Justin Trudeau tells inquiry: Elections in 2019 and 2022 were ‘decided by Canadians’

Apr 11, 2024 | Federal Election 2019, Headlines, News

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau testified at the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference alongside Defence Minister Bill Blair, Government House leader Karina Gould, and Democratic Institutions Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

The mandate of the commission and Foreign interference inquiry commissioner Judge Marie-Josée Hogue was to examine allegations of foreign interference by China, India, Russia and other actors in the 2019 and 2021 Canadian federal elections.

“Intelligence services had shared concerns that Chinese officials in Canada had been developing plans to possibly engage in interference in the nomination contest. Specifically, by mobilizing buses filled with students or Chinese speakers who would have been mobilized to support Han Dong,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said the information he received was not “sufficiently credible” to remove Liberal candidate Han Dong from the 2019 election ballot.

Trudeau noted that the CSIS agents might not know how nomination processes works.

“The buses seemed like a smoking gun for some analysts; they were not for someone who works in a political party,” Trudeau said.

The prime minister also said that racism could be the reason for the accusations. “Once again, one of the things we’ve seen unfortunately over the past years is a rise in anti-Asian racism linked to the pandemic,” he said.

Trudeau said he didn’t believe the Conservatives lost races due to foreign interference.

“Those elections held in their integrity. They were decided by Canadians,” Trudeau said. The Liberals won, he said, because they “had better candidates, ran better campaigns, and because the rhetoric of the Conservative party towards China had an impact on the ground.”

A document summarizing intelligence from CSIS and other security agencies suggested that Dong said that the release of the ‘Two Michaels’ (Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig) would be perceived by Canadian opposition parties to support the view of the value of a hardline approach towards the Chinese government.

Trudeau voiced his doubts about the CSIS’s claim of Dong’s phone call with the Chinese government about the ‘Two Michaels’. “There is a lot of uncertainty around the spy agency’s account of the intercepted conversation,” Trudeau said.

Before Trudeau’s testimony, Defence Minister Bill Blair, said he was not concerned about claims of Chinese interference.

“Intelligence isn’t necessarily factual evidence of what took place,” Blair said.

Former Democratic Institutions Minister Karina Gould also testified before the committee.

She said that she was briefed by Canada’s spy agency about a low-level foreign interference by China but that the final vote was not compromised.

“Probably in every election that Canada has ever had, there have been attempts at foreign interference, just like in every election in a democracy around the world since ancient Greece,” Gould said. “Whether they are successful or not is another question.”

The commission is scheduled to hold further public hearings in the fall of 2024. They will have a broader focus on Canada’s democratic institutions.

Judge Hogue’s interim report is due in early May.