Advertisement

Why a Liberal MP is sponsoring a petition to reconsider foreign agent registry

Click to play video: 'Why a Liberal MP is calling on the Canadian government to reconsider foreign agent registry'
Why a Liberal MP is calling on the Canadian government to reconsider foreign agent registry
WATCH: Why a Liberal MP is calling on the Canadian government to reconsider foreign agent registry – Apr 16, 2023

A Liberal MP has sponsored a petition calling on Ottawa to reassess its foreign agent registry plan in what appears to be an unusual public show of opposition from within the caucus to the government’s position.

Chandra Arya, an MP for Nepean, Ont., is the sponsor of a petition initiated by an individual in Coquitlam, B.C. — a place more than 4,000 kilometres away from the riding Arya represents.

The petition opened up for signatures on Friday, asking the federal government to reconsider its proposed “foreign influence transparency registry.”

Ottawa kicked off public consultations for the registry last month that will run until May.

The government says the registry would increase transparency around illegitimate foreign state influence activities. The petition argues that a registry is a “misleading way to identify sources of foreign influence.”

Story continues below advertisement

“We do not believe … that a foreign influence registry will meaningfully address intimidation of Canadians and other kinds of foreign interference,” the petition states.

In an email to Global News Saturday, Arya said he agrees with the concerns expressed by the petitioners.

Click to play video: 'Senator warns of foreign agent registry dangers'
Senator warns of foreign agent registry dangers

“There is a legitimate fear among some Canadians, including the Chinese-Canadian community, the proposed registry as a tool in wrong hands can lead to harassment and intimidation of many ethnic minorities in Canada,” he said.

Registries can require individuals to formally register with the government they are trying to influence to make such dealings more transparent, with the possibility of fines or even prison time for failing to comply. Both Australia and the United States have such programs in place.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'The West Block: March 12 | No foreign agent registry timeline as Australian MP warns of ‘unprecedented’ interference'
The West Block: March 12 | No foreign agent registry timeline as Australian MP warns of ‘unprecedented’ interference

Experts have called for Ottawa to create a Canadian version, especially in light of recent reports from Global News and the Globe and Mail highlighting the alleged efforts of the Chinese government to influence Canada’s elections and society.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called the registry an “important tool” though not a “silver bullet.”

“I think it’s part of the toolbox that we need to look at, and that’s why the public safety minister is moving forward as we committed to delivering on a public and national foreign influence registry,” he told reporters in Newfoundland last month.

Click to play video: 'Canadian government to begin foreign agent registry consultations'
Canadian government to begin foreign agent registry consultations

The petition says a registry may apply to certain cases, but should not single any one country out and should not be based on country of origin or ethnicity.

Story continues below advertisement

“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,” it says.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says feds must be ‘very careful’ on foreign agents registry'
Trudeau says feds must be ‘very careful’ on foreign agents registry

The petition also demands that the registry track only “lobbying government officials and politicians” and not the private activities of individuals.

Lobbying carries a specific definition under Canadian law and any activities that meet the definition of lobbying are covered by the Lobbying Act, which requires they be publicly registered and disclosed.

According to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, lobbying is defined as activities involving payment by an employer or client to communicate about a listed topic (legislative proposals, bills, resolutions, regulations; awarding of grants, contributions or other financial benefits; policies or programs; awarding of contracts; and arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person).

Story continues below advertisement

Lobbying does not include situations where an individual makes oral or written submissions to parliamentary committees or proceedings that are a matter of public record. It also does not include exchanges between individuals and public office holders about the enforcement, interpretation or application of a law or regulation by the responsible public office holder, nor does it include requests for information to government or parliamentarians.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau speaks on national security briefings, can’t say if on Chinese interference'
Trudeau speaks on national security briefings, can’t say if on Chinese interference

The Lobbying Act has faced some criticism and recommendations for improvement over recent years from experts including the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying who say it does not go far enough.

As of Sunday, 336 people had signed the petition, which will remain open until July 13.

— with files from Mackenzie Gray, Aaron D’Andrea and The Canadian Press

Sponsored content

AdChoices