(Ottawa) The Trudeau government is entrusting the reins of the public inquiry into foreign interference to Judge Marie-Josée Hogue of the Quebec Court of Appeal. The magistrate has the mandate to look into the disruptive actions of China, Russia and other states, and she must complete the exercise by December 31, 2024.
What there is to know
- Judge Marie-Josée Hogue will have approximately one year and three months to conduct the public inquiry.
- The magistrate will look into the interference of China, Russia, and other states during the 2019 and 2021 elections.
- Opposition parties have all welcomed the appointment, which comes after weeks of talks.
The announcement made Thursday in Ottawa by the Minister of Public Safety, Dominic LeBlanc, comes after several weeks of talks with the opposition parties and numerous consultations, notably with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner.
Judge Hogue will have to carry out her work within a limited time frame: her interim report must be presented within approximately five months, i.e. February 29, 2024. The final public report, for its part, is expected no later than December 31, 2024.
It will examine the tactics of China, Russia and other state or non-state players in the 2019 and 2021 elections, and recommend “ways to strengthen the protection of federal democratic processes against foreign interference,” is- it stated in the reference framework.
Why broaden its scope of action beyond Chinese interference, which is at the origin of the creation of this commission of inquiry? “China is not the only foreign player trying to destabilize democratic institutions in Canada or other Western democracies,” argued Minister LeBlanc.
“We wanted the commission and Judge Hogue to have the ability to follow the evidence. (…) We wanted her to have this freedom,” he added at a press conference, insisting on the fact that the rules of the game have the seal of approval of all parties.
Asked to comment on the tight deadline for the work, he did not want to establish a link between the calendar and the holding of the next elections. Opposition parties are keen for the investigation to be completed before the next vote scheduled for October 2025, but the minority Liberal government must survive until then.
The commission having been set up under the Investigation Act, its president has the power to compel witnesses to appear. Without wishing to presume the list of witnesses that the judge will draw up, Minister LeBlanc assured that he and his Cabinet colleagues were ready to collaborate fully.
” A privilege ”
In a statement released to the media, Judge Hogue said inheriting this responsibility was a “privilege,” saying she “can’t wait” to get to work.
It is essential that our electoral processes and democratic institutions are protected against foreign interference.
Extract from the statement by Judge Marie-Josée Hogue sent to the media
For their part, the opposition parties took turns taking credit, but with varying degrees of enthusiasm. While Bloc member Alain Therrien said he was “extremely happy” that the judge was taking up the challenge, conservative Andrew Scheer limited himself to saying that his party “accepted” her nomination.
“It’s a good day for Canadians,” rejoiced New Democrat Peter Julian.
Judge Hogue’s appointment comes after weeks of negotiations. Minister LeBlanc and senior officials at the Privy Council Office faced several refusals from current and retired judges before finding the rare gem.
In total, according to our information, around ten current and retired magistrates declined the invitation to chair an investigation. Judges justified their refusal by citing the treatment reserved for former Governor General David Johnston when he was independent special rapporteur on foreign interference.
The salvos, particularly those from the Conservative benches, intensified after Mr. Johnston determined that a public inquiry was not necessary. The House of Commons had adopted a motion calling for his departure, a wish to which the principal party subsequently complied.
The judge who finally said yes, for her part, officially begins her mandate on September 18. Once she has put on her new commissioner clothes, she will begin by holding public hearings before moving on to commission hearings.
At a press conference, Minister Dominic LeBlanc did not want to say whether the Trudeau government would follow all of the recommendations that will result from the exercise, pleading not to want to “presuppose” the nature of these.