The commissioner presiding over the public inquiry into foreign interference by countries like China is promising to reveal as much information as possible to Canadians.
“While this will be a difficult balance to strike, I will do my utmost to achieve it, as both objectives are paramount,” said Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue, a judge from Quebec’s Court of Appeal.
Commissioner Hogue started her work Sept. 18 which, up to now, has involved hiring staff, setting up offices, and planning the inquiry’s work.
The Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions will be conducted in two phases.
The first phase will look at interference from China, Russia, and other foreign actors, as well as the flow of information within federal departments on the matter.
The calls to hold an inquiry were spurred by multiple national security leaks in the media depicting widespread interference by the Chinese regime.
The second phase of the inquiry will assess whether Canada has an adequate framework to detect and counter foreign interference.
Public hearings are expected to be held for each phase, with the first sessions taking place in early 2024 and the second in the fall of 2024.
Before the hearings, the inquiry says it will issue an invitation on Nov. 10 for parties interested in seeking standing. Additional details about the inquiry’s work plan and the launch of its website will also take place on that date.
“The work to set up an independent public inquiry, particularly one that deals with national security issues, is complex,” said Commissioner Hogue. “Our work is progressing steadily, and I look forward to sharing more information with Canadians on Nov. 10.”
The inquiry will also establish a process to allow the public to provide information and share observations.
The terms of reference of the inquiry call for the submission of an interim report in February and a final report in December 2024. Commissioner Hogue says the timeline is “ambitious.”
All major political parties were involved in establishing the terms of reference and choosing the commissioner of the inquiry during negotiations taking place over the summer.
The Liberal government initially resisted calls to hold a public inquiry. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed former governor general David Johnston in March to assess the foreign interference issue and to advise on if an inquiry was needed.
Mr. Johnston filed a report in May that recommended against holding an inquiry. He resigned in June under pressure from opposition parties.