Chong granted full participation rights in foreign interference inquiry

Inquiry set to begin in January will examine foreign interference in federal elections

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong has been granted full participant status in an inquiry expected to begin next month looking into foreign interference in Canada’s past two federal elections.

The decision to grant the Official Opposition’s foreign affairs shadow minister “party” status was announced on Dec. 14 by inquiry commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue.

That degree of standing in the inquiry is reserved for those with direct interest in the inquiry, and provides Chong full participant rights including the ability to cross-examine witnesses and access evidence not entered as an exhibit.

It was revealed earlier this year, following reporting by the Globe and Mail, that Chong and family members in Hong Kong had allegedly been targeted by the People’s Republic of China for potential sanctions, with the help of Chinese consular official Zhao Wei in Toronto. Wei was expelled from Canada in May.

Chong was back in headlines again in August, when Global Affairs Canada announced the MP was targeted in an online disinformation campaign on the social media application WeChat, which the Canadian government suspects is linked to the Chinese state.

Hogue’s decision follows a 71-page response on Dec. 4 to 55 applications, of which she granted 22 either “party” or “intervener” standing in the inquiry.

Chong’s party, the Conservative Party of Canada, applied for full participation rights and stated the MP would have a leading role in its participation.

But Hogue invited Chong to apply for individual standing, beyond his political affiliation.

Claiming “personal” and “reputational” interests, Chong did so, seeking full rights to participate in the factual and policy phases of the inquiry, which will examine foreign interference in Canadian federal elections in 2019 and 2021, and the government’s ability to deal with it.

“The detailed allegations contained in Mr. Chong’s application persuade me that he has an important direct and substantial interest in the commission’s work,” Hogue wrote in her Dec. 14 decision.

The MP’s participation “will undoubtedly contribute to the thoroughness of the inquiry,” she wrote.

“Mr. Chong has a personal and direct interest in any conclusions I may eventually arrive at with respect to the adequacy of the government’s actions related to him.”

A decision on his request for funding for participation has been deferred to a later date.

Hogue, a Quebec appeal court judge chosen by the minority Liberal government and opposition parties to preside over the inquiry, granted the CPC “intervener standing” during both phases of the inquiry, which allows for limited participation rights.

“I am satisfied that intervener standing strikes an appropriate balance between recognizing the CPC’s interests … and the need for the inquiry to be perceived as and remain non-partisan and independent,” she wrote, explaining the rationale for her decision.

The NDP was also granted the same intervener standing in the same phases of the inquiry.

The first phase of the inquiry is set to begin in January with the first report due by the end of February. A final report on the inquiry is due by the end of the year.