Foreign interference efforts on Canadian soil are “growing” and “widespread,” agrees former Governor General David Johnston. But there is no need for a public inquiry into the matter, he decided. The process would be too expensive, too long and could reveal nothing more publicly.
The verdict of the special rapporteur of the government of Justin Trudeau did nothing to calm the partisan salvos between the government and the parties of opposition.
The calls were almost unanimous: the opposition parties in Ottawa, but also many political or intelligence observers, believed that a public and independent inquiry had become inevitable, after months of allegations of attempted interference by the Chinese regime.
In his report presented on Tuesday, David Johnston argued that he was initially of the same opinion. But as his work progressed, the special rapporteur changed his mind. “It would prolong the process without deepening it,” he wrote in the 65-page document. Mr. Johnston believes that a commissioner in charge of a public inquiry would not learn more than him and would only prolong the study of the file. “Any delay would be detrimental to the public interest,” he said. “My conclusion is that it wouldn't help build trust.
His conclusion was immediately denounced by opposition politicians, who once again accused him of being too close to the government of Justin Trudeau.
Consultations, but no investigation
Yet Johnston found “serious deficiencies” in the way intelligence is relayed to government departments and politicians. The case of the threats against Conservative MP Michael Chong is “the most striking example”. A memo from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) never made it to then Public Safety Minister Bill Blair or his cabinet.
The rest of the allegations, however, were based on faulty, isolated or incomplete information, Johnston insists. He claims to have seen no evidence that members of the government have “failed, through complacency or negligence, to act on information, advice or recommendations” from security agencies.
The Special Rapporteur now intends to use the five months remaining in his mandate to examine this circulation of intelligence within the government apparatus and the improvements to be made. To this end, he will conduct public consultations with experts and the Chinese diaspora.
Mr. Johnston further recommends that a committee of parliamentarians and a national security oversight agency — both operating behind closed doors — weigh its own findings and say publicly if they disagree.
Opposition party leaders are also expected to be given a “very high” security clearance to see the confidential supplementary information annex to his report that Johnston shared with the Prime Minister. Justin Trudeau immediately invited them in writing to take advantage of it.
Johnston and Trudeau attacked
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, whose security clearance as a former minister has expired, however, retorted in a press briefing that he would not let the government “silence” him, because any secret information could not be shared. publicly afterwards. Mr. Poilievre accused David Johnston of helping Mr. Trudeau “hide the facts” as the Prime Minister's “family friend” and “cottage neighbor” — and a member of the Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau Foundation. /p>
Bloquiste Alain Therrien also questioned his independence, accusing him of having “served the Prime Minister” by not recommending an inquiry.
At a press conference, Mr. Johnston revealed that he sought the opinion of former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, and that the latter had ruled that there was no conflict of interest between the two men .
However, former senior national security official Artur Wilczynski believes that the criticisms of which Mr. Johnston is the target threaten the consultations he intends to hold. Mr. Wilczynski, who would have liked to see a public inquiry, also questions whether the special rapporteur is best placed to hold these consultations “and whether his conclusions will have the necessary legitimacy to build the national consensus” necessary to protect public confidence in democratic institutions.
New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh said he was disappointed with his findings and insisted that he would continue to call for a public inquiry from the Prime Minister.
In a press briefing, Mr. Trudeau rejected the idea, relying on the recommendations of the special rapporteur. And he in turn lashed out at his opponents: “I don't believe Canadians would want or expect any of their [political] leaders to choose ignorance when they can choose to see all facts. The debates will continue, but they should be based on these facts, argued Mr. Trudeau.
The office of Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet indicated that he would delegate the consultation of the second report. confidential to one of its deputies.
What about the allegations of the last few months?
In the 2021 election:
– China reportedly tried to favor the election of a minority liberal government
The Johnston's report confirms disinformation campaigns on WeChat. “This circulation could not be attributed to a state actor,” he writes.
– Beijing has allegedly encouraged donors to finance the campaigns of certain candidates
“CSIS is aware of the allegations. The report, however, states that the agency “has not gathered intelligence to show that these activities are actually occurring.”
– Liberal Han Dong reportedly advised the Chinese consulate in Toronto to not releasing Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig
“The allegation is false. The MP is suing Global News for defamation and currently sits as an independent.
– China allegedly interfered in candidate Han Dong's nomination process
“Irregularities were observed […] and there are well-founded suspicions [that they] were linked to the [Chinese] consulate in Toronto. There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Dong knew about it. CSIS did not make a recommendation and therefore the candidate was not screened out.
In the 2019 election:
– Justin Trudeau and his office were reportedly warned that Chinese agents were assisting candidates
“Similar” information was contained in an “early version” of a memo, which has however been revised. The final version, sent to the Prime Minister, did not contain this quote.
– Beijing paid $250,000 to 11 candidates
The Chinese regime “ intended to send funds” to seven Liberals and four Conservatives, through various intermediaries. “It is unclear [whether] the money […] actually got to” the matchmakers and “there is no information to suggest that any federal candidates actually received these funds.” Author name