Sunday, March 12, 2023

Justin Trudeau 'undermining democracy' by refusing to commit to Chinese interference inquiry

Justin Trudeau 'undermining democracy' by refusing to commit to Chinese interference inquiry

The Liberal leader is facing a growing crisis that threatens to bring down his fragile government

11 March 2023

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been accused by his allies of undermining the public’s faith in democracy by not agreeing to a full public inquiry into suspected Chinese election interference.

The Liberal leader is facing a growing crisis, which threatens to bring down his fragile government, as lawmakers say that at best he is not taking the allegations seriously and apparently has something to hide.

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper has reported, citing anonymous security sources, that Chinese diplomats and their proxies worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered more hostile towards Beijing during the 2021 election.

Specifically, Mr Trudeau has been asked to explain whether Canadian security services warned his office that they had concerns that Han Dong, an MP in his own party, had received support from the Chinese consulate in Toronto.

Han Dong has denied being involved in a foreign plot, even as another report in the Globe and Mail said that intelligence services urged senior Liberal Party staff to rescind his nomination.

China denies playing any part in election interference. 

Special rapporteur

Mr Trudeau has repeatedly resisted calls for a public inquiry, instead announcing he will appoint an “eminent” Canadian as a special rapporteur into the issue of election interference.

The move has not gone down well, and he has lost the support of key allies in Parliament.

New Democratic party leader Jagmeet Singh, whose party is currently supporting the incumbent Liberals in a power-sharing deal, said this week: “The prime minister is signalling that he’s not taking this seriously, and is being dismissive. And in his actions also is more and more seeming like there’s something to hide, all of which is not helping.

“It’s not helping Canadians have confidence in our democracy, in our electoral system, and it’s why it really cries out for a public inquiry. Let’s get those questions put to rest. Let’s figure out what happened, and what we can do to protect democracy in the future.”

Pierre Poilievre, the Conservative leader, said: “Trudeau knew Beijing was interfering in our elections and did nothing to stop it.

“He only seems to care about protecting himself and his party.”

Complaints are mounting

The complaints are mounting at a crucial time for Mr Trudeau, with US President Joe Biden visiting Ottawa later this month to discuss “defence cooperation” among other topics, and the government’s 2023 budget to be announced on March 28.

But suspected Chinese interference remains at the top of his inbox.

On Thursday, Canadian Police opened an investigation into allegations that two Montreal-area centres are being used as Chinese state-backed "police stations" to intimidate or harass Canadians of Chinese origin.

Trudeau told parliament that his government would take every measure to protect Canadians from "unacceptable actions by hostile authoritarian regimes."

In an attempt to claw back some ground, Mr Trudeau has launched consultations on a plan to introduce a foreign agent registry.

Promoting transparency

"We are at a critical juncture when it comes to the security of our democratic institutions," Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told a news conference in Ottawa.

"And now we're taking another step in protecting them," he said.

The goal of the registry is to promote transparency in regards to legitimate foreign state lobbying activities.

It will also "mitigate foreign state activities that go beyond legitimate diplomacy in an attempt to clandestinely or deceptively manipulate Canada's open democracy, economy and society," and protect Canada's institutions from foreign interference, he said.

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