Election interference inquiry will let opposition parties cross-examine witnesses

13 March 2024
Election interference inquiry will let opposition parties cross-examine witnesses


The commission investigating allegations of foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections will allow opposition parties to cross-examine witnesses as it moves into its next phase later this month.

The Conservative Party, New Democratic Party, the Bloc Québécois and former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will be granted the additional rights if they wish to accept them, according to a letter from the commission’s lead counsel, Shantona Chaudhury. CBC News obtained a copy of the letter. The news was first reported by the Globe and Mail.

All four were initially only granted intervener status by Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue.

Interveners are people or groups that Hogue decides have a general interest in the issues, but not to the same degree as those with full standing. Interveners have the right to make written submissions but, for the most part, can’t cross-examine witnesses or get an advance view of the evidence. At the time Hogue, indicated that she could make exceptions.

In addition to the ability to cross-examine, the letter said all four will have access to certain documents, though Chaudhury said that does not include classified documents.

“The Commission has no authority to disclose classified information,” she wrote.

The inquiry announced Monday that the next phase of its study will run from March 27 to April 10. During this phase the commission will dive deeper into whether China, Russia and others meddled in Canada’s past two federal elections.

In her letter, Chaudhury said Hogue “now considers it appropriate” to grant the opposition parties and O’Toole the additional rights as the next phase begins. They have until Friday to decide whether they will accept the additional rights.

While their parties were initially only granted intervener status, Conservative MP Michael Chong and NDP MP Jenny Kwang were given full status. Both have spoken publicly about being informed that they’ve been targets of foreign interference by the government of China.

The inquiry — officially known as the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions — was triggered by media reports last year that, citing unnamed security sources and classified documents, accused China of interfering in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

In January, Hogue and her team of lawyers heard arguments about what information can be made public.

Since then, Hogue said the government told her it will be necessary to hear some evidence behind closed doors.

In a February statement, she wrote that the government will have the burden of convincing her that disclosure of such evidence to inquiry participants or to the public could endanger national security.

If Hogue and her counsel are not persuaded, she said she will require that the evidence be presented in public hearings.

Hogue has to finish an interim report on her findings by May 3.

Source: cbc

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