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MP Han Dong, political party officials set to address foreign interference inquiry

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A federal inquiry into foreign interference is set to hear from the Independent MP at the centre of allegations about foreign meddling in Canadian elections.

Han Dong left the Liberal caucus after it was alleged he willingly participated in Chinese interference efforts and won his seat with Beijing’s help in 2019 — claims he denies.

Special rapporteur David Johnston found last May that there were “irregularities” observed with Dong’s 2019 nomination and “well-grounded suspicion” that these were tied to China’s Toronto consulate, but that Dong was not aware of these issues.

Dong is slated to testify this afternoon, as is former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan, who is now the deputy mayor of Markham, Ont.

Chan is suing the CSIS and others over allegations the spy agency surveilled him and had concerns about improper activities with Chinese officials.

This morning, campaign directors for the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP will testify on a panel.

The inquiry will hear from Walied Soliman, the Conservative campaign co-chair in the 2021 election, as well as Azam Ishmael, who ran the Liberal campaign that year, and the NDP’s national director Anne McGrath.

This afternoon, the inquiry is set to hear from Chan, followed by Dong’s former chief of staff Ted Lojko and then Dong himself.

The hearings are part of the inquiry’s work examining possible foreign interference by China, India, Russia and others in the last two general elections.

Soliman was the Conservative representative on the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections Task Force during the 2021 race, and he has said that the party had never been notified of any threats to the electoral process.

“Our party was seeing clear signs of tampering in ridings with substantial Chinese diasporas,” he wrote on social media in February 2023. “Our concerns were never taken seriously.”

Former national security adviser Jody Thomas testified that the government provided a response to Soliman’s concerns, and nothing was found to suggest that “the ridings that he was concerned about were affected by attempts at foreign interference.”

The commission of inquiry, led by Quebec judge Marie-Josée Hogue, expects to hear testimony from more than 40 people including community members, political party representatives and federal election officials.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, members of his cabinet and various senior government officials are also slated to appear at the hearings, which are set to conclude April 10.

An initial report of findings from the commission is due May 3.

The inquiry will then shift to broader policy issues, looking at the government’s ability to detect, deter and counter foreign interference. A final report is expected by the end of the year.

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