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Foreign interference | Ottawa launches consultations to create a registry



(Ottawa) Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is launching public consultations on the possible creation of a foreign influence registry to help prevent other countries from interfering in Canadian affairs.

The Liberals have been bombarded with questions for the past few weeks about allegations, published in the media, that the government failed to act after being informed that China was trying to interfere in the last two federal elections.

“There are few greater challenges facing us than foreign interference,” Mendicino said Friday morning during a press conference on Parliament Hill. As a government, we have to keep our eyes wide open.”

Mendicino said the consultation, which he hopes all Canadians will participate in, will begin Friday and run until May 9. It will include a virtual portal on the Department of Public Security website.

As part of such a registry, individuals who act on behalf of a foreign state to advance its objectives would have to disclose their ties to the government that employs them.

The idea of ​​a registry, which already exists in Australia and the United States, is to make these interactions more transparent, with the possibility of fines or even jail time for non-compliance.

The Liberal government signaled late last year that it wanted to hear from experts and the general public, including members of affected communities, about creating a registry.

Mr. Mendicino said late last year that the Liberal government wanted to hear from experts and the public, including members of affected communities, about creating a registry.

He did not, however, provide any details on Friday on when a registry would be operational, saying he needed to take the time to get it right.

One of the goals of the consultation is “to broadly engage all Canadians in a conversation about how to protect our institutions from foreign interference in an inclusive manner that respects the diversity of our population and, of course, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said the Minister.

Chinese-born International Trade Minister Mary Ng said it was important to create the register in a way that did not stoke anti-Asian racism.

“We have a great responsibility to ensure that we do not unfairly or unintentionally create a cloud that hangs over an entire community, which feels incredibly uncertain and has felt the discomfort of unconscious biases which have become very conscious at the start of the pandemic,” she said alongside Mr. Mendicino.

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