- Written by Nadine Youssef
- BBC News, Toronto
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has endorsed a special rapporteur’s recommendation to hold public hearings into foreign election interference.
On Tuesday, the government-appointed rapporteur refrained from recommending a formal public inquiry.
This advice comes in response to allegations that China attempted to interfere in the recent federal election in Canada.
Trudeau has faced pressure to launch a public inquiry, and opposition lawmakers have condemned the decision.
Prime Minister David Johnston, the former governor-general of Canada, in March appointed a special rapporteur to investigate allegations of interference, which China denies.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Johnston said foreign governments are “undoubtedly trying to influence candidates in Canada.”
However, he said a public investigation would not be possible due to the sensitivity of the intelligence involved.
Johnston said he reached his conclusions after reviewing classified reports and interviewing senior politicians and intelligence officials.
Johnston said: “What allowed me to determine whether there was indeed interference that could not be disclosed publicly.” “A general review of secret intelligence cannot simply be conducted.”
Instead, in a report on the allegations, he recommended holding public hearings to discuss what he described as “serious shortcomings in the way intelligence is transmitted from security agencies to various government departments” in Canada about detecting and deterring foreign interference.
Its report concluded that “these serious gaps must be addressed and corrected”.
Allegations of foreign interference stem from a steady drip of reports, mostly based on leaked intelligence, in Canadian media in recent months that detail allegations of Chinese interference in the country’s most recent federal elections, in 2019 and 2021.
The effort is not believed to have changed the outcome of either general election, but it has rocked Canadian politics.
At a news conference later on Tuesday, Mr. Trudeau endorsed the recommendations of Mr. Johnston’s public hearings.
“A sharp debate is one of the pillars of democracy,” he said.
Our institutions are being questioned and all levels of government are held accountable. But democracy is not a game.
Johnston’s report also criticized some media reports about the interference allegations, saying they were based on limited information and lacked context.
And while the Trudeau government has faced accusations that it failed to act on specific cases of interference, Johnston said he found no example of the prime minister or others “willfully disregarding information, advice or recommendations about foreign intervention.”
Conservative Party leader Pierre Poiliver criticized Johnston’s report, accusing the special rapporteur of being friendly to Mr Trudeau rather than being impartial on the dossier.
“We need a full year’s investigation to get to the bottom of Beijing’s influence in our democracy,” Poiliver told a news conference.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the report “incredibly disappointing” and said his party continues to call for an investigation.
Johnson called the attacks on his integrity “baseless accusations”.
Allegations of Chinese interference in Canadian politics have made headlines in recent months.
Intelligence reports also detailed accusations that Beijing targeted a member of parliament and his family in Hong Kong after the politician accused China of human rights abuses. In response, Canada declared diplomat Zhao Wei “persona non grata” earlier this month and ordered him to leave. Country.
The next day China ordered the deportation of Canadian diplomat in Shanghai Jennifer Lynn Lalonde.
China has repeatedly denied any interference in Canadian politics, accusing Canada of “slander and defamation” after expelling its diplomats.
This issue has strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.
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