Why Trudeau is facing calls for a public inquiry – BBC News

  • by Nadine Joseph
  • BBC News, Toronto

image Caption,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he did not believe the intervention efforts had affected the results of the last two federal elections, in which he was re-elected.

In recent weeks, Canadian media have released a steady drip of reports, based on leaked intelligence, about detailed claims of Chinese interference in the country’s last two federal elections in 2019 and 2021 – raising alarm over foreign election concerns. The latest country western sounding interference.

Chinese officials have denied any interference, calling the allegations “purely baseless and outrageous” in a statement to the BBC.

These efforts are not believed to have changed the general election results, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under pressure to launch a national public inquiry into the allegations, which strained already challenging diplomatic relations between the two countries Have given.

On Thursday the federal election watchdog launched an investigation into the claims.

What are claims?

The allegations stem from leaked intelligence reports alleging that Beijing’s diplomats and proxies in Canada tried to influence the election results in favor of the Liberals.

According to a series of reports by the Globe and Mail newspaper and Global News, intelligence sources are concerned that the Communist Party of China intervened by pressuring its consulates in Canada to support certain candidates.

Key claims in the report include:

Conservative politicians have publicly stated that they were aware of interference in the 2021 race, which was of concern to officials, and admit that it cost them several seats – although there have been attempts to change the election result. That wasn’t enough for Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals to win with a 41-seat lead. ,

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported this week that, speaking with his Canadian counterpart Melanie Jolie on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in New Delhi, Qin Gang dismissed media reports as “rumours” and “propaganda”. Rejected.

Ms. Jolie said in a statement that she said Canada would not tolerate any interference in the country’s internal affairs.

What has been the response?

A steady trickle of stories with specific accounts of apparent interference has rocked Canadian politics, raising questions about what Mr Trudeau and his party knew about China’s meddling – and when.

Mr. Trudeau said he believes there are “many inaccuracies” in what has been reported, but said there are “ongoing efforts” by China and other countries to interfere with Canadian democracy.

He said he would leave it to a House of Commons committee to look into the issue, adding that he was satisfied with the parliamentary inquiry that began in November.

The federal opposition parties – the New Democrats and the Conservatives – are pushing for an “independent and public” inquiry into the accounts.

His call has been echoed by former Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Jean-Pierre Kingsley and former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, Richard Fadden.

Mr Fadden told the BBC he believed an inquiry was needed to determine what Canada could do in the future to prevent such interference attempts.

“It will shed some light on how widespread the problem is at the constituency level, because we don’t have a lot of information about that,” he said.

Others have called it a “bad idea” because by law, much of the information in highly classified intelligence documents would be kept behind the scenes.

Intelligence and security expert Wesley Wark said, “The public would be none the wiser about the details.”

And while the public is entitled to know about national security threats, he worried about “broad-brush suggestions” that members of any migrant community are disloyal to Canada or sensitive to foreign operations, which could be harmful.

What do we know about foreign interference in Canada?

Foreign actors interfering in Canadian affairs is nothing new.

In 2021, CSIS said it was “observing steady, and in some cases increasing” foreign interference, and warned that this type of interference “could erode trust and threaten the integrity of our democratic institutions”. can put”.

His public report cited cyber attacks, disinformation and corrupt financing as some of the methods of such interference.

In testimony before a parliamentary committee probing China’s interference this week, Mr Trudeau’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas, said there were “attempts” by Beijing to interfere in both elections and passed intelligence to the prime minister Was.

He said the government was taking “concrete” steps to address the issue, and Canadians should be confident that the last two federal elections were “fair and legitimate”.

On Wednesday, a federal public report reached a similar conclusion – that efforts to interfere in the 2021 federal election did not affect the results.

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