No public inquiry needed, Johnston finds

After taking a look into allegations of China’s interference in Canadian politics, former governor general (and current “special rapporteur”) David Johnston decided the situation represents an “increasing threat to our democratic system” but has not called for a public inquiry into the matter. 

  • Instead, he’s recommended public hearings (which he wants to lead) with people who know about China’s interference to illuminate the threat and offer solutions.

  • He also noted that some recent media reports misconstrued several leaked intelligence documents, despite raising “legitimate questions.”   

Why it’s happening: Public inquiries are, well, public. Johnston claims information about China’s activities is highly sensitive and could endanger Canada’s intelligence operations if it were to be laid out on the table. Hearings would offer a higher level of discretion. 

  • Governments aren’t bound by recommendations that result from public inquiries, but they serve a broader goal of increasing transparency in matters of public concern. 

Yes, but: Canada’s three main opposition parties likely won’t accept this as an answer. All have demanded a public inquiry and questioned Johnston’s proximity to Justin Trudeau. 

Why it matters: Johnston’s report into the matter makes it clear that more needs to be done to counter attempts by foreign governments to interfere with Canadian affairs, and that security agencies need to seriously step up how they share information. —SB