Canada’s public inquiry into foreign interference will examine allegations that India sought to meddle in recent national elections, potentially inflaming already-elevated tensions between the two countries. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an inquiry last year after intelligence documents were leaked to media outlets claiming China interfered in Canada’s elections by supporting candidates friendly to President Xi Jinping’s government. The inquiry is set to hold its first public hearings next week.
The inquiry’s commissioner is tasked with examining potential interference by China, Russia and other state and non-state actors during the 2019 and 2021 elections. No other countries are explicitly named, but national-security officials have also pointed to India and Iran as other top sources of foreign meddling.
The commission confirmed Wednesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will be investigated — according to a statement, the inquiry has requested information and documents related to alleged election interference. But it did not provide details about the allegations.
Trudeau stunned the world in September when he accused India of orchestrating the murder of a Sikh activist on Canadian soil. Masked assailants had gunned down Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian who was designated a terrorist by India because of his support for an independent Sikh nation called Khalistan.
The allegation upended Canada-India relations. Modi’s administration forcefully denied the claim, calling it “absurd and motivated.” It temporarily suspended visas for Canadians and threatened to revoke the immunity of two-thirds of Canada’s diplomats, forcing them to leave India. Trade talks between the countries have been on pause for months.
But Canada’s claim appeared to be reinforced in November when federal prosecutors in the US accused an Indian government agent of directing a thwarted plot to kill a Sikh separatist in New York. India struck a more cooperative tone with the US, saying it had convened a committee to look into the allegations.
The foreign-interference inquiry is likely to further strain Canada’s relationships with India and China. Trudeau and Xi both expelled one diplomat each in a tit-for-tat over the interference allegations that emerged last year, and China has demanded Canada “stop hyping up China-related lies and false information.”
The first hearings will focus on the challenges associated with disclosing classified national security intelligence to the public. The director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency, David Vigneault, and Canada’s Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc are among the speakers.