Liberals Support Push To Have Public Inquiry Probe Claims That Parliamentarians Helped Foreign States | CBC News

Politics

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc says the federal government will support a push from the opposition parties to have the public inquiry probing foreign election interference to take on shocking new claims that some parliamentarians have “wittingly” conspired with foreign governments.

NSICOP report suggests some MPs have helped foreign actors like China and India meddle in Canadian politics

Catharine Tunney · CBC News

· Posted: Jun 10, 2024 2:13 PM EDT | Last Updated: 21 minutes ago

Commissioner Justice Marie-Josee Hogue listens to counsel at the Public Inquiry Into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions on Monday, January 29, 2024 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc says the federal government will support calls to have the public inquiry probing foreign election interference take on shocking new claims that some parliamentarians have “wittingly” conspired with foreign governments.

But the minister suggested commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue would be legally prevented from revealing names. 

Last week, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), a cross-party committee of MPs and senators with top security clearances, released a heavily redacted document alleging some parliamentarians have actively helped foreign governments like China and India meddle in Canadian politics.

The bombshell accusations have rattled the House of Commons and touched off a fiery debate about whether, and how, the names of the accused parliamentarians should be released.

WATCH | Trudeau discusses NSICOP report: 

Trudeau discusses NSICOP foreign interference reportPrime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will support a Bloc Québécois motion that calls for a public inquiry into a report that claims parliamentarians helped foreign states.

LeBlanc said the Liberals will support a Bloc Québécois motion that calls for expanding the Hogue commission’s mandate to allow it to investigate MPs and senators when it comes up for a vote. The motion followed letters from both the Conservatives and NDP to LeBlanc calling on Hogue to review the allegations.

During question period Monday, LeBlanc said Privy Council officials are already in contact with Hogue’s team to discuss the best way forward. The minister said the commission would have access to the same documents NSICOP members saw.

LeBlanc remained firm, however, in the face of calls to release the names of MPs and other parliamentarians cited in the report.

“We think that’s a responsible way to proceed, not simply standing up and illegally announcing a list of names like my colleague suggests,” he said during question period.

“I asked the Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP Mark Flynn this morning what would happen if I announced the list of names like my colleagues are asking me to do, and he said I would be subject to criminal prosecution. So guess what, Mr. Speaker? I’m not going to do that.”

WATCH | LeBlanc says naming MPs would be a mistake: 

Liberals support probe into MPs accused of helping foreign powersThe Liberal government said it will back a public inquiry to probe any parliamentarians accused of helping foreign powers, but Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc says naming and shaming MPs would be a mistake.

When asked if Hogue would be able to name names, LeBlanc said the opinion the government has received indicates that releasing the names would be a violation of the Security of Information Act.

“I would not want a justice of the court of Quebec to do something illegal,” he told reporters in French. 

“I have full confidence in the Hogue commission that if they have access to all the documents, and if in their independent judgment they decided to enlighten people with respect to what is legally possible, fine.”

The RCMP has said it is probing cases involving foreign interference but would not say whether it’s investigating parliamentarians.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he also wants Hogue to review another allegation tucked into the NSICOP report — that foreign actors from India and the People’s Republic of China allegedly interfered in more than one race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada.

“The extent to which a foreign government was involved in the selection of the leader of the Conservative party, that is something Canadians ought to know,” he said during a news conference Thursday.

“So we’re demanding a solution.”

NDP, Green Party waiting for briefingSingh, who has a top security clearance, has asked for a briefing on the NSICOP report. When asked if he would name MPs on the floor of the House of Commons, Singh said he’d remove an MP from his party’s caucus if there’s evidence that they colluded with a foreign government.

“If it’s clear that they knowingly worked with a foreign government to undermine Canada, I will immediately remove them from caucus. There’s no way I’d allow them to run as a candidate or sit in my caucus if they are named and they knowingly worked with a foreign government to undermine our country,” he said.

“I hope other party leaders will do the same thing.”

But Singh said he needed to reflect about whether he would also identify Liberal and Conservative MPs.

Green Party Elizabeth May also has asked for a briefing as soon as possible.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has not obtained clearance to review classified intelligence. He has argued doing so would prevent him from commenting publicly.

Philippe Lagassé, an associate professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said it’s time for Canada to “achieve a different nature of national security maturity.”

“What if the Hogue inquiry comes back and says, ‘Yes what NSCOP found is correct as far as we can tell, based on the the intelligence, however we as the inquiry, we can’t name the names.’ What’s the next step?” he said on CBC’s Power & Politics.

“The step still again falls on the party leaders — all the party leaders — to come up with some mechanism by which they can all agree how to proceed, they can look at the evidence and come up with some set of criteria that they will apply to their own parties so Canadians can have confidence in how the House of Commons is managing this.”

Last week’s report said NSICOP members viewed intelligence suggesting MPs worked to influence their colleagues on India’s behalf and proactively provided confidential information to Indian government officials.

WATCH | Singh said he would remove from NDP MPs if they colluded with a foreign government: 

Singh vows to remove MPs if caught colluding with foreign actorsNDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says if an NDP member is named in the NSICOP report he will immediately remove them from his caucus.

In one case cited in the report — based on Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) information shared with NSICOP — a then-member of Parliament maintained a relationship with a foreign intelligence officer. The officer’s country of origin was not included in the public report.

Government open to moving deadlines Last month, the public inquiry investigating foreign interference reported that attempts by other countries to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 general elections did not determine which party formed the government.

“Nonetheless, the acts of interference that occurred are a stain on our electoral process and impacted the process leading up to the actual vote,” Hogue wrote in her initial report.

Her final report is due December.

LeBlanc said the government will work with the commission if it says it needs any changes to its terms of reference, including changes to its deadlines.

Former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)  director Richard Fadden said Monday he’s “absolutely opposed” to expanding Hogue’s mandate.

“I don’t think there’s time to do it,” the former national security adviser to two prime ministers said.

“She’s been given unreasonable time frames to begin with. And secondly, I think to some degree it would be Parliament passing on a responsibility that it has.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC’s Parliament Hill bureau, where she covers national security and the RCMP. She worked previously for CBC in Nova Scotia. You can reach her at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca

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