Former governor general David Johnston appears before a Commons committee reviewing his nomination as elections debates commissioner on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Johnston advises against inquiry, but aims to hold hearings on foreign interference

Special rapporteur David Johnston says a public inquiry into foreign interference is not needed, but public hearings should be held as part of his own mandate.

The former governor general’s initial report into foreign interference allegations found serious shortcomings in how intelligence from security agencies was communicated to government, but didn’t identify any instances where the prime minister negligently failed to act on intelligence, advice or recommendations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Johnston in March to lead an investigation into the extent and impact of foreign interference in Canada, amid allegations that China meddled in the last two federal elections.

Johnston’s report concluded, based on access to classified documents and security agencies, that specific accusations of interference that have dominated the political conversation were less concerning than media reports suggested.

He says a public inquiry long called for by opposition parties could not be undertaken in public because of the sensitivity of the intelligence, and formal subpoena powers are not required for him to hold his own hearings with diaspora communities, academics and political stakeholders.

Johnston’s work is expected to continue through the end of October, when he is due to present a final report to the government.

Pop-up banner image