Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s plans to probe allegations of Chinese and foreign interference do not go far enough, and Canada ultimately needs a public inquiry, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says.
Poilievre doubled down Tuesday on the opposition’s calls for a public inquiry after Trudeau on Monday announced additional independent probes and reviews into the issue – but not an inquiry.
“We want an open, independent public inquiry to get to the truth and make sure it never happens again,” Poilievre told reporters in Ottawa.
“We need to bring home control of our democracy, bring home control of our country, rather than allowing foreign dictatorships to manipulate our interests.”
Trudeau lays out multipronged foreign interference probes but no inquiry — yet
Instead of calling an inquiry himself on Monday, Trudeau said that decision will be made by an independent, special rapporteur who will have a “wide mandate” to oversee the new probes.
That individual, who will be named in the coming days, will also make recommendations on how Ottawa can better combat foreign interference and inform the public about such attempts.
If they recommend a public inquiry be held, Trudeau said “we will abide by their recommendation.”
Poilievre scoffed at the idea of a special rapporteur, saying it sounds like a “fake job,” but said anyone appointed to the role needs to be approved by the House of Commons, not just the government.
Trudeau said on Monday that the special rapporteur will be “someone impartial.”
The prime minister also said he spoke to the heads of both the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) and the independent National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) and urged them to undertake “urgent work” within their mandates to study foreign interference.
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NSICOP includes MPs from multiple parties, as well as one senator. NSIRA, made up of independent experts, is tasked with reviewing the actions of Canada’s intelligence agencies.
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Both NSICOP and NSIRA are given access to classified and top-secret intelligence information that bars them from doing their work in public. NSICOP files a report from its work that then goes to the Prime Minister’s Office, which can redact any information in that report before it is tabled in the House of Commons. NSIRA will also provide a public report of its assessments of the actions taken by government bodies handling intelligence on the matter of foreign interference.
Anything less than a public inquiry on foreign interference is not enough: Poilievre, Singh
Poilievre said Tuesday that he wouldn’t remove Conservative members from the NSICOP panel, but that his party would continue to push for a public inquiry.
“We already have two members of Parliament who were sworn to secrecy who are on that committee. It hasn’t been very effective, but it’s better than nothing,” he said.
“What we actually need is an independent and open public investigation to get to the bottom of interference by Beijing or any other foreign dictatorship in our democracy. It’s time to bring home our democracy.”
Meanwhile, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was also tasked Monday to launch public consultations on setting up a new public registry for agents who work on behalf of foreign states, similar to ones established in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Mendicino will also establish “a counter-foreign interference coordinator” to oversee the work and recommendations coming from the various agencies and committees.
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The Liberals have been under immense pressure to explain what officials knew about foreign interference attempts in the 2021 election after the Globe and Mail reported last month that intelligence sources said China attempted to interfere in that campaign to help the Liberals win another minority government.
That report came after months of revelations from Global News about allegations of Chinese interference in the 2019 election.
The opposition leaders’ latest calls for a public inquiry come as the RCMP says it has opened an investigation into possible violations of the Security of Information Act concerning recent media reports about alleged foreign interference, and that its probe is not focused on any one security agency.
Foreign interference is expected to be a hot topic this week with business at the House of Commons resuming following a two-week break.
The NDP has said it plans to introduce a motion to the House calling on the government to launch a public inquiry, stemming from a similar one that was adopted at the committee level last week.
— with files from Sean Boynton
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