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Commissioner for Foreign Interference denies Conservative party appeal and dismisses human rights organization’s worries.

Foreign interference commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue has denied the Conservatives’ appeal regarding participation in an upcoming public inquiry aimed at examining China’s election interference in Canada. She also dismissed concerns from a human rights coalition about granting standing to three individuals accused of ties to the Chinese regime.

In a Dec. 22 decision, Justice Hogue maintained her earlier decision to grant limited standing to the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), rejecting their protests against their “Intervener” status. The Conservatives said that this status compromises the credibility of the inquiry, as it prevents them from questioning witnesses in the factual phase and denies them access to non-public information.

Justice Hogue justified her decision, stating, “I concluded that the CPC has a direct and substantial interest in the work of the Commission, but that this interest is of a general nature only.” Additionally, she expressed the belief that the CPC wouldn’t require cross-examining witnesses or accessing non-exhibit documents to make its “necessary contribution” to the inquiry.

The commissioner has effectively granted full standing, or “full participation rights,” to the governing Liberals as these rights were granted to the Government of Canada in the inquiry.

Facing Conservative protests of being “unfair,” Justice Hogue defended her decision, noting a distinction between the government of the day and the political party controlling the House of Commons.

“My Terms of Reference concern the conduct of the Government of Canada rather than that of the Liberal Party,” she wrote.

The public inquiry will unfold in two phases. In a Dec. 22 statement, the commission announced that the first phase will begin on Jan. 29, 2024. The hearings are expected to be held over five days and will take place in the Library and Archives Canada building, located at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. The second phase of the inquiry is slated to take place in fall 2024.

Initially mandated to submit a preliminary report by Feb. 29, 2024, the commission now requests an extension to May 3, 2024. According to the Dec. 22 statement, this request is to allow ample time for public processes and hearings on substantive issues. The commission plans to conduct the second stage concurrently with the first, allowing an extension for the first report without affecting the ultimate deadline of Dec. 31, 2024, for the second report.

Human Rights Coalition

Justice Hogue has extended full standing to MP Han Dong and Michael Chan, deputy mayor of Markham, Ont. Both individuals are central to allegations surrounding China’s interference in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 federal elections, which led to the initiation of the public inquiry. Mr. Dong and Mr. Chan have denied allegations of inappropriate ties to the Chinese consulate in Canada.

A coalition of human rights advocacy groups has urged Justice Hogue to reconsider her decision to grant full standing to Mr. Dong and Mr. Chan and Intervener status to Sen. Yuen Pau Woo. The group expressed concerns about their potential connections to and support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The coalition seeks to restrict Mr. Chan and Mr. Dong’s standing in the factual phase of the inquiry to the allegations of Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 general elections. This includes denying them access to other witnesses’ testimony, limiting their ability to interrogate witnesses, and barring participation in hearings beyond the specified allegations. Regarding Mr. Woo, Justice Hogue noted that while the coalition didn’t specify their desired recourse, it implied a call for the revocation of his Intervener standing.

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