The Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions has announced its witness list for the National Security Confidentiality public hearings, beginning January 29, 2024. Over five days, experts will explore the challenges of sharing classified national security information with the public.

Notably, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs Professor, Leah West, will participate on Day 2 (Tuesday, January 30th) in an expert panel discussing the balance between national security and the public interest. She will also serve on the research council for the inquiry.

Professor West expressed her enthusiasm for the hearings, stating, “I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss the importance of transparency for Canadian national security with all of the parties and intervenors.

The Foreign Interference Commission was established September 2023 by the federal government to investigate alleged interference in Canadian politics by Russia, China, and other foreign actors. The 2019 and 2021 federal elections are under particular scrutiny, with the Commission investigating the extent of potential interference and how it may have affected electoral results.

Foreign interference is a significant concern in recent Canadian politics, with many experts arguing the current security framework is ill-equipped to handle the kinds of issues posed by foreign actors in the democratic process.

The hearings will be televised on CPAC.

Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international relations at Carleton University and a former national security analyst with CSIS, said the first week will be all about setting ground rules for dealing with sensitive issues and testimony. “This is a very big public forum to make a very definitive statement about the situation in Canada. There is an opportunity here for the service to put its case forward, whether or not the service will take the opportunity to do so is questionable. They’re not comfortable in these environments, just to put it mildly.“- CBC News

For more information on why this is matters – check out The Globe & Mail’s “The Decibel” podcast episode “What you need to know about the foreign interference inquiry” and CBC Front Burner’s podcast episode “What’s at stake with Canada’s foreign interference inquiry

The Commission will complete an interim report due by May 3, 2024, and deliver its final report by December 31, 2024. Stay tuned for her insights on this critical issue.