Justin Trudeau to appoint special rapporteur to probe foreign interference in elections

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Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he will appoint a special rapporteur to probe allegations of Chinese interference in recent elections amid mounting political pressure to push back against Beijing and to maintain public confidence in democratic institutions.

“We believe deeply in the values ​​of freedom, openness, and dialogue. These values ​​are not universally shared by every government around the world,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Monday evening. “Indeed, I don’t know if in our lifetime, we’ve seen democracy in a more precarious place. Many state actors and non-state actors want to foster instability here and elsewhere, to advance their own interests.

Trudeau also announced the first steps in creating a registry for foreign agents, which former diplomats and lawmakers have recently called for.

Last week members of an independent panel, created to monitor possible threats to national elections, told lawmakers that the meddling attempts by China did not threaten Canada’s ability to have a free and fair election in 2021.

“Despite all of this, I know that there are people out there who don’t believe that this is enough. I get that,” said Trudeau. “In the coming days, we will appoint an eminent Canadian to the position of independent special rapporteur who will have a wide mandate to make expert recommendations on protecting and enhancing Canadians’ faith in our democracy.”

It is unclear if Trudeau’s announcement will be enough to placate growing calls for a separate, independent inquiry into China’s efforts.

With parliament back in session on Monday, lawmakers from both the governing Liberals and opposition Conservatives traded criticism over which party has failed to act on deterring China’s increasingly aggressive stance.

Ahead of the prime minister’s announcement, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said Trudeau would just try to “sweep this under the rug” and warned Trudeau would keep the process secretive. “That’s a trick, and that’s a trap.”

New Democratic party leader Jagmeet Singh also joined calls for an external review after the recent committee report and a series of leaked documents from the country’s spy agency.

“This is something important that Canadians should have access to. Of course, there will be some information – given that it’s national security, given that there’ll be CSIS information – some of it may be required to be kept confidential,” he said on Monday. “But the process should be public.”

No political leaders have suggested either election was swayed by interference.

Trudeau said any consultations on a foreign agent registry would require careful consideration, given the tarnished history of requiring foreigners to register themselves with government officials

“Foreign interference is a complex landscape. This should not be boiled down to soundbites and binary choices. And it should certainly not be about partisan politics,” said Trudeau. “As politicians, we work hard on building trust with Canadians every single day. But it is also our duty to do everything we can so that Canadians can trust our institutions. Because our institutions will, and must, outlast every politician.”

Justin Trudeau to appoint special rapporteur to probe foreign interference in elections

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