John Woods The Canadian Press Justin Trudeau at a Liberal Party fundraiser Thursday in Winnipeg.
Marie Vastel and François Carabin in Ottawa and Quebec City
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Justin Trudeau does not intend to respond favorably for the moment to the request for a public inquiry into foreign interference presented to him, unanimously, by the opposition members of a parliamentary committee. Instead, the Prime Minister stuck to repeating once again on Friday that other forums are already studying the issue.
The pressure has been mounting for two weeks on the government of Justin Trudeau. Revelations from The Globe and Mailand the Global News network revealed that the Chinese regime would have waged a major campaign to promote the election of a minority Liberal government in 2021 and tried to favor the election of 11 candidates (both liberals and conservatives) in the 2019 elections. Attempts to interfere that would not have been repeated on the Quebec scene, according to the authorities surveyed by Le Devoir.
But in Ottawa, opposition MPs joined forces in a parliamentary committee on Thursday to officially demand — albeit in a non-binding way — the holding of a public inquiry.
Justin Trudeau replied Friday that he understands that Canadians want to be reassured that intelligence agencies sufficiently monitor the integrity of institutions and democracy. “All of these objectives are related to processes underway at this very moment,” he retorted, however, in a press briefing in Winnipeg.
Limits to a public inquiry
Mr. Trudeau reiterated once again that two parliamentary committees are currently studying attempts at foreign interference and more specifically by China (one of them composed of deputies and senators from all parties and benefiting from a top-secret classified security which allows them to consult classified documents).
The Prime Minister nevertheless seemed to leave the door somewhat ajar, for the rest.
“Obviously, with these processes moving forward, there are surely going to be issues that are going to be raised,” he added, saying his government may then decide to do more in certain areas.
“That's exactly what we're going to be looking at in the weeks to come,” he insisted, “To make sure of two things: that Canada continues to do whatever is necessary to protect the integrity of our institutions and our democracy; and second to ensure that Canadians are reassured that our institutions and our democracy are well protected and continue to function with integrity.
The opposition would like to see a public inquiry whose commissioner would be chosen unanimously by the parties, who would have the power to summon members of the government and political parties, as well as to obtain all documents deemed relevant — even those relating to national security.
Several experts, however, have pointed out that a public inquiry would not necessarily make it possible to further lift the veil on foreign interference efforts in Canada. The Prime Minister's national security adviser, Jody Thomas, noted this week that intelligence agencies and senior government officials may “not speak in a public forum about information that relates to national security.”
No interference in Quebec
These attempts at Chinese interference in federal affairs, confirmed by Justin Trudeau and Canadian security agencies, do not seem to have reached the electoral system in Quebec. Neither Élections Québec nor the Sûreté du Québec found any evidence that foreign countries were able to interfere in any past general election campaign.
The Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec has indicated that the scope of foreign interference seems to stop at the borders of the federal level. “We do not believe that there was a structured campaign of disinformation targeting the Quebec electoral process and coming from abroad during the last provincial elections. We also do not believe that there was any illegal political financing from abroad,” said Élections Québec spokesperson Julie St-Arnaud Drolet.
The independent organization further maintains that it has not been the target of any computer intrusion.
Could foreign countries have worked to elect certain governments before the October 2022 election? “No”, was satisfied to answer the Sûreté du Québec in a telephone exchange with Le Devoir.
“In the light of the information we have at present , we do not believe that there was a structured campaign of misinformation […] from abroad during previous provincial elections, “added Elections Quebec when relaunched on this subject.
These remarks are in line with those of Prime Minister François Legault, who said Thursday in a press scrum that he had “no indications that there would have been interference”.
Justin Trudeau maintains that the Chinese interference efforts had no effect on the outcome of the 2019 or 2021 federal general elections. their local ballot.
While in India for a G20 meeting, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly reported having reminded her Chinese counterpart Qin Gang (during a meeting whose media did not witness) that “Canada will never tolerate any form of foreign interference in our democracy and internal affairs by China”.
See below a statement about my renco between with Chinese counterpart, Minister Qin Gang. pic.twitter.com/Jzg4EkNnTC
— Melanie Joly (@melaniejoly) March 3, 2023