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Consultation seeks more details on foreign influence register | Inquiry

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Summary report provides an overview of comments from over 1,000 online respondents and over 80 key stakeholder groups, as well as public comments in Canadian media. (Archive photo)

The Canadian Press

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The federal government says those interviewed in a public consultation were generally supportive of the creation of a transparency register on foreign influence, but insisted on the need to clarify how it works.

A recently published summary of the consultation indicates that participants wanted a register to appropriately define who should register on it and to clarify what falls under the covered activities.

Public Safety Canada announced a consultation in March on how Canada could implement a foreign influence transparency registry, following a wave of media articles on allegations of foreign interference.

Some states engage in interference to promote foreign political objectives and may employ individuals to act on their behalf without revealing their ties to the foreign state.

Some believe that requiring these people to officially register with the government they are trying to influence, with the possibility of ;fines, or even prison sentences in the event of non-compliance with this obligation, can make these transactions more transparent.

Public inquiry into foreign interference

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Public inquiry into foreign interference

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The consultation summary indicates that respondents support both financial and criminal sanctions, as well as adequate enforcement capabilities to ensure compliance.

They also stressed that a registry should, wherever possible, avoid excessive administrative burden for registrants, the summary adds.

The United States and Australia have such registers, and a transparency system is expected to come into force in the United Kingdom next year.

The summary report is an overview of comments from more than 1,000 online respondents and more than 80 key stakeholder groups, as well as public comments in Canadian media.

Even though respondents were mostly in favor of creating a registry, many said it was just one tool among many. x27;others to counter foreign interference.

The summary states that stakeholders urged the government to undertake structural and cultural reform and other legislative amendments in the area of ​​national security, to continue its outreach program to communities threatened by foreign interference and to allocate additional resources for the enforcement of existing legislation against foreign interference.

With a view to other measures, the government announced on Friday that it was starting new consultations on possible amendments to the Law on Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which governs Canada's spy services, as well as the Criminal Code, the Security of Information Act and the Canada Evidence Act.

Engaging with individuals and communities most affected by threats of foreign interference is essential to ensure that a broad range of perspectives and expertise are considered when considering x27;development of reinforced measures, supported the government, by way of a press release.

It accepts online submissions via a consultation web page until x27;as of February 2.

In addition to online public consultations, the government will also seek input from experts, stakeholders and community groups through roundtable discussions over the coming weeks and months. p>Open in full screen mode

Judge Marie-Josée Hogue (Archive photo)

Amid media leaks and pressure from opposition parties, the government announced in September that a Quebec judge would lead a public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference and federal capacity. to resolve the issue.

Judge Marie-Josée Hogue of the Quebec Court of Appeal will examine China's interference, of Russia and other foreign states and non-state actors.

A discussion paper prepared for the consultation defined a foreign principal as an entity that is owned or directed, in law or in practice, by a foreign government. This could, among other things, include a foreign power, a foreign economic entity, a political organization, or an individual or group with ties to a strange government.

The summary indicates that online respondents strongly agree with the definition and say Canadians have a right to know the extent of foreign influence, and even legitimate forms of it. foreign influence, in Canada.

Many responses indicate that non-governmental entities and multinational corporations should also be included.

The vast majority of stakeholders were in favor of the register applying to all countries, based on the principle that transparency in public affairs is strongly supported by the population, the summary adds.

Furthermore, a country-specific registry could unnecessarily fuel racial and ethnic exclusion and result in a blacklist rather than a means of transparency.

The consultation document states that activities covered could include parliamentary lobbying, political lobbying in general and advocacy and communications activities. When carried out on behalf of a foreign principal, these activities could give rise to a registration obligation.

Some online respondents suggested that scholars receiving foreign government grants should also be required to register.

Others stressed the importance of simplicity. Some stakeholders felt that the exchange of money should be the threshold for registerable activity, the summary said.

However, another commenter argued that some people undertake influence activities for non-monetary reasons, for example, to seek higher status within their government.

Stakeholder groups argued that exemptions should be as narrow as possible to avoid creating loopholes.

Online respondents were overwhelmingly opposed to granting any exemption from registration. Among the minority of respondents who favored exemptions, they also preferred a restricted list.

Lawyers have argued for an exemption for individuals who provide legal advice and representation to foreign governments, on the grounds that any related legal activity to the Investment Canada Act and the Competition Act already requires the same type of disclosure.

Representatives of a consortium of x27;universities have advocated an exemption for predominantly academic or scholastic activities, the summary adds.

They want the definition of the exemption includes teaching and research activities, including the communication of research results by any means. Likewise, they want to see a specific exemption for advocacy efforts for international students and temporary foreign workers.

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