Foreign interference inquiry sets Nov. 22 deadline to submit applications to participate

The Foreign Interference Commission issued a call Friday for individuals or groups looking to participate to submit applications for official standing.

“Those who seek standing must demonstrate a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the inquiry in their application,” Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, who heads up the commission, said in a media statement.

People or groups interested in obtaining standing are being asked to email the commission by November 22. More details can be found on the commission’s new website.

“The Commission intends to set tight but fair deadlines, and to require all participants to meet them,” Hogue said.

The Liberal government announced Hogue would helm the inquiry in early September after months of demands from opposition parties for such an inquiry.

Earlier this year, a series of media reports citing unnamed security sources and classified documents accused China of interfering in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

In the wake of those reports, the federal government resisted repeated calls from the opposition to call a public inquiry into foreign interference. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instead appointed former governor general David Johnston as special rapporteur and asked him to look at the evidence and decide if an inquiry was necessary.

Johnston’s initial report on May 23 advised against an inquiry, prompting opposition parties to accuse Johnston of being too close to the Liberals.

In June, the former governor general announced he would resign as special rapporteur, saying that a “highly partisan atmosphere” surrounding his work made his position untenable.

Inquiry details

The new website said that in the first phase of the inquiry, the commission will look at evidence indicating China, Russia and “other foreign actors” interfered in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

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The first phase will also examine what the federal government knew about foreign interference and when, and whether it took appropriate action.

The second phase of the inquiry will examine whether “federal departments, agencies, institutional structures and governance processes” help or hinder the federal government in detecting foreign interference, the commission’s website says.

The commission will hold two sets of public hearings in 2024, one early in the new year (which will be followed by an interim report on Feb. 29) and one in the fall.

“The Commission is committed to accomplishing its mandate with independence, impartiality, fairness, and transparency,” said Hogue.

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