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Foreign interference in elections | Trudeau relies on a special rapporteur



(Ottawa) Attempting to both calm opposition party critics and reassure Canadians, Justin Trudeau announces the creation of a special rapporteur on foreign interference, the opening of an investigation – to behind closed doors – and the launch of consultations on the creation of a register of foreign agents.

But there is no question, at least for the moment, of launching the public inquiry that the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party are crying out for.

The Prime Minister is relying on a “prominent Canadian” to advise him on whether or not to hold such a public inquiry into foreign interference during the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The independent rapporteur “will have a broad mandate to make specialized recommendations on the protection of our democracy,” announced Mr. Trudeau in the company of a quartet of ministers at a press conference in parliament on Monday.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is relying on a special rapporteur to advise him on whether or not to hold a public inquiry into foreign interference during the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

“Some argue that a public inquiry is the necessary next step”, and “others have pointed out the flaws and challenges” of such an exercise, but “whether it is an inquiry or a judicial review, and no matter what the scope of this work might be,” the Liberals will comply, he promised.

The Prime Minister has also given the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, whose members he appoints, the mandate to study the stakes.

This committee is chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty. It is made up of three elected Liberals, two Conservatives, a Bloc member, a New Democrat and an independent senator. All hold Top Secret security clearances and are permanently bound to secrecy. In addition to these two measures, there is the official launch of consultations surrounding the establishment of a register of foreign agents.

Those who hoped on Monday for the announcement of a public and independent inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian elections therefore remain unsatisfied.

Granting this request would have been “a fairly easy decision politically”, argued Justin Trudeau, but according to him, the “credibility” of the exercise could have been undermined if he had had to manage the documents that could be disclosed.

The Prime Minister has undertaken to consult the other parties for the appointment of the rapporteur.

Foreign agents: already a bill in the Senate

Conservative Senator Leo Housakos introduced Bill S-237 in the Senate more than a year ago to create a registry of foreign influence agents. Its purpose: to bring to light the activities of those who attempt to influence, on behalf of foreign regimes, politics and elections in the country.

But so far, the senator notes that the Trudeau government has shown little interest in this tool, which is considered essential by national security experts to counter foreign interference.

Canada’s main allies – the United States, Australia and Great Britain – have already adopted such a tool in recent years or are about to do so.

If the Trudeau government is serious about countering foreign interference, it can take over the outline of this bill now and ensure its rapid passage, according to Housakos. Last month, two former Canadian diplomats who served in China – David Mulroney and Charles Burton – told a parliamentary committee that the lack of such a register encourages foreign interference on Canadian soil.

Essentially, Mr Housakos’ bill is modeled on one tabled in April 2021, about six months before the federal election, by former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu in the Commons. “I continue to fight Kenny Chiu. But it is obvious that the Trudeau government does not want this bill to move forward,” protested Mr. Housakos.

Any person, entity or organization that engages in activities to influence Canadian officials or decision-makers, on behalf of a foreign country, should register with the registry and disclose their activities at the risk of exposing themselves imprisonment or a fine of up to $200,000. This register would not apply to diplomats posted in Canada.

We must identify those who act in the interest of a foreign entity rather than that of Canada. You have to have some form of accountability on the part of the foreign agents and the officials who receive them. Such a registry would not really be different from the lobbyists registry.

Leo Housakos, Conservative Senator

He said he discussed the ins and outs of his bill with Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino last November. “He then told me that it was a good idea and that the government was studying this option. But four months later, nothing is happening. […] Canada has fallen far behind our allies when it comes to national security. »

The project filed by Kenny Chiu had angered China, and Mr. Chiu had been the target of a disinformation campaign on the WeChat network. Mr Chiu bit the dust in the 2021 election and he believes interference from the Chinese communist regime was one of the contributing factors to his defeat.

Justin Trudeau was not in question period in the House on Monday to come under heavy fire from opposition MPs. After two weeks of parliamentary recess, and in the light of the revelations that have hit the headlines over the past two weeks, foreign interference was at the heart of the discussions.

The RCMP is investigating

Meanwhile, intelligence agencies embark on the hunt for sources. In addition to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is trying to flush them out.

Provisions of the Information Protection Act make it an offense to communicate secret information. Employees of agencies like CSIS are subject to it; and in recent months, CSIS documents have been cited in reports by the Globe and Mail and Global News.

Maximum prison sentences range from five years less a day to 14 years, depending on the nature of the offence.

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