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Government-shackled interference inquiry unlikely to get answers


10 minute read

From the MacDonald Laurier Institute

By Ryan Alford

” the commission will receive a large portion of its testimony in secret with no cross-examination by the parties. Additionally, the government will have the last word not merely on what information is provided to the inquiry, but on what the commission can publish — even in its final report “

The foreign interference inquiry into the 2019 and 2021 elections (also known as the “Hogue commission,” named for Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue) is holding preliminary hearings this week. Those with experience with public inquiries in general, and with the Rouleau commission into the emergency powers declaration of 2022 in particular, can see it will be a failure.

When it comes to public inquiries, the government makes the rules, and when it says, “Heads I win, tails you lose,” the only winning move is not to play. Those rules, written by the cabinet in the form of a public inquiry commission’s mandate and terms of reference, allow the government to reveal and restrict information about its own failures as it sees fit.

The most important feature of the Hogue commission’s mandate is the restriction on the information provided to the inquiry: the terms of reference state plainly that if the government didn’t provide a confidential cabinet document to Special Rapporteur David Johnston back in 2023 when he was tasked with looking into election interference without the authority of a public inquiry, the commissioner won’t see it, either.

The details that made it into Johnston’s final report were far more tame than what the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) allegedly told former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole when he led the party. O’Toole told Parliament that CSIS informed him that he had been targeted in an ongoing campaign of misinformation coordinated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). When asked, Johnston said that was news to him. (Subsequently, NDP MP Jenny Kwan added that CSIS had told her she was an “evergreen” target of Beijing.)

When Johnston was confronted about the discrepancies, he merely noted that the information CSIS revealed had not been made available to him at the time, and he had “reported on what was made available to us … the amount of information available was an ocean and we saw a very large lake.” (Unfortunately, Johnston could not see any issue with the political equivalent of investigating the causes of the sinking of the Titanic when directed to do so at Lac Tremblant).

Johnston concluded, based on the information provided to him by the government, that he could not attribute the misinformation spread during the 2021 election to state actors. Information coming from many unofficial sources — and via leaks — makes this untenable. Evidence also shows that Chinese Canadians in Richmond, B.C. were bombarded with slander targeting local Conservative MP Kenny Chiu on the WeChat social media platform.

The Hogue commission should add to its focus the activities of Senator Yuen Pau Woo — and the government’s knowledge of these activities. However, once again, the commission’s ability to investigate hinges entirely on the government’s willingness to hand over sensitive and potentially incriminating documents, and for those targeted by misinformation to speak freely knowing that information will be available immediately to those they named as their persecutors.

Until 2022, Woo served as the facilitator (i.e., caucus leader) of the Liberal-aligned Independent Senators Group. In a decision made on Dec. 4, Commissioner Hogue granted Woo the right to participate in the foreign interference inquiry as an intervenor, as “he will contribute the perspective of a political figure working to address issues of foreign interference while advocating for a community that risks being stigmatized or negatively impacted by counter-interference measures, whether proposed or put in place.”

Woo has been accused of adopting the CCP’s rhetoric but has denied working for China. Groups targeted by CCP intelligence operations in Canada (including Uyghurs and Hong Kongers) opposed Woo’s participation in the interference inquiry (along with that of politicians Han Dong and Michael Chan) on the ground that he would be allowed “access to sensitive information shared by witnesses or victims (and) will deter witnesses from speaking freely.”

Their concerns were aired around the same time as a report emerged alleging Woo had pledged to support the United Front, which is an arm of the CCP.  In December, investigative journalist Sam Cooper reported that a recording existed of Woo briefing the Canada Committee 100 Society — a Chinese cultural organization with ties to the United Front according to declassified American intelligence — in May of 2020. In that recording, Woo advised members that groups officially listed by the CCP as United Front Work Department (UFWD) organizations cannot (and presumably, will not) be considered agents of the Chinese state.

However, a Privy Council Office report from 2020 shows that the government knew the CCP’s UFWD had allegedly coordinated electoral interference through community groups. The report specified that the UFWD had facilitated electoral interference in 2019, noting that “the UFWD’s extensive network of quasi-official and local community and interest groups allow it to obfuscate communication and the flow of funds between Canadian targets and Chinese officials.” Despite all this, Woo had reassured the Canada Committee 100 Society that they could continue their activities.

It is already a given that the commission will receive a large portion of its testimony in secret with no cross-examination by the parties. Additionally, the government will have the last word not merely on what information is provided to the inquiry, but on what the commission can publish — even in its final report, as the commission’s terms of reference refer to disclosure procedures that clearly implicate the attorney general’s power to withhold information for the purpose of national security.

