Dodging Scrutiny on CCP Influence Operations
It goes on. And on and on. A heads-up for this weekend's newsletter - about the implosion of immigration policy - and a guest post by Nelly Shin, today.
In the press this week; in this newsletter this weekend
Some stuff I’ve been digging into lately: It’s as though somebody somewhere decided that Canada should be a country of landlords & well-to-do strip mall college entrepreneurs preying upon an underclass of exhausted renters, homeless people and foreign guest workers.
That’s from my piece in the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen this week, about the Liberal government’s absolute shambles in the matter of housing and immigration. I’ll have more backstory on this in The Real Story this weekend.
I’ll let readers decide whether destroying an entire generation’s hopes of every settling down with an affordable roof over their heads is deliberate policy or mismanagement. Either way, the primary beneficiaries appear to be Beijing-aligned multimillionaires, dodgy Khomeinist apparatchiks, unscrupulous immigration consultants and bureaucrats living off the avails of bloated university budgets.
Today’s main attraction
It’s just a guess, but I’d say I’ve paid more attention to the China file than to any other story in my beat over the past decade or so. It’s a bulging file: The Hong Kong uprisings, the Trudeau Liberals’ deep affinities with the Beijing-aligned Mandarin bloc, the persecution of the Uyghurs, the human rights wasteland in China generally, Xi Jinping’s regional and global belligerence, and so on.
Since October 7, at the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and here at the Real Story, I’ve been preoccupied with the Gaza War, the phenomenon of Canada’s high-society antisemitism finally coming to public notice, and the obscenities associated with all those sordid “Pro-Palestine” street histrionics. For my trouble I’ve lost quite a few paying subscribers. No regrets.
Help keep this newsletter going with a paid subscription, will ya?. Or just subscribe if you don’t already.
One thing I do regret is I’ve had to conduct my China file work on the side of my desk for several weeks now. All the while, the Trudeau government has continued to prevaricate and evade any real scrutiny of its unscrupulous manipulation of national-security concerns related to Beijing’s high-level influence in and around Ottawa. Not least of these concerns: Beijing’s monkeywrenching of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections in the Liberals’ favour.
The Liberals’ most determined effort was its engineer of a cover-up - I really don’t like using that term, but it fits - by means of the “Special Rapporteur” exercise to which former Governor-General and passionate China enthusiast David Johnston happily agreed to be conscripted.
The effort collapsed in scandal and embarrassment and Johnston quickly extricated himself from the horrible smell of it all. What followed was the Prime Minister’s Office finally agreeing to House of Commons demands for a proper public inquiry by setting up a commission headed by Quebec’s Justice Marie-Josée Hogue.
Just one problem with Johnston’s appointment was that he was deeply compromised by his own intimacies, and I don’t mean merely his Trudeau Foundation links or his lifelong friendship with the Trudeaus. Johnston was a poster boy for the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy of “elite capture” in Canada.
Whether Judge Hogue is sufficiently distanced from similar entanglements is, I guess, a judgment call. In any case, her inquiry begins with a preliminary set of hearings beginning on January 29. Just how much “classified information” will end up on the public record is still very much an open question.
There are more troubling questions about the way Hogue’s inquiry will be conducting its business, and fortunately, today we have a contribution from former MP Nelly Shin, who served as a Conservative MP in Erin O’Toole’s caucus in from 2019 to 2021.
Giving victims a safe and fair process will help the Public Inquiry move forward in the right direction
By Nelly Shin
Three days before Christmas, the Commissioner of the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference denied appeals put forth by a coalition of diaspora groups and the Conservative Party of Canada.
Rejection of Appeals Made by Diaspora Groups
A coalition of diaspora groups submitted an appeal to the Commissioner seeking safer conditions under which their witnesses would feel free to testify. They requested restrictions be placed on the standings given to three politicians with possible ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
As the Commissioner’s decision stands, these politicians would have the privilege to cross-examine the diaspora groups and review their testimonies and document submissions. The Commissioner denied the coalition’s request to restrict the standing of the witnesses in question on the basis that she “cannot make findings of fact or jump to conclusions before hearing the evidence."
