House Passes Motion Calling for Public Inquiry on Foreign Interference

By Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson
Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.
March 23, 2023Updated: March 23, 2023

MPs in the House of Commons today voted in favour of a motion that calls on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to launch a public inquiry into allegations that Beijing interfered in Canada’s past two federal elections.

The non-binding NDP motion, which passed with 172 votes in favour and 149 against, places pressure on the Liberal government from all opposition parties to initiate the public inquiry.

The text of the motion reads that the scope of the inquiry would include, but not be limited to, “allegations that foreign governments interfered in the country’s general elections.”

The motion also calls on the government to grant the inquiry all “necessary powers to call witnesses from the government and from political parties,” and that it be given the power to order and review any documents it deems necessary for its work, which includes national security documents.

The motion further requested that the inquiry’s head be picked by unanimous agreement between House leaders of the officially recognized parties rather than by the prime minister.

Liberal MP Resignation

The motion carries one day after Liberal MP Han Dong resigned from the Liberal caucus amid allegations from Global News reports citing intelligence sources that accused him of being a “witting affiliate” of Beijing’s election interference network.

Dong’s resignation came just hours after another Global News story alleging that Dong advised a Chinese diplomat that Beijing should hold off on freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadian citizens who had been arbitrarily detained in China at the time.

Dong has publicly denied the allegations. He said he’ll now be sitting as an Independent member in the House so that the “business of Parliament is not interrupted” as he works to “clear” his name.

Shortly after the report of Dong allegedly interfering in the case of the two Michaels emerged, opposition leaders renewed their calls for a public inquiry into Beijing’s interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Trudeau had repeatedly dismissed the need for a public inquiry when questioned about it both in the House and by reporters.

The prime minister said on multiple occasions that there were already mechanisms in place to investigate claims of foreign meddling in Canada’s elections, such as the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency.

Trudeau also said that the recently appointed special rapporteur David Johnston, who is tasked with independently investigating the allegations and making recommendations to the Liberal government for actions to take regarding them, would call for an inquiry into the matter if he saw fit.

The prime minister also recently ended a lengthy filibuster by Liberal MPs on a committee motion to have his chief of staff, Katie Telford, testify on foreign interference in the past two elections.

Trudeau’s office said on March 21 that Telford had agreed to testify just hours before the Commons was set to vote on a motion that would’ve called her to testify on the matter before the Conservative-chaired Commons ethics committee.

Instead, Telford is now set to testify before the Liberal-chaired House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs before April 14.

Andrew Chen contributed to this report.