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Few details from Freeland on ‘internal’ review into alleged colluders

Click to play video: 'Foreign interference: Liberals, Conservatives remain tight-lipped'
Foreign interference: Liberals, Conservatives remain tight-lipped
WATCH: A lack of clarity and answers remain since the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) accused unnamed MPs of colluding with hostile foreign states. Mackenzie Gray reports on how Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is walking back a commitment to look into foreign meddling, and how Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is staying tight-lipped about NSICOP's allegations – Jun 18, 2024

After saying two weeks ago that an “internal followup” would review allegations of parliamentarians colluding with foreign states, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland offered little information when asked Tuesday what that could look like.

On June 4, a day after the release of a startling national security report alleging federal politicians are “wittingly” helping other governments, Freeland said at a news conference that there would be an internal review. She has provided few details since then.

Click to play video: 'Reporters chase Chrystia Freeland after she declines to take questions on politicans named in NSICOP report'
Reporters chase Chrystia Freeland after she declines to take questions on politicans named in NSICOP report

When asked again by Global News on Tuesday what an “internal followup” would look like, Freeland suggested the public inquiry into foreign interference — the independent commission, led by Quebec Justice Marie-Josee Hogue — will be reviewing the allegations, as opposed to the Liberals themselves.

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“We take foreign interference very seriously. It is entirely unacceptable in our political system. And that is why the government has expanded the mandate of the Hogue inquiry to include a review of these materials. That’s the appropriate next step,” Freeland said during one of her last news conferences before the House rises for the summer.

“We are having many conversations about this and that’s the right thing to do. These are very delicate security matters.”

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

Last week, MPs passed a Bloc Québécois motion for the inquiry to investigate the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ (NSICOP) bombshell report that federal politicians are allegedly collaborating with foreign governments. The cross-party committee examined information gathered over the last five years.

The alleged activities include sharing secrets, accepting money from diplomats and meeting with a known intelligence officer from a foreign state.

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But some security experts say handing the findings over to the inquiry allows political parties to dodge responsibility.

Carleton University professor of international affairs Stephanie Carvin questioned how much the measure can accomplish, calling it a “delay tactic” in an interview last week with Global News.

“To me, this is just kicking the can down the road,” she said.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, the first opposition leader to read the unredacted NSICOP report, called the motion “performative without being substantive.”

But even before the backlash over the 92-page NSICOP document, there were concerns the inquiry’s mandate was too broad, and that its timeline was unrealistic.

The inquiry issued a notice to the public Monday saying it plans to “shed light” on the allegations parliamentarians are collaborating with foreign states and still expects to meet its deadline.

The final report is due Dec. 31.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has the security clearance to review the full NSICOP report, and said he was “alarmed” after reading the blacked-out portions of the document. Singh’s interpretation of the full version differs from that of May, who said she is “vastly relieved.”

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet says he is in the process of receiving his security clearance. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre does not plan on doing the same, saying he would not be able to speak freely.

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During question period Tuesday, Singh accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Poilievre of putting party interests ahead of Canada’s.

“For three months, this prime minister has known about serious allegations that parliamentarians are knowingly working with foreign governments to undermine our country. Yet we don’t know if he’s had a single conversation with any member of his caucus. And the Conservative party leader doesn’t even want to know,” Singh said.

— with files from Mackenzie Gray

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