A new bill introduced to the Canadian government seeks to establish a foreign agent registry amid growing concerns of Chinese influence in the country impacting elections and industrial trade secrets.
Conservative Senator Leo Housakos introduced Bill S-237 to the House of Commons that, if passed, would establish a “Foreign Influence Registry” which requires “individuals acting on behalf of a [foreign government, an individual or entity related to a foreign government] to file a return when they undertake specific actions with respect to [Canadian] public office holders.” Foreign agents who fail to declare their interactions would face criminal penalties.
Speaking with CBC News, Housakos said that “There’s no doubt countries like China, Iran, Russia, just to name a few of the evil authoritarian regimes, are trying to influence our institutions, our laws. All of these regimes are very active in Canada and we have a prime minister and a government that refuses to take concrete steps.”
He went on to say that his bill is a “a small but important step” in combating foreign influence, adding “We need to put these nations on notice that if you’re going to set up spy operations or policing activities to intimidate Canadians, there will be consequences.”
This bill would implement a registry similar to the United State’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which requires foreign agents to register with the Department of Justice and disclose any political activities or meetings with American officials with the purpose of promoting foreign interests.
The introduction of the bill comes amid increasing accusations of Chinese influence in Canada. One such aspect is the reported presence of Chinese “police stations” in Toronto that allegedly seek to track, monitor, and harass Chinese dissidents.
Another is allegations that Chinese agents interfered in recent parliamentary elections. The Canadian Global Television Network reported a “vast campaign of foreign inference” that involved providing donations to candidates and planting operatives in political offices to “co-opt and corrupt former Canadian officials to gain leverage.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied having any knowledge of the allegations, but issued an investigation into the matter.
Another recent case involves the arrest of a chinese Hydro-Quebec worker for espionage, in which he “obtained trade secrets to benefit the People’s Republic of China, to the detriment of Canada’s economic interests,” according to authorities.