(OTTAWA) Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino never utters the word no, but his lengthy answers say anything but yes to a public inquiry into foreign election interference, as has demanded in committee a majority of members.
The day after the adoption of an NDP motion, which the six Liberals on the committee all rejected, the minister cites the public works of the said committee as an example when asked if the government will accede to this request when it will land on the carpet in the House of Commons.
However, before a parliamentary committee as in “any other” public forum, “there would be constraints” on what could be disclosed, he argues in an interview. “You have to protect the people, the techniques. So yes, we will continue with a robust conversation, but there are principles in the law that we must respect, ”he argues.
The Procedure and House Affairs Committee on Thursday endorsed a motion by NDP MP Peter Julian calling for a public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference in the election, with the head expected to be chosen from unanimously by the recognized parties in the House.
The motion in no way constrains the Trudeau government.
Before what ended up turning into a rat race at the committee, the elected officials had heard several testimonies, including those of the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), David Vigneault, and the deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, David Morrison.
The two explained that security intelligence cannot be taken in isolation in the analysis of a threat.
An analysis fully shared by Minister Mendicino, a former prosecutor who helped bring members of the “Toronto 18” terrorist cell to justice.
On the other hand, he concedes that the toolbox of security and intelligence agencies must be improved, and that is why the Liberal government is considering the idea of creating a register of foreign agents.
“We need to consider all options, and yes, that includes a registry. But before that, there has to be a very high level of consultation with Canadians. Everyone needs to be included in this process. We have to be diligent and thoughtful,” said the minister.
The example of Australia, which has equipped itself with this tool, is one that he is watching closely.
“It’s been a quiet week! I don’t have many things on my desk. A very flat week. I’m looking for things to do,” joked the minister at the start of the interview with The PressFriday morning.
All week long, the shadow of China has hovered over Canada.
It began on Monday with the announcement of the ban on the TikTok application, developed in China, for federal government officials, a directive which was later extended to elected officials and staff of the House of Commons. Quebec followed.
Was there a trigger that led to these cascading bans?
“It’s more of a precaution. It is the fruit of a reflection on the new applications and the capabilities they possess. We must remain on our guard, we must always keep our eyes open,” commented Minister Mendicino.
The decision angered China, which made it known through its embassy in Ottawa.
“Canada has overstated the concept of national security, smearing, repressing and even demonizing the company without any evidence, which is a clear violation of the principles of market economy and fair competition,” it said. denounced.
“We urge the Canadian side to provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies in Canada,” added a spokesperson for the Chinese mission in the federal capital.
China in India
Chinese interference was the subject of a discussion between the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly, and her Beijing counterpart, Qin Gang, on the sidelines of the G20 summit being held in India.
The Chinese representative reportedly urged his Canadian interlocutor to do more to “prevent rumors and hype from disrupting bilateral relations”, according to a Chinese state media account on Friday.
Minister Joly would have remained firm, according to the version of the facts of her office.
“The Minister was direct, firm, and unequivocal: Canada will never tolerate any form of foreign interference in our democracy and internal affairs by China,” reads a statement posted on her Twitter account on Friday. .
Same reluctance from Trudeau
In Winnipeg, where he had traveled to make an announcement on children’s services on Friday, Justin Trudeau faced a barrage of questions on the same issue. Sometimes seeming annoyed at being repeatedly questioned about the public inquiry, he insisted each time that the work was being done elsewhere.
Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security and Intelligence (a body where members hold a high security clearance giving them access to secret information), independent investigations, we are mobilizing to counter the threat, he insisted.
And the Prime Minister is also worried about foreign interference. “I share Canadians’ concerns about Chinese interference, and I have shared them since 2015,” he exclaimed before launching, again, into the list of actions taken by “this government which has so taken this issue seriously.