Is Public Inquiry On Chinese Interference Finally Coming? Tories To Work With NDP, Bloc To Set Terms

Party leader Pierre Poilievre announced on Sunday that federal Conservatives are willing to collaborate with other opposition parties to establish the parameters of a potential inquiry into foreign interference, stating that he plans to initiate the process in the coming days by reaching out to the New Democrat Party and Bloc Quebecois.

These remarks from Poilievre followed the Liberal government’s reopening of the possibility of holding a public inquiry into allegations of China’s meddling in recent federal elections. However, the government stipulated that opposition parties should participate by defining the inquiry’s terms of reference, timeline, and potential leader.

“I will work with opposition colleagues to make sure the person who fills the roll is independent and unbiased,” Poilievre said at a Sunday afternoon news conference.

Poilievre expressed the desire for someone who has no connections to the Trudeau family or the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, as well as a proven track record of nonpartisanship and neutrality.

Additionally, Poilievre called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to promptly initiate the inquiry.

“He needs to call it right away. He has to get someone who’s job ready and we need to have terms of reference that have tight timelines to have the hearings occur as quickly as possible and get all the truth on the table before the next election,” Poilievre said. 

The New Democrats also have specific qualifications in mind for the inquiry. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stated on Saturday that a judge with no affiliations to the Liberal party or the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation should lead the public inquiry. Furthermore, the judge should not have made any donations to a federal political party in the past decade.

The Independent Special Rapporteur, David Johnston, released last month his first report on the alleged foreign interference during the national elections in 2019 and 2021. Johnston said a public process on the subject of foreign influence is essential, but not in the form of a public inquiry.

Instead, Johnston announced that he will organize “a series of public hearings with Canadians” to shed more light on the “problem of foreign interference” and teach the public and policymakers about the harm it poses, as well as solutions to resolve it as soon as possible.

After months of political scrutiny from an opposition united in their demand for an independent and open airing of the facts, Trudeau has come out in full support of Johnston’s decision to forego an inquiry, claiming that his government has handled the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

Both Poilievre and Singh demanded public inquiry following Johnston’s assessment.

However, Johnston resigned from the role on Friday, citing the highly partisan environment surrounding his work. From the beginning, his appointment was contentious, with Poilievre repeatedly accusing him of being too close to the Trudeau family to conduct an unbiased review. It was also the New Democrats’ belief that Johnston should step down due to perceived bias.

All opposition parties have been urging the government to hold a public inquiry into foreign interference. Last fall, the Globe and Mail and Global News published a series of reports citing unnamed security sources who alleged coordinated efforts by Beijing to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

In March, facing mounting pressure both inside and outside the House of Commons, Trudeau appointed Johnston as special rapporteur to chart a path forward in addressing the issue. Johnston was tasked with reporting back by May 23 on whether a public inquiry should be included.

“A deep and comprehensive review of foreign interference, its effects and how to prevent it should be an urgent priority for your government and our Parliament,” Johnston wrote Friday in his resignation letter to Trudeau. 

He maintained that a public inquiry would not be beneficial due to national security laws and the extensive amount of classified information involved. Instead, Johnston suggested that public hearings be conducted to educate Canadians on the nature of foreign interference and its management.

Poilievre and the Conservatives had been calling for Johnston’s resignation. Singh recently joined the fray, especially after learning that NDP MP Jenny Kwan was informed that she is also being targeted by the communist state.

Johnston stated that he will release a final report by the end of the month, concluding his work. As he stepped aside, he encouraged Trudeau to appoint a “respected person with national security experience” to continue the task he initiated, recommending consultations with opposition parties regarding the suitable candidate.

The Conservatives, however, are against the appointment of another rapporteur, with Poilievre instead reiterating his call for a public inquiry.

“We want him to end the cover up, call a public inquiry and I will work with our opposition colleagues to make sure that the person who fills that role is independent and unbiased in doing a thorough and public investigation,” Poilievre said. 

Chinese interference “increasingly aggressive”

A recent parliamentary report in France has highlighted China’s increasing interference in the country, labeling it the most serious threat after Russia. The report, commissioned by Marine Le Pen’s far-right party, emphasizes China’s aggressive tactics in foreign interference.

The report, compiled by rapporteur Constance Le Grip, follows five and a half months of work and hearings by the committee investigating foreign interference in France.

“After Russia, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the country which most serious threat to France in terms of foreign interference”, a French parliamentary report published on Thursday states.

Bernard Emié, director of French External Intelligence (DGSE), stated that China has gone from being a “contained power” to an “aggressive power”, especially with “unbridled diplomacy”.

China’s strategy focuses on challenging and undermining Western norms through the manipulation of information, cyber-attacks, and espionage. The country utilizes its diaspora and cultural network to contest the Western order, aiming to degrade liberal democracies and promote its own political model.

Control over media outlets plays a significant role in China’s interference strategy. Similar to Russia’s Sputnik and Russia Today, China manipulates certain media organizations such as Xinhua and China Radio International. Additionally, China exercises control over a substantial portion of globally distributed Chinese-language press. Turkey also witnesses the development of similar methods.

Chinese Communist Party propaganda extends to social networks through the activities of trolls, who defend, attack, and harass individuals. The report reveals that both paid individuals and Chinese officials participate in these tactics, including those known as “warrior wolves” in Chinese diplomacy.

China’s interference extends to its diaspora, which serves as both a vector and target. Every Chinese citizen, even those with dual nationality, is seen as a potential intelligence agent by the Chinese government. The report identifies numerous cultural and sporting associations, cultural venues, and friendship networks monitored or financed by Chinese embassies.

The report raises concerns about the attack on scientific and technological heritage by Chinese interference, emphasizing the extensive use of clandestine intelligence and cyber-espionage. The rise of Chinese 5G technology and the widespread use of platforms like TikTok are also noted as potential cybersecurity risks.

China’s economic predation represents the bulk of its interference efforts. The report points out that China has yet to fully deploy its capacity to interfere.

While the report acknowledges interference attempts by other countries, such as Iran and Turkey, it identifies China and Russia as the primary threats to France. Iran’s activities target France’s scientific and technological heritage, including espionage and attacks. Qatar and Russia employ corruption as a significant tactic in their interference strategies.

Qatar, in particular, has extensive influence operations in France and other EU countries, funding various institutions and engaging in propaganda efforts.

The report concludes that the aim of these activities is to improve the image of the countries involved rather than destabilizing the West.

Information for this briefing was found via National News Watch, Euractiv, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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