Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has selected a judge to oversee the public inquiry into Chinese foreign interference after months of negotiations. The judge chosen for this position is Québec Court of Appeal Justice Marie-Josée Hogue. Hogue has been serving on Québec’s Court of Appeal since June 2015 and has previously worked as a law clerk for a Supreme Court Justice and at various law firms for two decades.
This appointment comes after the resignation of David Johnston as the special rapporteur on foreign interference. Since then, the government has struggled to find a judge willing to take on the role of inquiry commissioner. Several current or retired judges had turned down the position before Hogue’s appointment.
The delays in appointing a judge had prompted accusations from Opposition MPs that the Trudeau government was deliberately stalling the inquiry. MPs had endorsed the inquiry in three separate votes dating back to March. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre called for an end to the cover-up and urged the government to call a public inquiry.
The need for a public inquiry into Chinese foreign interference became more apparent after reports of Beijing targeting Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong ahead of the 2021 election. Ottawa expelled a Chinese diplomat for orchestrating an “intimidation campaign” against Chong. There have also been reports of conversations between Chinese diplomats and a former Liberal MP concerning the imprisonment of two Canadians in China.
The official announcement of Hogue’s appointment is expected to be made by Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc. According to Hogue’s Court of Appeal biography, she does not have a background in national security issues but has legal experience in corporate commercial litigation, civil litigation, and professional liability.
The terms of Hogue’s appointment as the inquiry commissioner include submitting an initial report by February 2024 that assesses foreign interference by China and other foreign actors. The report will also analyze their efforts to undermine Canada’s democratic process in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. A second report is expected by December 2024, recommending measures to protect Canada’s institutions from foreign interference.
The public inquiry is crucial for understanding and addressing any potential foreign interference in Canada’s democratic processes. With Hogue appointed as the inquiry commissioner, the government can move forward and address these concerns.