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The Trudeau government is under scrutiny from Justice Marie-Josée Hogue for redacting records they provided to the public inquiry into election interference from China and other foreign entities while withholding others altogether. 

The Liberals have cited cabinet confidentiality as the rationale behind the redactions. 

Additionally, the federal government has decided to entirely withhold a cohort of undisclosed cabinet documents, according to the Privy Council Office. 

Initially, the Commission into Foreign Interference was promised that it would have complete access to all secret documents and “all relevant cabinet documents” regardless of their sensitive nature by Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

“Justice Hogue will have full access to all relevant cabinet documents, as well as all other information she deems relevant for the purposes of her inquiry,” said Leblanc last September at the time of the inquiry’s announcement. 

However, the Liberals have since invoked cabinet confidence and many of the records deny access to untold pages of documents that involve foreign interference.

According to the PCO, almost 10% of cabinet documents provided to the inquiry were redacted and another undisclosed number of were withheld outright. 

“As of May 17, 2024, approximately 9% of the 33,000 documents provided by the government contain one or more redactions. Other documents covered entirely by these exemptions have not been provided to the commission,” wrote the PCO’s media relations manager Pierre-Alain Bujold in an email to The Globe and Mail

“Discussions about document collection, production and appropriate disclosure have been, and remain ongoing.” 

Bujold defended the redactions as being subject to solicitor-client privilege.

“Cabinet confidentiality is a cornerstone of the Westminster system of government that is protected by convention, common law, and legislative provisions. It is critical to allowing cabinet to carry out its mandate effectively,” he added.

The Canada Evidence Act includes provisions for cabinet confidentiality under Section 39 as a means to protect the collective decisions made by ministers. 

Public hearings are scheduled to resume this fall, at which point Hogue will submit a final report regarding her recommendations on how best to fight election interference in the future. 

Hogue’s first report, published May 3, concluded that election interference by foreign entities had undermined the electoral process in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 federal elections. 

In her report, she wrote that Canadian voters have the right to an electoral process “free from coercion or covert influence.” 

Hogue’s report also suggested that foreign meddling may have affected the results in several ridings.