Foreign interference inquiry: Liberals tap Quebec judge

After months of deliberations, the federal government will be launching a public inquiry into foreign interference, and have found a judge to lead it, CTV News has confirmed. 

According to government sources, Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Marie-Josée Hogue will lead the probe, which will look beyond China to other foreign meddling. 

Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc is expected to make the announcement about the terms and timeline for the inquiry on Thursday.

Sources told CTV News that Hogue will be heading into this effort with the goal of reaching conclusions and recommendations prior to the next federal election, currently scheduled for 2025. 

This development comes after several months of opposition parties and some national security stakeholders calling for a full public inquiry, amid heightened attention on alleged attempts by China to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Sources specifically pointed to the alleged targeting of certain Conservative ridings in Ontario and B.C. in 2021 as an area Hogue will investigate. 

The spring decision by then-special rapporteur David Johnston not to recommend an inquiry—citing the inability to satisfy the concerns of Canadians due to the national security limitations on making key details public—drew swift criticism. 

But on the heels of his resignation, the Liberals showed new openness to a public process and LeBlanc began engaging in negotiations with the other parties on a suitable structure and official to lead the inquiry.

Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted that his government would move forward with a “robust inquiry into foreign interference of all different types” despite reported issues locking in someone to lead it.

Throughout these deliberations the Liberals have said they wouldn’t be proceeding with an inquiry until there was “full buy-in” from the other parties, an effort to strip out as much of the politics as possible after the government’s first attempt crumbled under partisan scrutiny.

As parties have spent the summer discussing next steps, a former RCMP officer has been charged with foreign interference-related offences for allegedly helping China identify and intimidate an individual, and a Canadian monitoring system has detected a likely China-backed “information operation” targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong.

The inquiry will look at the wider issue of members of Parliament who say they were targeted, including Chong and others, sources said. 

Speaking in Singapore, Trudeau said Canada and China’s relationship remains strained, as a result of “real concerns around foreign interference.” 

Asked about whether news will soon be coming on a foreign agent registry the government has also been consulting on, the prime minister indicated that was a more “complex” file. 

With files from CTV News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver and Vassy Kapelos. 

More details to come.


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