Foreign Interference Inquiry Begins with Beijing, New Delhi Under Microscope

The opening session of Canada’s foreign interference inquiry — which will examine, among other topics, alleged interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections by China, Russia, and “other foreign states,” including India — kicked off Monday. Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, the Quebec judge leading the Foreign Interference Commission’s public inquiry, said she would seek “to uncover the truth, whatever it may be.”  

This week’s preliminary hearings will establish what the Commission can (and cannot) disclose to the public due to national security concerns. More substantive meetings in March will focus on how election interference occurred and on the flow of information to senior decision-makers, including elected officials, before, during, and after the elections. The Commission will deliver an interim report in May and a final report by December 31, 2024.  

Uyghur rights group withdraws  

The Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP), a human rights group representing Uyghur Canadians, backed out of the inquiry on Wednesday. In a statement yesterday, URAP said it disagreed with the Commission’s decision to include three men — Michael Chan, Han Dong, and Yuen Pau Woo — in the process.

Chan, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, and Dong, a now-independent MP, hold full status in the inquiry, allowing them to cross-examine witnesses and access all evidence provided to the Commission. Woo, an Independent Senator, holds the lesser ‘intervenor status.’ 

URAP asserted the three men have “possible links to and support for the Chinese Communist Party,” a charge that Chan, Dong, and Woo have all rejected. The group said that it “refuses to participate in a process meant to address and reconcile foreign interference that uplifts individuals complicit in and benefiting from foreign interference themselves.” 

Inquiry likely to strain China, India ties    

Last week, in a surprise move, the Commission requested information relating to alleged Indian interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections. New Delhi has yet to comment on the issue. But some Indian media outlets reacted with shock.

Suyesha Dutta, an APF Canada South Asia Research Scholar, told Asia Watch that Indian media, rather than dwelling on any allegations against New Delhi, has focused on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to “tarnish” India’s image through the inquiry and his sheltering of “separatist elements” within his government. 

Jody Thomas, Ottawa’s outgoing national security and intelligence adviser, said last Friday in an interview with CBC that Canada is "working back towards a healthier relationship” with India after months of tension. India’s inclusion in the inquiry may complicate these efforts.