Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appointed special rapporteur into foreign interference in Canadian elections, David Johnston, has advised against a public inquiry.
The former governor general made the announcement on Tuesday and published a 55-page report on his findings.
Johnston claimed that a public inquiry would be hindered by the need for top secret intelligence to be kept private.
“I began with an inclination towards recommending a public inquiry. However, as I have undertaken the review process, I asked myself repeatedly what purpose a public inquiry could serve for Canadians in light of the restrictions on the material that would need to be before the commissioner,” he said.
“I have concluded it would not serve a useful purpose to enhance trust.”
Johnston acknowledged that there are serious problems in how intelligence is shared between the public service and political officials. However, he concluded there was no evidence to suggest that the Trudeau government ignored claims of foreign interference.
While a public inquiry is not being recommended by Johnston, he says he plans to hold “a series of public hearings with Canadians” into the issue.
Instead of criticizing the government for how it has handled claims of foreign interference, Johnston took aim at media outlets for reporting on the issue. According to Johnston, media reports on interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections gave an incomplete, distorted, and sometimes “false” picture of the extent of Chinese interference.
“When viewed in full context with all of the relevant intelligence, several leaked materials that raised legitimate questions turn out to have been misconstrued in some media reports, presumably because of the lack of this context,” wrote Johnston.
Johnston has been criticized for his close relationship with Trudeau, specifically because he was a member of the Trudeau Foundation and is considered a “family friend” with the Trudeaus.
Johnston acknowledged these criticisms on Tuesday, reminiscing on their family friendship.
“My friendship with the current prime minister was based only on a few skiing expeditions with my children,” Johnston said.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre lashed out at Johnston’s recommendation, saying “the report was rigged from the start and has zero credibility.”
“Justin Trudeau’s handpicked ‘special rapporteur’ has done exactly the job that was asked of him. David Johnston is shamefully helping the Prime Minister cover up Beijing’s attacks on our democracy. This is outrageous, but not surprising,” said Poilievre in a release.