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.
–Petition e-4395 to the Government of Canada
The Petition e-4395 is collectively drafted by a group of concerned citizens and residents of Canada, and was submitted to the Parliament of Canada’s petition website by Dr. Wang Li, an independent scholar and columnist in the province of British Columbia. These committed Canadians across regions, ethnicities, ages, and genders oppose foreign interference from all sources and are staunch defenders of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Through the Petition, everyone hopes to express concerns about the proposed Foreign Influence Transparency Registry.
This Petition e-4395 is authorized and sponsored by Chandra Arya, a Liberal MP from Nepean, Ontario. Independent Senator Yuen Pau Woo of British Columbia contributed to the drafting of the Petition and is a strong supporter of the Petition, so as a Conservative Senator Victor Oh of Ontario. It is also supported by retired Senator Vivienne Poy, who became the first Canadian of Asian descent to be appointed to the Senate of Canada. She was instrumental in having May recognized by the federal government as Asian Heritage Month in Canada.
The purpose of the Petition is to ask the Government of Canada to carefully reconsider its proposed Foreign Influence Transparency Registry. The Petition supports the Government of Canada taking actions to stop foreign interference from all sources, and supports the enforcement of existing relevant laws.
If a new “Registry” is necessary and unavoidable, the Petition asks that it should:
- apply to all countries equally;
- be based on specific arrangements such as monetary payment between individuals or organizations and a foreign state, rather than on hypothetical or presumed arrangements;
- only be required for lobbying of government officials and politicians, and not for private activities or general communications; and
- not be based on country of origin, ethnicity, business and civil society affiliations, and on one’s views.
Why Canadians should take this Petition seriously?
Anti-Asian racism is on the rise, fed in part by media reports alleging that Chinese Canadians are disloyal, based on anonymous sources. A registry will fuel suspicions about Canadians being “foreign agents” because of where they come from, who they associate with, and what they think. This will happen even if they don’t have to register. It will cause many of those affected, especially Chinese Canadians, to withdraw from civic and political engagement, which will further marginalize them in Canadian society. It is part of a wider set of restrictions on the freedoms of Canadians driven by geopolitical forces and national security overreach.
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