David Johnston, the Canadian official appointed to investigate claims of election interference, has resigned from his role following criticism from opposition parties. Johnston, 81, was assigned in March to examine allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s federal elections held in 2019 and 2021.
Resignation Citing Bias and Partisan Atmosphere
In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, Johnston stated that he would step down from his position by the end of the month. He mentioned the “highly partisan atmosphere” surrounding his appointment and how it had the opposite effect of building trust in democratic institutions, which was his initial objective as an independent special rapporteur.
Accusations of Bias and Personal Ties
Criticism of Johnston arose due to his personal connections with Prime Minister Trudeau, which led to accusations of bias. Their families have holiday homes near each other, and they have been known to ski together. Additionally, Johnston had worked with a charitable foundation named after Trudeau’s late father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The foundation’s leadership had previously resigned over a donation linked to Beijing.
Background of Election Interference Claims
Allegations of foreign interference in Canadian elections surfaced primarily through reports in the Canadian media, often based on leaked intelligence. These reports detailed claims of Chinese meddling in the last two federal elections. However, it is not believed that the outcome of either election was altered as a result.
Resignation amid Parliamentary Pressure
The resignation of David Johnston comes after Canadian lawmakers called for his removal earlier this month. In a non-binding motion, Parliament voted 174-150 in favor of Johnston stepping aside from his role. The motion was introduced by New Democratic Party MP Jenny Kwan, who herself claimed to have been targeted by the Chinese government, as informed by Canada’s top spy agency.
Conclusion and Ongoing Scrutiny
David Johnston’s resignation as the Canadian official investigating election interference highlights the criticism and accusations of bias he faced. The concerns raised by opposition parties and the partisan atmosphere surrounding his appointment prompted his decision to step down. The ongoing scrutiny over election interference allegations and its potential impact on Canada’s relations with China remains a topic of interest.
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