House of Commons committee will probe China’s alleged interference in 2019 election

Click to play video: 'How will Trudeau handle China at G20 after reports of alleged election interference'
How will Trudeau handle China at G20 after reports of alleged election interference
WATCH: How will Trudeau handle China at G20 after reports of alleged election interference – Nov 13, 2022

Members of Parliament have agreed to probe allegations that China covertly funded 2019 election candidates in an attempted campaign of foreign influence.

The decision comes after Global News reported last Monday that Canadian intelligence officials warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that China has allegedly been targeting Canada with a vast campaign of foreign interference, which included funding a clandestine network of at least 11 federal candidates running in the 2019 election.

“The briefings from CSIS are alarming in terms of the sophisticated campaign by the Chinese communist regime to subvert Canadian democracy,” said Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who tabled the motion on Monday.

“This interference is simply intolerable. It is unacceptable. Canadians and Canadians alone ought to decide the outcomes of elections, free of foreign interference and free of this kind of corruption that is being advanced by the Chinese communist regime with witting and unwitting actors, according to the brief.”

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The motion called on the procedure and House affairs committee to extend its ongoing study of foreign election interference by four meetings, which Cooper said would allow it to “investigate” the allegations in the Global News report.

As part of this study, the committee will recall witnesses it has already heard from in its ongoing probe, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Elections Canada and the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force.

It will also call Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and the current national security adviser to the prime minister to testify.

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The motion also ordered the production of several documents — briefing notes, memorandums and documents — which would have been presented to the prime minister and his cabinet about the allegations of foreign interference from the Chinese Communist Party.

The relevant departments and agencies will have 14 days to redact the documents in accordance with access to information and privacy legislation and present them before the committee.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau assures Canadians elections have been fair, not interfered with'
Trudeau assures Canadians elections have been fair, not interfered with

While the committee as a whole agreed a study on the issue was necessary, members debated whether the procedure and House affairs committee was the right place to do it.

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Liberal MP Greg Fergus pointed out that the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) can receive all the relevant documents without the same level of redaction.

“This isn’t the right place to produce those documents,” he told the committee.

Still, the meeting ended with the Liberals and NDP voting in favour of an amended version of the motion — providing more leeway with respect to who redacts the documents and how quickly they are presented — and the Conservative and Bloc MPs voting against it.

“Canadians need to trust in our systems,” NDP MP Rachel Blaney said before voting in favour of the motion.

“That is the role of our committee.”

Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois argued the amended motion didn’t set a tight enough time frame for the documents to be handed over.

Meanwhile, Canada has been striking a new tone on China in recent days. Speaking on Wednesday, Joly assured Canadians the government “will do more to tackle foreign interference.”

In the same speech, she levied some of her sharpest criticisms of the Chinese regime to date — and warned Canadians of the “risks” involved in doing business in and around China.

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“China is an increasingly disruptive global power,” Joly said.

“It seeks to shape the global environment into one that is more permissive for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours.”

Her rebuke came just days before she and Trudeau departed on a 10-day trip to the Indo-Pacific region, where the Canadian government has said it plans to bolster partnerships with other countries in a bid to reduce reliance on China.

“To put it plainly: the decisions made in the region will impact Canadian lives for generations,” Joly said.

“We must be at the table, step up our game and increase our influence.”

— With files from Global News’ Sam Cooper

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