No timeline for foreign agent registry, Mendicino says
Public consultations are set to end on May 9, as diaspora communities raise fears of being singled out
OTTAWA – Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino pledged a long-awaited foreign agent registry is coming soon, but was unclear about exactly when the system would be in place, as he said it raises difficult questions.
Mendicino testified Thursday in front of the parliamentary committee on Procedure and House Affairs, which has been studying foreign interference in Canada’s elections. He said his government is wrapping up consultations on a long-promised foreign agent registry and they have heard real fear from communities.
“Many have expressed the worries and the fears that there could be either inadvertent or advertent stigmatization as a result of that, which is why we are engaging in these consultations,” he told MPs.
Earlier this year — after multiple media reports about foreign interference — the government committed to bringing in a foreign agent registry similar to what exists in other countries, like the U.S. and Australia.
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The registries in those countries require people who work on behalf of a foreign country or advocate for a foreign country’s interests to register and that information is generally made available publicly.
Mendicino said they have also heard from diaspora communities who are afraid to even come forward during the consultations about the registry.
“We’ve heard about the concerns of Canadians who wish to engage on foreign interference, but are worried that they will be intimidated, that they will be harassed, that they will be subject to retaliation,” he said.
NDP MP Rachel Blaney said she has heard from many constituents concerned they will be singled out by the registry.
“I’ve heard from many people who are concerned about being targeted and how ethnic communities could suffer as a consequence of any false accusations.”
Blaney asked how the registry would capture both Canadians and foreigners and how the government would create a registry
Mendicino said Blaney was asking the right questions, but said only that the registry would be in line with the charter.
“You put your finger on some of the very crunchy questions that we’ve got to answer as we create this tool, but my commitment to you is that, at the end of the day, we’ll do one that is consistent with the values of the charter,” he said.
We want to use that feedback to inform the creation of this registry and then, yes, move quickly to create a tool that will recognize those experiences.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino
After the meeting, the minister was asked when he would be bringing in the registry. He didn’t commit to any timeline saying they want to take in all the feedback they’re hearing. Public consultations on the registry are set to end on May 9.
“We want to use that feedback to inform the creation of this registry and then, yes, move quickly to create a tool that will recognize those experiences,” he said.
Conservatives on the committee asked Mendicino why he had not expelled any Chinese diplomats, especially in light of reports that Beijing was operating quasi police stations in Canada, using them to intimidate members of the Chinese community in Canada.
Mendicino said the so-called police stations have been effectively shut down by a heavy RCMP presence outside of them.
“The RCMP have taken decisive action in shutting down these so-called police stations, which were which were being actioned out of Beijing,” he said.
After the meeting, he said he works with Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly on the issue and nothing is off the table.
“I work closely with Minister Joly, and indeed all of the government when it comes to combating against foreign interference, including leaving the option of sanctioning foreign officials.”
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