Public Inquiry on Foreign Interference Opens Application for Stakeholders’ Participation

The commission head says those who apply for standing must demonstrate a ‘direct and substantial interest’ in the subject matter of the inquiry.
Public Inquiry on Foreign Interference Opens Application for Stakeholders’ Participation
The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill is shown from Gatineau, Que., on March 12, 2020. (The Canadian Press/Fred Chartrand)
Andrew Chen

The public inquiry investigating foreign interference in Canadian elections has extended invitations to individuals and groups to apply for standing before the commission. It also announced that one of the lawyers who led the Emergencies Act inquiry will be lead counsel for the probe.

On Nov. 10, the Public Inquiry Commission into Foreign Interference posted information on its newly launched website for those who want to participate in the hearings. There is also an application for those seeking standing and funding. Prospective participants must email their applications to the commission by Nov. 22.
“Those who seek standing must demonstrate a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the inquiry in their application,” the Hon. Marie-Josée Hogue, head of the commission, said in a press release.
The commission also posted a list of hired counsel on its website. Notably, Shantona Chaudhury has been appointed as the lead counsel for the investigation. Ms. Chaudhury previously served as co-lead counsel to the Public Order Emergency Commission and spent weeks questioning witnesses in open hearings, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Ms. Hogue said she is “very pleased” with the appointment of Ms. Chaudhury, noting that she will contribute to the commission’s mandate to help meet its compressed deadlines. The release underlines the commission’s commitment to setting “tight but fair deadlines” and ensuring compliance from all participants.

The commission, established in September, carries the mandate to investigate interference by China, Russia, and other entities in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 federal elections. Its inception was prompted by numerous national security leaks in the media depicting pervasive interference by the Chinese regime.

The commission’s work will unfold in two distinct phases, featuring the appearance of witnesses and experts at two sets of public hearings. The hearings are scheduled to take place in early 2024 and in the fall of 2024.

During the initial phase, the inquiry will delve into interference from foreign actors, as well as scrutinize the flow of information within federal departments regarding these issues. The second phase will be centred on assessing whether Canada possesses an adequate framework to detect and counter foreign interference.

All the major political parties participated in negotiations over the summer, establishing the terms of reference and selecting the commissioner for the inquiry.

The Liberal government initially resisted the idea of a public inquiry. Instead, Mr. Trudeau appointed former governor-general David Johnston as a special rapporteur to assess the foreign interference issue and offer advice on the need for an inquiry.

In May, Mr. Johnston submitted his initial report, in which he recommended against holding an inquiry. Faced with mounting pressure from critics and the opposition, he subsequently resigned in June.

Noé Chartier contributed to this report.