OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada on Thursday tasked a Quebec judge with leading an independent public inquiry into allegations of attempted foreign interference in Canadian affairs by China, Russia and others.
This is a victory for opposition parties which for months had demanded a public probe into the minority Liberal government's handling of intelligence that China sought to influence Canadian elections and policy. Beijing has repeatedly denied any interference.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc, in a televised news conference, said the government was appointing Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Marie-Josee Hogue to lead the public inquiry with the support of all opposition parties.
"The terms of reference that have established the inquiry ... has been unanimously approved by the opposition parties," LeBlanc said, adding that the probe will cover both foreign state and non-state actors.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had in March appointed a special investigator to probe alleged election interference, but that probe ended prematurely with the investigator resigning, citing widespread opposition to his appointment and work.
"We called out the Liberals' last plan to sweep this issue under the rug ... and we will not hesitate to call them out again if this process doesn't deliver real answers for Canadians," Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the official opposition Conservative Party, said in a statement.
Hogue is tasked with examining and assessing foreign interference as well as the flow of information to senior decision-makers, including elected officials, LeBlanc said. She is required to deliver an interim report by Feb. 29 and a final report by December 2024.
"It is vital that our electoral processes and democratic institutions be protected from foreign interference," Hogue said in a statement. "In the coming weeks, I will be focused on advancing the work of the Public Inquiry."
(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Richard Chang)