This is why the first two days of the inquiry were devoted to managing expectations about how the public’s right to know would need to be “balanced” against national security confidentiality and all the other reasons the government will invoke to justify withholding and censoring information.

It is ironic that at an inquiry made possible by whistleblowers within CSIS, those at the commission will be classed “persons personally bound to secrecy” by an order-in-council issued in tandem with the mandate of the Hogue commission. Most won’t mind; the Hogue commission hired a number of personnel who did yeoman service at the Rouleau commission, including its lead counsel and research council chair.

This time around, there have been no grand public assurances that the government is committed to providing unprecedented access to information. Rather, we’ve been put on notice that obfuscation and dithering over confidentiality will be used to beat us down.

Some parties, like the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, have already indicated they have had enough of the charade. Others, including those like members of Parliament Michael Chong and Jenny Kwan, who were the victims of shocking hostility and ineptitude from the CCP and the government, will likely persist, although it is already clear that they deserve much more information, and much better treatment from the Hogue commission.

As for myself, I can only say, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Ryan Alford is a professor in the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University and a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

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Canada’s security agency confirms Chinese agents worked directly to elect MPs

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director David Vigneault testified to the ongoing Foreign Interference Commission that he supports the ‘conclusions’ that Communist China was working to help elect regime-friendly Canadian MPs.

During testimony last week at the inquiry looking into alleged meddling in Canada’s last two federal elections, the head of the nation’s intelligence agency confirmed that agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did help to elect “pro-China” candidates, also disclosing the existence of a large cash payments scheme totaling $250,000.

David Vigneault, who serves as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) director, told the inquiry, titled the Foreign Interference Commission, that he supports the “conclusions” that the CCP was working to help elect China-friendly Canadian MPs. 

“I support those conclusions,” he said after pointing out documents that show large cash payments to unnamed public office holders. 

“These words have been crafted very carefully,” he said, adding, “For the Commission record I support those conclusions. I would not want to go further.” 

The Foreign Interference Commission was convened to “examine and assess the interference by China, Russia, and other foreign states or non-state actors, including any potential impacts, to confirm the integrity of, and any impacts on, the 43rd and 44th general elections (2019 and 2021 elections) at the national and electoral district levels.” 

The Commission is being headed by Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, who had earlier said that she and her lawyers will remain “impartial” and will not be influenced by politics and began on January 29.  

In January, Hogue said that she would “uncover the truth whatever it may be.”  

The CSIS director’s comments came as a result of an internal federal memo, the After Action Report 2021 Federal Election, which noted how “The People’s Republic of China sought to clandestinely and deceptively influence Canada’s 2021 federal election.” 

The memo, dated December 17, 2021, reads that the “foreign influence was pragmatic in nature and focused primarily on supporting individuals viewed to be either ‘pro-PRC’ or ‘neutral’ on issues of interest to the People’s Republic of China government and Chinese Communist Party.” 

“The Task Force also observed online media activities aimed at discouraging Canadians particularly of Chinese heritage from supporting the Conservative Party of Canada, Party leader Erin O’Toole and particularly former Steveston-Richmond East candidate Kenny Chiu,” reads the Action Report. 

Counsel for Conservative MP Michael Chong asked Vigneault during the Commission hearings if CSIS agreed with the Action Report.  

“I recognize this information,” said Vigneault in reply.  

Thus far, the testimony at the Commission has revealed that former Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) MP Kenny Chiu said he felt “betrayed” by the federal government after only now learning he was the target of agents of the CCP. 

Also, the public has learned via the inquiry from Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault that he was secretly warned by security agents of irregularities in the 2019 election.

‘Politically-Connected Canadian’ linked to cash payments of $250,000 to influence 2019 election  

Last week, the Commission released a CSIS report titled People’s Republic Of China: Threat Actors, Contact With Candidates And Funding Of Threat Actors, which documents the large cash payments of “$250,000 from People’s Republic of China officials in Canada possibly for foreign influence-related purposes.” 

“Prior to and during the 43rd general election in 2019 a group of known and suspected People’s Republic of China related threat actors in Canada including PRC officials worked in loose coordination with one another to covertly advance PRC interests through Canadian democratic institutions,” wrote the agency in the report. 

The report lists that 11 political candidates as well as 13 political staff members were “assessed to be either implicated in or impacted by this group of threat actors,” and that “some of these threat actors received financial support from the People’s Republic of China.” 

“For example, there likely were at least two transfers of funds approximating $250,000 from People’s Republic of China officials in Canada possibly for foreign influence-related purposes though most likely not in an attempt to covertly fund the 11 candidates,” the report reads.  

“These were transferred via multiple individuals to obfuscate their origins via an influential community leader, to the staff member of a 2019 federal election candidate and then to an Ontario MPP. The transfers reportedly took place in late 2018, early 2019.” 

