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David Johnston quits role investigating election interference in Canada

A Canadian official appointed to investigate claims of election interference has quit, citing criticism from opposition parties.

David Johnston, 81, was appointed in March to investigate allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s federal elections in 2019 and 2021.

But in a letter to PM Justin Trudeau on Friday, Mr Johnston said he would leave his role by the end of this month.

He has been accused of bias because of his personal ties to Mr Trudeau.

Mr Johnston said his objective as an independent special rapporteur had been to “help build trust in our democratic institutions”.

However the “highly partisan atmosphere” around his appointment “had the opposite effect”, he said.

Last month, Mr Johnston, a former governor general, said the government had not ignored evidence of Chinese meddling and recommended against an official public inquest. He instead recommended a series of hearings into the claims.

Scrutiny over his appointment intensified and opposition parties accused him of bias.

Mr Trudeau and Mr Johnston have holiday homes near each other and their families have been known to ski together. Mr Johnston also worked with a charitable foundation named after former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s late father.

In April, the leadership of the foundation resigned over a donation linked to Beijing.

Allegations of foreign interference stem from reports, mostly based on leaked intelligence, in Canadian media that detailed claims of Chinese meddling in the country’s last two federal elections.

It is not believed that the outcome of either general elections was altered.

China has repeatedly denied interference and accused Canada of “slander and defamation” following its expulsion of a Chinese diplomat earlier this month.

Mr Johnston’s resignation comes after Canadian lawmakers called for his removal earlier this month.

Parliament passed a non-binding motion for Mr Johnston to “step aside from his role” in a 174-150 vote.

The motion was brought forward by New Democratic Party MP Jenny Kwan, who previously said Canada’s top spy agency informed her she was being targeted by the Chinese government.

Source: BBC