Top aide of Canadian PM Trudeau will testify in parliament on Chinese election meddling

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bowed to pressure from the opposition and agreed to allow his top aide to testify before a parliamentary committee probing alleged Chinese election interference, his office said on Tuesday.

Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has repeatedly called for Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, to speak in a parliamentary committee looking into the foreign election tampering.

The government had refused until the leader of the New Democrat Party, which supports Trudeau in key parliamentary votes, on Tuesday backed the Conservative call.

Demands for Telford’s testimony stem from allegations in unconfirmed media reports that Trudeau’s aides were made aware of specific Chinese interference attempts.

Trudeau says that China attempted to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 votes, but did not change the outcome. He has pointed to closed-door, bipartisan investigations that found attempted foreign interference was unsuccessful.

“While there are serious constraints on what can be said in public about sensitive intelligence matters, in an effort to make Parliament work, Ms. Telford has agreed to appear,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Canadian media outlets have published detailed reports, citing anonymous intelligence sources, alleging schemes run by the Chinese government to interfere in Canada’s last two elections. Beijing has denied those allegations, saying it has no interest in interfering in Canada’s internal affairs.

In a bid to further address Chinese meddling, Trudeau last week appointed David Johnston, a former governor general, as an independent special investigator into the allegations.

Johnston, 81, will be given access to relevant classified or unclassified records and documents, and he will submit regular reports to the prime minister, Trudeau’s office said in a statement on Tuesday. The reports will also be shared with opposition party leaders and made available to Canadians.

He is expected to complete his review by Oct. 31, the statement said.

The accusations of Beijing-run covert schemes to meddle in Canadian affairs have complicated already strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Sino-Canadian tensions soared in late 2018 when Canadian police detained an executive of the Chinese company Huawei Technologies Co, which was followed by Beijing’s arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. All three were freed in 2021.

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