Canada calls for a transparency register for foreign influence

OTTAWA: Did a Tuesday morning press conference by concerned diaspora groups in Canada make a difference?

At a defining moment for Canadian democracy, the urgency to implement a Foreign Influence Transparency Registry, FITR (also known as FARA, USA), was highlighted during a press conference held in Ottawa on Tuesday at the Media Gallery of the West Block.

This event, which came at a crucial time on the eve of Judge Hogue’s interim report on election interference, brought together a diverse coalition of community organizations and bipartisan lawmakers, highlighting the need for immediate legislative action.

During the conference, Presser and Coalition President Gloria Fung passionately expressed the need for the registry and tied it directly to Canada’s national security: “The investigation into foreign interference has clearly exposed the vulnerability of our democracy and multicultural communities to the threat demonstrated. of foreign interference, intimidation and transnational repression,” Fung said. Her plea was a loud call for unity and immediate action among parliamentarians to protect these vulnerable groups.

Marcus Kolga, president of the Central and Eastern European Council in Canada, echoed Fung’s sentiments and underlined the urgent need for legislative action as elections loom. “The sovereignty of our democratic decision-making processes is at stake,” Kolga warned, noting the insidious nature of foreign authoritarian influence operations that continue to attack Canada.

In fact, a number of the MPs present had recently learned that Beijing had been targeting them in an attempt to monitor their respective efforts to combat the CCP’s oppression of the Uyghurs and their advocacy in Canada. In February 2023, Canada became the first country in the world to pass a resettlement law that would see Canada accept 10,000 Uighur refugees worldwide. It was a private member’s bill, sponsored by Quebec Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, and it took about a year to clear all the hurdles. Beijing had attacked Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi, John McKay and Conservative MP Michael Chong for their efforts to bring about the Uyghur genocide, and this was part of the background for the demand that Canada protect itself with some form of FARA .

Amid these calls for action, a question from Bob Fife of The Globe and Mail highlighted concerns within the Chinese-Canadian community that the registry could unfairly target them. Jenny Kwan, an NDP MP from Vancouver, BC, who was targeted for her work advocating for Hong Kongers, responded firmly to these concerns and emphasized the inclusivity of the proposed measures; “This registry applies to protect everyone, every Canadian. It doesn’t matter which community you come from; it protects all Canadians,” Kwan explained, dispelling the idea of ​​racist targeting.

Those involved in the struggle to expose the powerful People’s Representatives of Beijing and the United Front in Canada know all too well how the “RACE” card has been used to silence anyone who dares to speak out about the actions of bad actors within the community to which they belong. are some. These people often hide in plain sight, but clearly advocate on behalf of the regime. On this front, Senator’s Woo and Oh come to mind. “Well, I would like to say this to Senator Wu and those speaking out against the Foreign Interference Registry: this registry is in place to protect everyone, every Canadian. It doesn’t matter what community you come from, it protects all Canadians. As opposed to the idea that it somehow only targets one community, say the Chinese-Canadian community, that is wrong.

Kwan further elaborated on the effectiveness and fairness of such a registry, suggesting that fears about specific target groups are unfounded. “It is precisely because we want communities like Chinese Canadian and Uyghur Canadians to be protected that we are advocating for this registry,” he said.

René Villemure of the Bloc Québécois, the Quebec party, also took the stage to announce a proactive step by his party: “We are preparing to introduce a private members’ bill, aimed at foreign interference, that was developed in consultation with Canadian intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Make sure it is robust and comprehensive,” Villemure said. This announcement underscored bipartisan support for legislative action. He encouraged his parliamentary colleagues to work with them to develop effective solutions based on expert insights. These insights come from veterans of the foreign affairs and intelligence apparatus.

Rene Villemure, Member of Parliament, Bloc Quebecois, introduces a private members bill for a register of foreign agents.

While the U.S. model of the Foreign Agents Registration Act was briefly referenced as a long-standing example of such a registry, it was indicated that our legislation is more focused on adapting the concept to Canadian values ​​and requirements than on simply copying the American approach. The goal is to develop a system that respects Canada’s unique multicultural landscape while providing a robust framework against foreign interference.

As the committee sifted through the weight of testimony in the first round, it became clear that the interference in both the 2019 and 2021 elections tells us a lot. And yet, those in the Prime Minister’s office and the Prime Minister himself seemed to ignore numerous reports and briefings from Canadian intelligence that the Chinese Communist Party was a threat to Canada’s democracy and freedoms. Han Dong, Liberal MP (the catalyst for the hearings) whose conduct in his nomination to win and subsequent involvement with the Chinese consulate, told Canadians there was more than a passing interest by a foreign government in putting their person forward and many in the Liberal Party have known about this collaboration for decades.

We can no longer accept the Prime Minister’s word that we have robust checks and balances and that the elections were indeed free and fair. Even if it was only the Liberal Party’s nomination process that made Han Dong the candidate, given all the known facts about the CCP’s direct involvement in his successful outspoken nomination, you have to ask a few questions. Was it willful blindness, arrogance or a veiled support for the pre-Beijing candidates to take seats in the Liberal Party and Parliament, as reporters seemed to indicate in their coverage of the inquiry testimony?

Canada is a relatively young country, founded in 1867 by our Confederation fathers in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, when foreign interference and national security concerns came primarily from the United States. by a lobbyist, advisor, association or a former diplomat, civil servant or prime minister, so that everything is public and transparent to ensure that those who lobby our officials are known to them and who they represent. It is the kind of protection that should have been provided long ago, but successive political parties in Canada have effectively stalled this process because of their own selfish political interests and because of many who left the political arena and were paid by Beijing to advocate for a strong and robust commitment to the Win-Win with the totalitarian regime. Capturing elites has been part of the problem since it was first identified in a 1998 Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) operational report called Sidewinder. Former Asia Pacific chief Michel Juneau Katsuya’s report was quickly buried and he was pushed aside and left the agency a few years later.

For many who understand the complexities of today’s economic and geopolitical environment, FITR is seen as a critical first step in protecting the integrity of Canada’s democratic processes, especially with a federal election looming. The Coalition’s united voice echoed with a sense of urgency and a demand for action, calling on all Canadians to support the rapid implementation of the registry.

The press conference marked a pivotal moment in the ongoing efforts to confront and mitigate foreign interference in Canada. With determination and a collaborative approach, the Coalition is advocating for legislative action that ensures transparency and protections for all Canadians, strengthening the resilience of Canada’s democratic institutions for the future.

It is time for Canada to join the 21st century and wake up to the dangers of foreign influence on our democracy.

Dean Baxendale is a publisher, writer and human rights activist. He is the CEO of Optimum Publishing and the China Democracy Fund and a contributor to The Sunday Guardian.