I find this dangerous, negligent, and lacking in compassion.
In her conscience, would the Commissioner hold herself accountable if to the very end no safeguards were offered and reprisals were to ensue after the diaspora witnesses testify? Would the government hold itself to account?
I would respectfully ask the Commissioner to reconsider her decision.
The Commissioner must modify the privileges given to the witnesses allegedly tied to the CCP with some parameters that will adequately protect diaspora community witnesses from potential retaliation and allow them to participate freely without fear.
Unfortunately, by denying the diaspora community their appeal, the Public Inquiry is now coming across as a come-speak-at-your-own-risk affair. It discourages participation from the very people who suffer most from foreign interference. So as it stands today, the Public Inquiry is creating barriers for the victims while opening its arms wide to those who want to exonerate their names from alleged ties to the CCP.
For a country that is so accommodating and prizes itself in its mosaic of diversity, why does the safety of our immigrant communities not matter when it really counts? The message to targeted immigrant communities is that their safety, plight and participation is not valuable enough to make the due adjustments.
It’s already been this way for over thirty years with government inaction to protect them, our own people. Tragically, this forces civilian victims of foreign threats into a corner of helplessness and diminishing trust in Canada’s will and ability to defend them. Those who end up speaking at the hearings will do so knowing they are putting their lives on the line. Others will shy away and be silent.
Is this the intention? To silence the victims?
Is the intended beneficiary of the Public Inquiry the CCP or Canadians or somewhere down the middle?
The intentions of the Public Inquiry need to be clarified with decisions that clearly indicate this process is to benefit Canadians alone.
I would urge the Commissioner to seriously reflect on the implications of her decision and seek a creative solution that would allow targeted diaspora groups to finally use their voice and make them feel welcome and safe to be living in Canada.
In a Public Inquiry that involves national secrets, threats and potential risks to civilians coming to the stand, we should not expect a one size fits all approach to work with the process. The Public Inquiry must be custom tailored—conducted with the right balance of versatility, flexibility, and at all times, sensitivity—with the safety, dignity and longterm future of the people at the centre.
Rejection of the Conservative Party of Canada’s Appeal
On December 4, Conservatives were given intervener status for public hearings, which means they won’t be able to cross examine witnesses or see all the evidence made available to those with full standing. Thus, the Party made an appeal for full standing at the hearings. She rejected the appeal noting, “the danger of politicizing the process by granting an opposition party full standing.”
I would respectfully disagree.
There is no danger in giving a party that has suffered the impact of foreign interference full standing to speak, cross-examine and review evidence with full privileges. It is actually the just thing to do.
It is unfortunate that Justice Hogue has from the get-go identified Conservatives as hyper-partisan troublemakers and denied them full standing.
In her December 4 decision on standing given to applicants, the Commissioner denies opposition parties the right to question witnesses or view all evidence provided. She markedly singles out Conservatives with a warning, before the public hearings have even begun.
I am aware that giving standing to a political party in a public inquiry should be done only after careful consideration and with the appropriate safeguards to ensure the Inquiry does not become a platform for partisan talking points, grandstanding or scorekeeping. I am therefore advising the CPC, and indeed all Participants, that I will not allow this Commission to become a partisan debate between opposing political factions. All must participate in this Inquiry with the sole purpose of assisting the Commission and not for any partisan purpose. Clause 79, Decision on Standing, December 4
If the CPC proves unable to live up to this expectation, I recall that I retain the authority to revoke a grant of standing and will not hesitate to do so in appropriate circumstances. Clause 80, Decision on Standing, December 4
I am granting the CPC Intervener standing, which is more limited in terms of participatory rights than it was seeking in its application. I am satisfied that Intervener standing strikes an appropriate balance between recognizing the CPC’s interests in and possible contributions to this Inquiry, on the one hand, and the need for the Inquiry to be perceived as, and remain non-partisan and independent, on the other. Clause 81, Decision on Standing, December 4
What would give the Commissioner the impetus to start off the top with such a strong bias?
The Political Context of the Public Inquiry
Despite the Commissioner’s intentions to protect the Public Inquiry from becoming partisan, and her assertion that the terms of reference setting out the Commission’s mandate “concern the conduct of the Government of Canada rather than that of the Liberal Party,” the public inquiry is already deeply rooted in the Liberal government’s desperate need to control their narrative.
