What’s next for the foreign interference probe? LeBlanc says all options on the table

Click to play video: 'David Johnston resigns as special rapporteur'
David Johnston resigns as special rapporteur
David Johnston, the former governor general and special rapporteur on foreign interference has resigned. For weeks now he’s faced numerous calls from opposition parties to step down over his recommendation not to hold a public inquiry into Chinese efforts to influence Canadian elections. Mercedes Stephenson has more – Jun 9, 2023
All options are on the table for determining “next steps” following the news that former governor general David Johnston is resigning as special rapporteur, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said in a press conference Saturday.

The government will be consulting judicial experts and opposition leaders to decide what to do next, including who could be best to lead the rest of Johnston’s work or even who might lead a public inquiry, what the terms of reference would be and how one would respect classified information.

“We’re confident we can find the right eminent person to lead this next public phase of engagement,” LeBlanc said. “We are not looking for delays.”

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LeBlanc said he hopes the government can receive specific suggestions from opposition parties in the coming days including names of individuals who could lead the process.

“It’s our government’s hope that the opposition parties will treat this issue with the seriousness it deserves and that we will be able to chart a path forward,” LeBlanc said.

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities Dominic LeBlanc speaks during a news conference following the resignation of David Johnston, Independent Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Saturday, June 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang. The Canadian Press

Johnston was appointed by Trudeau in March to look into how the government has handled allegations of interference by China into Canada’s elections, which were first brought to light in a series of reports by Global News and the Globe and Mail that cited national security sources and classified documents.

Johnston announced his resignation from the position on Friday following weeks of scrutiny over what the opposition parties called a conflict of interest due to his ties to Trudeau’s family and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

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Last week, the House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution calling for Johnston to step down over the “appearance of bias.”

Click to play video: 'Alleged foreign interference: Johnston defends decision against public inquiry'
Alleged foreign interference: Johnston defends decision against public inquiry

The resignation marks a sudden turn from Johnston’s commitment to stay on as special rapporteur in the wake of the House motion, which was brought by the NDP. At that time, Johnston said he would only take instructions on his work and his future from the Trudeau government, not Parliament.

In his resignation letter, Johnston reiterated his conclusion that public hearings should be held “both to educate the public and to consider necessary reforms to various aspects of the government’s systems and policies dealing with foreign interference,” rather than a public inquiry.

“A deep and comprehensive review of foreign interference, its effects, and how to prevent it, should be an urgent priority for your Government and our Parliament,” he wrote.

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With files from Global News’ Sean Boynton.

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