Liberals Support Interference Inquiry Probe MPs’ Links to Foreign States: Minister

Liberals Support Interference Inquiry Probe MPs’ Links to Foreign States: Minister
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc rises during question period in the House of Commons on Feb. 12, 2024. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Noé Chartier

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc says his party supports a motion to have the foreign interference commission investigate the issue of parliamentarians working on behalf of foreign states.

“We agree with members of this House that the appropriate forum to look at these matters is the commission already set up and operating,” Mr. LeBlanc said June 10 in the House of Commons.

Bloc Québécois MP René Villemure tabled a motion earlier that day requesting terms of reference of the commission be expanded to allow the investigation of both senators and MPs elected in 2019 and 2021.

The motion also expresses “concern that certain elected officials may be wittingly or unwittingly working in the interests of foreign powers.”

Mr. Villemure’s motion comes in response to the report from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) released on June 3. It says some MPs “began wittingly assisting foreign state actors soon after their election.” China and India are identified as the foreign states.

Foreign agents and governments are “conclusively interfering in our democratic democracy, but what’s worse is that they have the collusion of our elected officials,” Mr. Villemure said, while addressing his motion.

The foreign interference commission’s interim report released in early May says interference did not impact the overall results of the last two elections, but that results in individual ridings were potentially affected.

The commission has noted the cases of Beijing supporting a Liberal Party candidate during a nomination race in 2019 and of disinformation campaigns targeting then-Tory leader Erin O'Toole and Tory MP Kenny Chiu in 2021.

Mr. LeBlanc told the House the commission already has access to all of the documents that were consulted by NSICOP to produce its foreign interference report.

NSICOP is a parliamentary committee with members of all stripes that reports to the prime minister and not Parliament. It says it reviewed approximately 4,000 documents to produce its foreign interference report.

Mr. LeBlanc said that Privy Council Office officials have already opened discussions with the interference commission to determine the best way forward.

“We think that’s a responsible way to proceed, not simply standing up and illegally announcing a list of names like my colleague suggests,” said Mr. LeBlanc in response to a question from the official opposition.

“I asked the deputy commissioner of the RCMP Mark Flynn this morning what would happen if I stood up and announced a list of names like my colleagues are asking me to do and he said I would be subject to criminal prosecution. So again, Mr. Speaker, I’m not gonna do that.”

The minister said last week he has seen a “number of names” of parliamentarians involved with foreign states.

Tories have said names should be made public before Canadians cast a vote in the next election scheduled for 2025.

“We need to clear up the cloud of suspicion that is hanging over everyone in this house,” said Conservative MP Gérard Deltell during debate on the motion.

The NDP is supportive of the Bloc motion, but it has focused on highlighting that Tory Leader Pierre Poilievre has refused to receive classified briefings on foreign interference, as opposed to its Leader Jagmeet Singh.

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor said the Liberals seem to be “hiding behind judicial process and the need for the RCMP investigation,” whereas the Tories “seem to be hiding behind a veil of ignorance.”

Mr. Poilievre previously defended not being briefed by saying he didn’t want to be limited in what he can say.

Mr. Singh has requested to review the classified NSICOP report and told reporters June 10 he would immediately remove NDP members from caucus if found they knowingly worked for a foreign government.

He remarked that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received the unredacted NSICOP report in March but did not take any action.