No need for public inquiry into foreign interference in polls: Canada special rapporteur | World News - Hindustan Times
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No need for public inquiry into foreign interference in polls: Canada special rapporteur

May 24, 2023 12:56 PM IST

The special rapporteur was appointed on March 6 after a series of reports in the outlets Globe and Mail and Global News that Beijing may have tried to influence the elections in Canada

Toronto: The special rapporteur appointed by the government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections, has stated that while foreign governments were attempting to influence voters and candidates, there was no need for a public inquiry into the phenomenon.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre), with Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair (left), holds a press conference in response to the release of a special report on foreign interference, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (centre), with Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair (left), holds a press conference in response to the release of a special report on foreign interference, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, on Tuesday. (REUTERS)

The independent special rapporteur, former Canadian governor-general David Johnston, released his report on Tuesday, amid criticism from the opposition of it being an exercise in “whitewashing”.

“In my view, a person leading a Public Inquiry would be unlikely to learn more about who knew what, when, and what was done with it, than has been made available to me. Duplicating this effort would not be productive and would lead to delay in addressing the issues,” Johnston noted in the report.

The special rapporteur was appointed on March 6 after a series of reports in the outlets Globe and Mail and Global News that Beijing may have tried to influence the elections in Canada.

A series of exposes had increased pressure on the Trudeau government. On February 17, the Globe and Mail noted, “China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign as Chinese diplomats and their proxies backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals – but only to another minority government – and worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.”

That report was based on Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents. Then Global News cited a December 20, 2021 report from CSIS that said the “Liberal Party of Canada is becoming the only party that the People’s Republic of China can support”.

Johnston said that a public process was required, but one focused on “strengthening Canada’s capacity to detect, deter and counter foreign interference in our elections and the threat such interference represents to our democracy”. He will submit a final report in October as the term of his mandate expires at that time.

Trudeau welcomed the report, as he said, in a statement, “We will take the necessary steps to implement his recommendations, and as a government, we will continue to take action to strengthen and protect our democracy.”

In response to the report, Pierre Poilivere, who heads the principal opposition Conservative Party, tweeted, “Beijing interfered in two elections to help Justin Trudeau win. Today, he’s covering it up with help from a family friend and Trudeau Foundation member. Conservatives will have none of it. We’re calling for a full public inquiry now.” The Bloc Quebecois also reiterated its demand for an independent and public inquiry.

Johnston’s appointment was criticised on these grounds at the outset, but he said that he had not interacted with Trudeau since the latter was elected an MP in 2008.

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