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MPs want Johnston to testify on foreign interference findings

Opposition MPs have teamed up to force a meeting of the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC) on Thursday, to discuss the summoning of special rapporteur David Johnston to give evidence on his recommendation against a public inquiry into foreign election interference.

Scheduled to take place between 2 and 4 p.m. ET, the PROC met – despite being a week-long recess for the House of Commons – to discuss and possibly vote on a motion to drag Johnston before the panel of deputies to explain its decision not to pursue public hearings.

On Tuesday, Johnston released his first report as special rapporteur to investigate foreign interference, in which he pointed to serious shortcomings within Canada’s intelligence apparatus, but said he had no found no evidence to suggest that the federal government had not acted knowingly or negligently.

Johnston’s first order of business was the rule about the need for a public inquiry, a decision he determined would not be possible because key pieces of sensitive classified information, focused on who knew what and when, “won’t may not be publicly disclosed” and would essentially replicate the work he has undertaken over the past two months.

His decision against an inquiry was quickly overruled by all federal opposition parties who continue to insist that the issue deserves proper – and as public as possible – airing of all the facts, to reassure Canadians. .

“David Johnston’s decision is a slap in the face to diaspora groups who face abuse and intimidation from hostile foreign governments and all Canadians rightly concerned about foreign interference in the 2019 election. and 2021 and future elections,” read the letter requesting the meeting.

It was signed by all Tory, Bloc and New Democrat MPs who sit on PROC, writing that: “David Johnston must appear before the committee and answer for his decision at the earliest opportunity.

In the letter, opposition MPs also cited examples of reporting on alleged attempts by Beijing to interfere in Canadian democracy which they called “shocking,” but in his report, Johnston called it “shocking.” “misinterpreted”.

A series of reports by the Globe and Mail and Global News over the past six months have led the PROC to hold more than a dozen meetings to delve into the issue, seeing the committee hear from senior federal officials, party representatives , intelligence experts and current and former MPs.

In his report, Johnston said part of his work was reviewing “all relevant facts” over the past two months and that included participating in PROC hearings. From there, he made the following observation: “While these debates certainly included an element of political theatre, the deputies asked insightful questions and received important information from various witnesses.”

The resistance of the leaders of the two largest opposition parties to seeing for themselves the documents that informed Johnston’s conclusions is the latest example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday, of his critics being more interested in do politics than to be proactive.

Trudeau — who appointed Johnston to the post under pressure to respond to growing concerns about the threat of foreign interference in Canadian affairs — backs the former governor general’s decision to hold hearings, a message Liberal MPs will put across probably ahead at Thursday’s meeting.

ctvnews Canada news

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