MP Han Dong, federal Conservatives, NDP to take part in foreign interference inquiry

By The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Politicians Han Dong and Michael Chan, the federal government and the commissioner of Canada elections are among those granted standing in the factual phase of a public inquiry into foreign interference.

The federal Conservative and New Democratic parties, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, Sen. Yuen Pau Woo and several others, meanwhile, will be interveners in the factual phase.

Groups including the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for International Governance Innovation will be among the participants in the policy phase of the inquiry.

Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue announced the decisions Monday after sifting through dozens of applications from citizens, associations, organizations, academics, politicians and political parties who want to be heard at the inquiry.

The Liberal government announced in September that Hogue would lead a public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, as well as the federal capacity to address the issue.

Hogue, a justice on the Quebec Court of Appeal, will examine attempted meddling by China, Russia and other foreign states, as well as non-state actors.

Dong, an Independent MP, resigned from the government caucus in March, saying he wanted to clear his name following allegations in media reports.

Global News had reported, citing unnamed national security sources, that Dong told a Chinese diplomat in February 2021 that releasing Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from detention would benefit the Conservatives.

David Johnston, the former special rapporteur on foreign interference, deemed the claim “false” in a May report, and the Liberals launched a process to determine whether Dong could return to caucus.

Dong is suing Global News and its parent company, Corus Entertainment, for defamation. The media outlet has defended its work.

Chan, a former Ontario cabinet minister, is suing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and unidentified employees who he alleges leaked classified information with the intent of harming his reputation.

Chan, now deputy mayor in Markham, Ont., is also suing the Crown, the attorney general of Canada, the CSIS director and two journalists who have written stories based on leaks.

In her written decision, Hogue said the federal Conservatives had indicated that MP Michael Chong would play a leading role in instructing his party’s participation in the inquiry.

“It seems to me that Mr. Chong, a widely reported target of a foreign disinformation campaign during the elections, may have an interest that is different from the (party’s),” Hogue wrote in her decision.

While Chong is fully entitled to participate in the commission’s work through the party, he may feel that it is preferable to obtain independent standing and representation, she added. 

If Chong wishes, he may submit an application for individual standing within five days.

“I am conscious that giving standing to a political party in a public inquiry should be done only after careful consideration and with the appropriate safeguards to ensure the inquiry does not become a platform for partisan talking points, grandstanding or scorekeeping,” Hogue wrote. 

“I will not permit the inquiry to become a platform for partisan debate.”

Hogue also noted there are other ways to participate in the commission’s work other than receiving a grant of standing.

“Neither standing nor the opportunity to testify will be necessary to participate in the commission’s public activities and information gathering, as the commission intends to set up a public consultation process.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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