Vigneault confirmed last Thursday that the reports were accurate, saying about them, “That is a correct statement,” but added the agency is not able to “discuss classified information.” 

As for the unnamed “Politically-Connected Canadian,” Vigneault said that he would “not have any specific comment about political matters as you can imagine.” 

The Commission also included an In Camera Examination Summary in which CSIS discussed “possible People’s Republic of China interference” which took place at the 2019 Liberal Party nomination, which was won by MP Han Dong. 

Another document showed that there was a “potential foreign interference by a politically connected Canadian” in 2019, however, this person was not named.  

The summary said that this person had “not previously been identified as acting on behalf of a foreign state but appeared to have been doing so in the period leading up to the 2019 election.” 

“The report initially assessed it likely the actor ‘has already had an impact on the 2019 federal election and will remain a foreign interference threat after the election,’” it noted.  

When it comes to the CCP, many Canadians, especially pro-freedom Chinese Canadians, are concerned with the nation’s influence in what is supposed to be a democratic process.

As for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he has in the past praised China for its “basic dictatorship” and has labeled the authoritarian nation as his favorite country other than his own. 

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The Winnipeg Lab Leak: A Tale of Naivety and National Security Neglect

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From The Opposition News Network

How Ideological Blindness and Bureaucratic Red Tape Endangered Global Health

Let’s cut to the chase. Watching Meeting No. 36 of the Special Committee on the Canada–People’s Republic of China Relationship was like stepping into a world where common sense has left the building. We’ve got a lab in Winnipeg, Canada’s only high-security virology institute, embroiled in what’s essentially a spy movie plot, except it’s real life. Two scientists, Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng, get shown the door over what? Allegedly sending deadly viruses to China. The stuff of nightmares, right?

But here’s where it gets rich. Enter the Honourable Mark Holland, grilled in committee about why, after being flagged by CSIS, these scientists were still allowed to send those pathogens to China. His answer? A masterpiece in missing the point, extolling the virtues of due process and the reputation of scientists as if those are our only concerns when dealing with potential global security threats.

Then there’s his spiel on China. According to Holland, collaborating with China is this grand opportunity for humanity. Really? When it comes to shipping deadly viruses, I’d say the only opportunity is for a disaster. Holland’s defense of the indefensible, prioritizing process over precaution, is a stark reminder of how out of touch he is.

And then, as if to show us what backbone looks like, Dr. Stephen Ellis steps up. This guy gets it. He cuts through the nonsense, asking the hard questions, like whether Wuhan had the Ebola virus before this espionage act. Holland, true to form, dances around the answer. That silence? It’s deafening. It’s as if our government handed over a biological ticking time bomb to China on a silver platter, wrapped in the guise of saving humanity.

So, what are we left with? A government so embroiled in bureaucratic red tape and political correctness that it can’t see the forest for the trees. The more they talk, the more you realize they’re not just missing the point; they’re not even in the same library.

Final thoughts

I’ll leave you with this, my dear reader: as we peel back the layers of governance in our nation, the urgency for change becomes not just apparent but critical. The more I witness the complacency and the ideological rigidity of those at the helm, the more I’m convinced of the need for a seismic shift in our political landscape. It’s not just about choosing between left and right anymore; it’s about choosing between sense and sensibility versus reckless disregard for the principles that have kept our nation strong.

Is handing the reins over to the conservatives with a supermajority the solution? It’s a question that weighs heavily on many minds, mine included. However, the status quo is untenable. The upcoming election isn’t just another cycle; it’s a crossroads for Canada. A time for us, the electorate, to stand up and remind those in power that they serve at our pleasure, not the other way around. We are at a moment of reckoning. A moment where every vote is a statement, every voice a clarion call for leaders who place the well-being of Canada and its people above partisan politics and personal gain. The parties currently in power would do well to remember their duty to the electorate, lest they find themselves relics of a bygone era, swept away by a public that demands and deserves better.

So, as we look forward to casting our votes, let’s remember the power that resides in our hands. The power to shape our nation’s future, to uphold the values of freedom, integrity, and resilience that define us. Let’s rally behind the call for a government that truly represents the best of Canada, a government that not only listens but acts with the courage and conviction worthy of this great country. The time for change is now. The time for action is upon us. And to those in power: Take heed. The Canadian people are watching, they are informed, and they are ready to reclaim the promise of a nation built on the principles of truth, justice, and unwavering determination. Together, let’s make the next chapter in our history one of revival and renewed strength.

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Dan Knight

Writer for the Opposition Network/ Former amateur MMA champion / Independent journalist / Political commentator / Podcaster / Unbiased reporting 
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