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e-4395 (Civil and human rights)

Initiated by LI WANG from Coquitlam, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

    We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to reconsider its proposed Foreign Influence Transparency Registry.
    If current legislation is not adequate to deal with intimidation by foreign actors, the government should consider instead strengthening these laws. We do not believe, however, that a foreign influence registry will meaningfully address intimidation of Canadians and other kinds of foreign interference. A registry is a misleading way to identify sources of foreign influence. It is difficult to distinguish between positive and malign foreign influence, which goes well beyond agents who are acting for foreign governments. Also, a foreign influence registry poses a serious harassment and stigmatization risk for racialized communities. A broad definition of foreign influence could infringe on Canadians’ charter rights while stifling international business and civil society links that are beneficial for Canada. It could also create a chill within vulnerable communities, leading them to withdraw from civic engagement and public service, which will result in their further marginalization. However, if a registry is necessary, it should apply to all countries equally and be based on specific arrangements such as monetary payment between individuals or organizations and a foreign state, rather than on hypothetical or presumed arrangements. Registration should only apply in the case of lobbying government officials and politicians, and not for private activities or general communications. It should not be based on country of origin, ethnicity, business and civil society affiliations, and most importantly, on one’s views.

    Response by the Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs

    Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): JENNIFER O’CONNELL, M.P.

    Foreign governments have legal, established, and legitimate channels of engagement with the Government of Canada. These include diplomatic and lobbying efforts, as well as economic engagement involving entities that are owned in whole or in part by a foreign state. However, some foreign governments cross the line from standard, legitimate diplomatic activities and lobbying into foreign interference when they seek to exert influence in non-transparent ways. This concept is known as malign foreign influence. When not addressed, these activities can have serious implications for Canadian interests, national security and democratic processes and institutions.

    A Foreign Influence Transparency Registry would not tackle all forms of foreign interference, such as transnational repression. However, by creating a registration obligation and making its information public, a registry would generate transparency, deter malign and covert influence activity, and foster societal resilience by encouraging individuals to undertake due diligence when entering into a relationship with, or conducting activities on behalf of, foreign organizations. 

    A registry is not a blacklist, nor does registration mean that an individual is engaged in undesirable or unlawful activity. Through a registration requirement, a Foreign Influence Transparency Registry would help identify who is undertaking influence activities in Canada on behalf of foreign states or their proxies. In doing so, a registry would reveal the interests behind activities directed at influencing the Canadian government or political processes in Canada. These interests and activities may be legitimate but, as an open democracy, it is important Canadians are aware of the underlying connection to a foreign principal. Unclear labelling of state-backed communications can produce public or media messaging that reinforces interests of other states and circulates propaganda or disinformation that could either misdirect citizens or pollute the general media and information environment. The registry would apply to all countries equally.

    The Government of Canada is committed to the protection of individuals and communities in Canada, as well as our democratic institutions and processes. So far, the feedback Public Safety Canada received from Canadians and a diverse range of stakeholders, including racialized communities, during public consultations has indicated that there is broad support for a registry. Since the close of online consultations, Public Safety Canada has continued engaging with stakeholders to make sure the various perspectives are meaningfully considered in the design of a proposal. A registry would not singularly address the complex issue of foreign interference. Rather, it would serve as an important tool to enhance Canada’s counter-foreign interference toolkit. In addition to a Foreign Influence Transparency Registry, the government is actively considering other legislative tools and approaches to address other aspects of foreign interference.

    Open for signature
    April 14, 2023, at 9:54 a.m. (EDT)
    Closed for signature
    July 13, 2023, at 9:54 a.m. (EDT)
    Presented to the House of Commons
    Chandra Arya (Nepean)
    October 16, 2023 (Petition No. 441-01752)
    Government response tabled
    November 23, 2023
    Photo - Chandra Arya
    Liberal Caucus