New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling for the removal of Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, David Johnston, for the rest of his term, adding his voice to the other two opposition parties.
“It is very clear that the appearance of bias is so high that it erodes the work of the special rapporteur,” Mr Singh said in the Commons foyer on Monday.
The leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) said he was “particularly” convinced by revelations that lawyer Sheila Block, who has supported Mr. Johnston so far, gave $ 7,593 to the Liberal Party of Canada between 2003 and 2022.
Pressure group Democracy Watch reported the data last Wednesday, announcing that it would file a complaint with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner of Canada.
The NDP will use its opposition day on Tuesday to put forward a motion calling for Johnston’s withdrawal.
“Important questions have been raised with respect to the Special Rapporteur process, [de la] advise [ère] legal he hired [e] to assist him in his work, his findings and his conclusions,” reads the text of the motion.
It calls, once again, for the launch of a public and independent inquiry into the allegations of foreign interference, as desired by all the opposition parties.
Bloc members and Conservatives have been questioning Mr. Johnston’s impartiality for months. They accuse him of being too close to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family and of being a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
In presenting his first report in which he advised against holding a public inquiry, the special rapporteur defended himself, noting that he had had no direct contact that was friendly with Mr. Trudeau in 40 years.
Mr. Singh wanted to distance himself from the other opposition parties on Monday, mainly attacking the Conservatives. “From the start I was really careful and did not attack Mr Johnston [personnellement] because I found the attacks of the conservatives unfair and their motivation was not really to find the truth or to defend our democracy”, he asserted.
Alongside her, her MP Jenny Kwan said she had been informed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that she had been targeted since 2019 by interference efforts from Beijing. Mme Kwan took part in a briefing last Friday, the details of which she could not divulge, but she insisted that these tactics will not deter her from advocating for human rights.
The fact that another lawmaker, conservative Michael Chong, was targeted by Beijing led earlier this month to the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat who was in Canada, Zhao Wei.
“Hide up the truth”
No sooner had Mr Singh finished his press briefing than the Commons was once again inflamed over foreign interference in the first Question Period after returning from a week-long break.
“He is another member of the Trudeau Foundation and a friend of the Prime Minister who is now trying to cover up the truth,” Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre sent at the start of the jousting over Mr. Johnston, before asking if the first Minister will “dismiss the rapporteur and launch a public inquiry”.
It was the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc, who was sent to the front. “The only person here trying to hide the truth seems to be the leader of the opposition himself,” he retorted.
According to him, Mr. Poilievre “prefers to play petty politics” on an issue that affects Canadian democracy by refusing to consult the documents relating to national security which led the rapporteur to his conclusions.
Mr. Poilievre immediately replied that he refused to be “silenced” after consulting documents “stamped ‘secret’”.
Government House Leader Mark Holland later suggested the Tories are being dishonest, with their former leader Stephen Harper appointing Mr Johnston Governor General.
Now they are attacking this “exceptional” Canadian because his report “is not in line with their political interests,” Holland said.
His turn came, the parliamentary leader of the Bloc Québécois, Alain Therrien, threw himself into the fray, calling David Johnston’s report a “farce” which only aims to “protect” Prime Minister Trudeau.
“Nobody accepts it, except the Prime Minister and China who died laughing,” he said. There is no question of letting the Prime Minister slip away without a public inquiry. […] I’ll let you know first […], the Bloc Québécois will hound the Prime Minister every day until he launches this investigation. »
From the benches of the government, Mr. LeBlanc suggested to him that his leader Yves-François Blanchet should also accept the offer to consult the information provided to Mr. Johnston “before arriving at unfounded partisan conclusions”.