Spread the love

What to expect from the foreign interference investigation ?

Photo: The Canadian Press Just before the launch of the public hearings, which will begin in Ottawa on Monday, Le Devoiranswers six key questions to tell you what to anticipate (or not) from the commission's work.

Was there foreign interference in the 43rd and 44th federal elections, and what measures were taken to counter it ? These are the questions that Judge Marie-Josée Hogue will attempt to answer in within the framework of the federal commission of inquiry into foreign interference.

Just before the launch of the public hearings, which will begin in Ottawa on Monday, Le Devoir answers six key questions to tell you what to anticipate (or not) of the work of the commission.

What topics will be discussed during the first public hearings ?

The documents and classified information involved in the case constitute a real headache for the commission. Monday's preliminary hearings will therefore examine the limits of public disclosure of sensitive national security information.

“The commission really faces big challenges and on all kinds of levels. One of the big challenges, when we talk about foreign interference, is that there is a lot of information that is classified and must remain so,” explains Thomas Juneau, professor at the University of Ottawa. and national security expert.

Although complex, the work done to maximize the disclosure of information to the public is essential, believes this former Department of Defense analyst.

“The fight against foreign interference is not just the job of the federal government. The victims of interference are other levels of government, but also civil society. […] The public aspect of the commission is very important so that everyone understands the problem better,” he maintains in an interview with the Devoir.< /p>

The federal Minister of Public Safety, Dominic LeBlanc, and several national security experts will be called to testify during the five-day hearing. Once this step is completed, the commission will hold a second series of public hearings in March.

Why is there a commission of inquiry ?

Recall of events. Last year, reports from the Global network and the daily The Globe and Mail, according to which diplomats and proxies from Beijing in Canada had tried to influence the results of the elections in favor of the Liberals, had the effect of a bomb in Ottawa.

In the wake of the revelations and calls for an independent public inquiry made by the opposition parties, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau entrusted former Governor General David Johnston with the mandate of “independent special rapporteur » to examine the allegations.

Accused of being in a conflict of interest, being a friend of the Trudeau family, the latter resigned less than three months after his appointment. It was finally in September that the Trudeau government appointed Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, of the Quebec Court of Appeal, to lead the work of the commission.

Will we really know if there was interference in our electoral processes ?

This is the big question that the commission will answer this spring. The findings will be presented in its first report, which is due on May 3. The final report is expected by the end of the year.

Those who want a clear-cut answer, however, risk being disappointed, warns Thomas Juneau. “For an issue so complicated, so ambiguous, so vague, there are no clear answers. »

Although China's attempts at interference are known, measuring the extent of the phenomenon remains practically impossible, he adds. “Just because China interfered in our electoral process doesn’t mean there are X number of Canadians who voted differently. It cannot be quantified as precisely. »

“Will there be very clear answers that will provide all the insight we need to know exactly what happened ? No, that's way too ambitious . Do we have the right to hope that the commission will provide partial answers that will shed light on what happened? Yes”, indicates Mr. Juneau.

Will the commission focus mainly on China and Russia ?

The commission's mandate states that it must assess possible interference by China, Russia “and other foreign state or non-state actors” in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Last week, the commission also asked the federal government to produce documents relating to allegations targeting India. However, she did not specify the reasons for this request.

Last year, India made headlines after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused Indian agents of being involved in the murder of a Sikh activist last June.

Which information will be made public and which will remain confidential ?

Having worked in the defense industry for more than a decade, Thomas Juneau warns that much information cannot be made public. “That being said, there are always things that can be said about policies, government objectives, solutions that are proposed, or even about threat assessment,” he says. examples.

“Without giving details, without saying precisely what China, Iran, India or Russia are doing, we can talk about it in a more general way,” he summarizes.

Conversely, everything relating to the methods and practices used by intelligence agencies must remain confidential.

“CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligence Service] remains committed to increasing public awareness and engagement in this regard and providing access to national security information. “However, some information will necessarily need to remain classified — a necessary measure to protect the sensitive sources, methods and partnerships that CSIS relies on to gather information and intelligence,” the agency said at < i> Duty.

“These are valid reasons, but at the same time, it’s a bit of a trap. This is the excuse to hide the real story, namely when Mr. Trudeau was informed, if he was informed and what he was informed about. And why, if he was informed, nothing was done,” points out Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former CSIS officer.

Is it too late to hold this commission of inquiry ?

Last fall, the opposition parties in Ottawa said they were exasperated at being left in the dark about the progress of the commission. It was officially established on September 7, 2023, several months after the resignation of Special Rapporteur David Johnston.

Thomas Juneau remembers a report published in 2022 on which he worked. Already at the time, questions of foreign interference were known in the security world.

“The problem was that the government wasn’t moving,” he said. “The argument [that it’s too late] is incomplete, because the problem hasn’t gone away. Yes, it should have been done sooner, but better late than never,” he concedes.

For his part, Michel Juneau-Katsuya believes that the two-year mark – since the start of the commission – could be exceeded before official recommendations are obtained. “England, Australia, the United States have already passed laws on foreign interference, have already admitted that there is a problem with foreign interference and have even created registries. And we are still deliberating on the relevance of these things,” he laments.

In 2018, the Australian federal government passed nine new laws to prevent foreign political interference, following warnings from its intelligence agencies.

The committee requested an extension to May 3, 2024 of the due date of its first report in order to allow sufficient time before submission. The final report is due December 31.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116