Conservatives want foreign interference inquiry to probe Iranian influence

Click to play video: 'What to watch for as foreign interference inquiry gets underway'
What to watch for as foreign interference inquiry gets underway
The long-awaited public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada's democratic processes is now underway in Ottawa, where allegations against China, Russia, Iran and India are all under scrutiny. David Akin reports on a new case of possible Chinese interference; and how media outlets are fighting for transparency at the inquiry – Jan 29, 2024

The Conservative Party has formally requested the public inquiry into foreign interference zero in on Iranian influence in Canada.

“We want the commission to follow the evidence and make sure that we hear specifically from those repressed Iranian voices here,” said Conservative deputy leader Melissa Lantsman on Wednesday.

A day earlier, Conservative party lawyer Nando De Luca sent a letter to Commissioner Justice Marie-Josée Hogue asking that the commission “expressly include the Iranian regime and its campaign of intimidation, repression and interference in the focus of its work.”

“Iranian foreign interference is an active, present threat in Canada,” he wrote.

The request comes as concerns deepen about Iran’s campaign of intimidation across North America.

Click to play video: 'What to watch for as foreign interference inquiry gets underway'
What to watch for as foreign interference inquiry gets underway

On Monday, two Canadian men with ties to Hells Angels were charged in what U.S. authorities are calling a “murder-for-hire” plot.

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It was allegedly orchestrated by Iranian national Naji Sharifi Zindashti. He’s accused of running a criminal network targeting “Iranian dissidents and opposition activists for kidnapping and assassination at the direction of the Iranian regime.”

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U.S. officials say Zindashti recruited the Canadian men to kill two people in Maryland.

Details about the murder scheme emerged Monday, the same day Canada’s long awaited public inquiry into foreign election interference got underway.

The first week began with hearings into how much national security information can be made public.

A top-secret briefing report obtained by Global News shows Canada is aware China tried to influence the last two federal elections.

The commission’s terms of reference instruct it examine interference by China, Russia and other “foreign state or non-state actors.”

The commission has the discretion to expand its focus into any avenues or actors not specifically named, which it did last week, when it requested records related to allegations of Indian interference on Canadian soil. It’s unclear whether the commission plans to do the same with Iran.

In a statement Wednesday, commission spokesperson Michael Tansey says the “work will be guided by its terms of reference” and it “intends to conduct a thorough and proportionate examination and assessment of interference by China, Russia and other foreign states or non-state actors.”

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Click to play video: 'Iranian regime continues to target the families of Flight PS752 victims'
Iranian regime continues to target the families of Flight PS752 victims

Canada’s former spy chief told The West Block recently he wants specific attention paid to the Iranian regime.

“To ignore Iran, given the public information we have about Iran, will just raise questions the (commission) won’t be able to answer,” said Dick Fadden, former head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, in an interview with host Mercedes Stephenson.

A Global News’ investigation by the current affairs program The New Reality suggested associates of the Iranian regime were operating in Canada, including some who threatened Iranian diaspora communities in the country.

Last November, the RCMP acknowledged it has received “reports of foreign interference being committed by or at the direction of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

“Any country on which we have substantive information of engaging in foreign interference should be included [in the inquiry],” Fadden said.

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