The Liberals were under fierce scrutiny in the House of Commons throughout the first several months of 2023, because opposition parties believed the current Government consciously failed to intervene adequately on foreign interference in the last two federal elections. They felt the Liberals didn’t intervene because they were electorally benefiting from the negative impact of foreign meddling on Conservatives.
We cannot lose sight of this original context, something the Liberals have worked hard to erase from the public's mind by dragging their feet and resisting a public inquiry from day one. David Johnston was brought in for a public relations cleanup job for this very reason.
But under all the pressure, the Liberals forged a political tool to climb their way out of the hole they made themselves. They weaponized the term “partisan” to overshadow the Conservatives’ probing with their own narrative.
The Commissioner’s strong bias against the Conservatives as hyper-partisan troublemakers was passed down from the Liberal Government and David Johnston. She inherited their perspective.
Liberal Gaslighting to Deflect Probing and Accountability
From the start of debates on foreign interference, Liberals have repeatedly weaponized the terms "partisan", "hyper-partisan" or “playing partisan games” against the Official Opposition to deflect accountability and vilify Conservatives on the tone and manner of their communication. By doing so, they are attempting to make themselves appear to be the victims and the Conservatives as mean political bullies.
This strategy aims to discredit the legitimacy of the Conservatives’ probing and pass the Official Opposition off as political opportunists, complainers and conspiracy theorists. As the focus shifts from the questions that need to be asked and answered by the government to vilifying and delegitimizing Conservatives, the serious questions that need to be answered and the accountability that needs to be addressed get deterred, shuffled and appear less relevant with time.
This manipulation technique is called gaslighting.
We saw the Liberals accuse all opposition parties of being hyper-partisan when they demanded the resignation of David Johnston, a member of the Trudeau Foundation. While the opposition parties were addressing a legitimate concern over a conflict of interest matter, the Liberals drove the narrative that the opposition was being too partisan.
When David Johnston quit his role as Special Rapporteur, an appointment he should never have accepted in the first place, he said, "I have concluded that, given the highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work, my leadership has had the opposite effect." The opposition parties were too partisan.
Now we see the baton has been passed on to the Commissioner who chided the Conservatives and warned them not to be hyper-partisan before the hearings have even begun.
Scrutinizing the Government is not partisan. It’s the duty of the opposition.
It is the job of any opposition party to scrutinize the government on issues of accountability because their role is to ensure the government is acting in the best interest of Canadians, full stop. It is not partisan for opposition parties to determinedly hold the government of the day to account, especially when the safety of targeted diaspora communities and our democratic process are being threatened.
I’d also like to clarify, there is a difference between a style of communication and the content of that communication. Any negative tone which Conservatives and other opposition parties have used to address the government's handling of foreign interference may come across as mere political smearing, but the questions they have been asking and the persistence with which they have been questioning the government on foreign interference have been on point with their duty as opposition MPs.
The fervour with which all opposition parties pushed back was necessary, because the government had been deflecting all along and hiding behind cabinet confidence. A public inquiry was brought into the picture, as a means to access facts and information that couldn't be extracted through efforts made in the House of Commons, whether through Question Period or Committee Meetings.
So to this point, Commissioner Hogue’s assumption that political parties don’t need full standing because they can address foreign interference through committees in the House of Commons shows someone failed to provide Justice Hogue with the full context of the Public Inquiry.
To deny full standing to political parties on the premise of partisanship is biased, uninformed, unfair and is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Exercise order if needed but please don't deny the right of Conservatives to participate fully, especially when they’re the victims. And please give the diaspora community their peace of mind. They deserve it.
If the Public Inquiry is fair and shows integrity and tough accountability where called for, it will help shift Canada’s political culture to one of trustworthiness and help restore credibility on the world stage among our allies. It will also send a message to foreign regimes that think Canada is their playground—you can’t touch our people!
The Public Inquiry mustn’t become David Johnston Part II. In order to move forward in the right direction, victims must be given a fair and safe process and gaslighting must stop.