign countries interfered in recent Canadian elections, a decision that comes after months of pressure from opposition parties.
(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has called a judicial inquiry into allegations that foreign countries interfered in recent Canadian elections, a decision that comes after months of pressure from opposition parties.
The controversy has dogged Trudeau for most of the year, primarily due to a steady flow of leaked intelligence documents to media outlets claiming China meddled in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections to try to elect Beijing-friendly candidates.
After several months of negotiating with opposition parties on the terms of a public inquiry, Trudeau’s government announced Thursday that Justice Marie-Josée Hogue of the Quebec Court of Appeal will lead the probe.
“She will be able to undertake her important work with the full support of all recognized parties in the House of Commons,” Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc told reporters in Ottawa. “Our work together sends a clear signal to Canadians that democratic institutions are strong and are resilient.”
Hogue will be asked to examine interference by not only China, but also Russia and other foreign state and non-state actors in the last two Canadian elections, he said.
LeBlanc didn’t specifically name any other countries, but a previous motion passed by opposition parties in the House of Commons singled out India and Iran as potentially having interfered in Canada’s affairs.
The justice will have full access to all relevant cabinet documents, as well as all other information she deems relevant, he said. She will also look at the flow of information to senior Canadian decision makers, including elected officials.
Her first report will be due at the end of February, and her final conclusions are expected by the end of next year.
LeBlanc said opposition parties agreed on criteria that would be important for the person chosen to lead the probe to meet. Hogue was selected because she is a senior judge in one of Canada’s most important courts and is fluently bilingual in French and English.
She doesn’t have detailed national security experience, but the country’s most senior jurists supported her selection, LeBlanc said.
Trudeau’s first attempt to manage the issue became a fiasco after he appointed former Governor General David Johnston as a “special rapporteur” to review the intelligence and recommend a course of action.
Johnston advised against holding an inquiry, but the opposition parties refused to accept his impartiality due to his involvement with a charitable foundation named after Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and other personal connections. Johnston resigned in June.
In his first and only report on the issue, Johnston said foreign governments are indeed trying to influence candidates and voters in Canada. But he said there’s no convincing evidence that Trudeau’s government knowingly failed to act on national security intelligence about the issue.
A poll published by Bloomberg found that a majority of Canadians believe Trudeau has botched responding to the allegations of Chinese interference. Only 14% of respondents gave Trudeau positive reviews on the topic.
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