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Conservatives and NDP among parties granted standing in federal foreign interference inquiry

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The Government of Canada as well as the Conservative and New Democratic parties are among the nearly two dozen entities granted standing to participate in the national public inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian elections and democratic institutions.

Commissioner Marie-Josee Hogue released the roster and her full rationale on Monday. 

In total, 55 applications were received from academics, associations, citizens, organizations, politicians and political parties. And, after four applications were withdrawn, 22 individuals and groups were granted full "party standing" or "intervener standing" status, either as part of the factual portion of the inquiry or the policy phase.

The Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections, a handful of individual politicians— including Liberal-turned-Independent MP Han Dong and former Conservative MP and past leader Erin O'Toole — and a number of organizations representing Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, Iranian and Indian diaspora groups have also been granted some form of standing.

"I am mindful that there is not a single diaspora community experience. Different communities may be impacted differently by foreign interference. As such, a diversity of perspectives may help the Commission understand how these communities are targeted by foreign states and non-state actors," Hogue wrote in her 71-page ruling. 

A joint "media coalition" comprising the CBC/Radio-Canada, the Toronto Star, CTV News, Global News, QMI and TVA, has been granted party standing for a limited portion of the factual phase of hearings, while a coalition of former intelligence officials will hold intervener status during this portion of proceedings.

In November, Hogue offered an initial progress update that outlined how her work will proceed in two key phases, with public hearings featuring "fact witnesses" and experts. The first phase of hearings are set to begin at the end of January 2024, and then "provisionally" the second round would kick off in September 2024. 

While the inquiry is meant to in part examine the allegations of interference during the 2019 and 2021 federal campaigns won by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberals, it appears the Liberal Party of Canada did not apply for status. CTV News has reached out to the party for comment.

A former Liberal party staffer who worked on both campaigns did belatedly seek status but his application came in after the deadline, according to Hogue. Green Party co-leader Elizabeth May also appears to have sought status and was considered as part of a climate group that was ultimately not granted status. 

Hogue's ruling notes that Conservative MP Michael Chong, who the commissioner describes as being "a widely-reported target of a foreign disinformation campaign" is expected to "play a leading role in instructing the CPC’s participation," in the inquiry. 

"I am conscious 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," Hogue said in a statement. 

"I will not permit the Inquiry to become a platform for partisan debate."

The individuals and groups that wanted to be granted standing had to submit their application forms by Nov. 22, and when notice to apply was issued, Hogue suggested that parties with a common interest should consider grouping together to submit a single application for standing.

In order to qualify, Hogue said parties had to "demonstrate a direct and substantial interest in the subject matter of the inquiry in their application."

Noting the overall tight timeline for her work to be completed, Hogue said she'll address requests for funding "shortly" and has asked all parties with standing to provide their relevant documents by Dec. 16.

As was stated when the commissioner was appointed, the inquiry's first report is due Feb. 29, 2024 and the final report is due by Dec. 31, 2024.

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