Interference inquiry to ‘shed light’ on allegations parliamentarians colluded

Click to play video: '‘Not entirely contradictory’: Elizabeth May on Singh’s foreign interference report interpretations'
‘Not entirely contradictory’: Elizabeth May on Singh’s foreign interference report interpretations
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said MPs who allegedly colluded with foreign states are 'traitors to the country,' after he read the unredacted version of that bombshell report from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP). David Akin reports on Singh's assessment of the report, how it contrasts with Green Party Co-Leader Elizabeth May's opinion, and who else will or will not read the report – Jun 17, 2024

The public inquiry into foreign interference will probe explosive allegations parliamentarians  “wittingly” helped foreign governments and demonstrated behaviour that one federal leader said could be described as “dumb, unethical” or “foolish.”

“The Commission takes note of the government’s decision to resort to the process of an independent commission of inquiry to shed light on the facts,” said the inquiry in a public notice Monday.

Last week, the House of Commons backed a Bloc Québécois motion for the inquiry to investigate the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ (NSICOP) startling report that federal politicians allegedly colluded with foreign governments over the last five years.

The committee of parliamentarians, which is made up of MPs from all parties, “examined information” gathered between Sept. 1, 2018, and March 15 of this year.

Click to play video: 'Elizabeth May warns the ‘ethics code is silent’ when it comes to foreign interference'
Elizabeth May warns the ‘ethics code is silent’ when it comes to foreign interference

The inquiry says it doesn’t need to expand its mandate because the current terms of reference allow it to dig into the allegations, adding it has access to all 4,000 documents, totaling 33,000 pages, reviewed by NSICOP “on which it based its conclusions.”

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“Some passages in this NSICOP’s special report suggest that Canadian parliamentarians may have wittingly or unwittingly participated in acts of foreign interference. These passages have raised concerns and provoked heated exchanges among parliamentarians and in the media,” read the notice.

But many of the allegations outlined in the NSICOP report did not come up during the inquiry’s public hearings last month, which detailed “troubling events” in the last two elections.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau points to “concerns” with NSICOP report on foreign interference'
Trudeau points to “concerns” with NSICOP report on foreign interference


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How party leaders are interpreting the NSICOP report

Last week, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who both have received the security clearance to review the top-secret version, read the unredacted NSICOP report and gave different interpretations.

On Monday, May tried to explain the seemingly divergent tones.

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“I don’t think it is a contradiction between what Mr. Singh thought when he read the report and what I thought when I read the report,” said May on Monday in her second news conference in less than a week on the matter.

Last Tuesday, the Green Party Leader said she was “vastly relieved” after reading the classified report, adding there was “no list of MPs” who betrayed Canada.

Two days later, Singh said he was “not relieved,” pointing to “a number of MPs who have knowingly provided help to foreign governments, some to the detriment of Canada and Canadians”

“What they’re doing is unethical. It is in some cases against the law,” he added. “They are indeed traitors to the country.”

Click to play video: 'Foreign interference: Growing confusion, contention over alleged meddling in Canada’s Parliament'
Foreign interference: Growing confusion, contention over alleged meddling in Canada’s Parliament

On Monday, May did not use the words “illegal” or “treasonous” to describe the actions, but said “a few of our colleagues currently serving are potentially compromised by foreign interference.”

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“I will be firmly clear again in saying that I read the full, unredacted report. The word ‘treason’ does not apply to any current sitting MP,” she added.

But May described the behaviour of some of parliamentarians cited in the NSICOP report as “dumb, unethical” or “foolish.”

“If you weren’t asking questions, you should have, kind of, ought to have thought, ‘Do I want to accept help from somebody?’” she said.

Is the public inquiry the right avenue?

May was one of just two MPs who voted against the Bloc motion to refer the NSICOP report to the public inquiry, saying it would be “throwing a hot potato in the wrong soup pot.”

The inquiry has faced concerns that its mandate is too broad and that its timeline too tight.

Last month, Commissioner Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, delivered an interim report, finding China meddled in the last two elections, but that those efforts did out change the outcomes.

The commission still expects to deliver its final report Dec. 31, saying it plans to make “every effort” to complete its work by then.

“The Commission understands that this deadline has been set to allow the government to put in place any measures that may be appropriate to protect the integrity of elections before the next federal general election, which must be held no later than October 20, 2025.”

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Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet says he is in the process of getting his security clearance so he can read the full NSICOP report. But unlike Singh and May, Blanchet says he will not comment publicly after the fact.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre doesn’t have the security clearance required to review the unredacted document and has no plans to obtain it, saying he would be unable to speak freely.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Singh and May have urged Poilievre to receive his clearance.

“Knowing more and having greater context helps us all talk as clearly as possible to Canadians. I’m not gagged, but I’m careful,” said the Green Party Leader.

How Trudeau is reacting to the NSICOP report

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received the full version of the NSICOP report last March, but said he “doesn’t entirely align” with “a number” of its findings.

“That actually is demonstrated by the fact that two party leaders, both Elizabeth May and Jagmeet Singh, who read the report in its entirety, come to differing conclusions,” said Trudeau on Sunday during a visit to Switzerland.

The prime minister travelled to Europe for the G7 meeting and a Ukraine peace summit but faced repeated questions the NSICOP report causing a political firestorm back home.

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Trudeau said his government would continue to “engage in a responsible way” on foreign interference, and criticized Poilievre for not taking the steps required to review the full document.

“The decision by the Conservative leader and the leader of the official opposition to not get a security clearance, to not choose to even read the unredacted report before engaging in political attacks and oversimplification is not responsible leadership,” said Trudeau.

— with files from Mackenzie Gray

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