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The Risks of Foreign Influence Transparency Registry

Xiaoming Guo 郭晓明


In 2023, the Canadian government is soliciting public opinion and plans to establish a “Foreign Influence Transparency Registration” mechanism. The “Foreign Influence Transparency Registration Act” for consultation with the public is limited to organizations and activities related to foreign governments, which is unreasonable. Taking the Sponsorship Scandal as an example, the influence of foreign countries on Canadian politics is not limited to the actions of foreign governments. Both foreign companies and non-governmental organizations will have an impact on Canadian politics and may damage Canada’s national interests. For example, Tides Canada, a non-governmental organization, supports environmental protection and the human rights of aboriginal people, but its funds come from the Tides Fund in the United States. The backstage bosses of the Tides Fund are several major capital tycoons in the United States, including the Rockefeller family. Rockefeller is an oil tycoon, and many of Tides Canada’s activities are related to the construction of oil pipelines in Canada. The money of American oil tycoons affects the construction of oil pipelines in Canada. This is a conflict of interest, that is, foreign influence conflicts with Canada’s national interests. Obviously, the Foreign Influence Transparency Registration Act only limits the scope of registration to foreign governments, ignoring historical experience. Foreign interest groups often influence Canadian politics not through foreign governments, but through foreign capital. The foreign organization with the greatest influence on Canadian politics is the Postmedia Network. The Postmedia Network is a syndicate controlled by American capital and controls half of the English-language media in Canada. Its influence on Canadian politics and national policy exceeds that of all other organizations, and it is the largest foreign organization that influences Canadian politics. But such a media outlet can blatantly influence Canadian politics without registration. In a country where half of the media is controlled by foreign countries, democracy is greatly compromised. Terrorist groups are mostly not affiliated with any foreign government, yet they may conduct activities influencing our government and our foreign policy, and they are dangerous foreign influences. The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement is a terrorist group connected to Al-Qaida. Yet they have a strong influence on our government and our foreign policy.

Following the Sponsorship Scandal, Canada has taken a number of steps to prevent inappropriate interference in Canadian politics by various organizations, including the Office of the Lobbying Commissioner, which regulates lobbying activities and now requires the registration of lobbying entities, whether domestic or foreign. Canada has also established the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to monitor government officials for misconduct, including interactions with foreign interference. The Canadian government has also instituted stricter measures for political donations, including a ban on foreign money flowing into Canadian politics. It also strengthened whistleblower protection measures to encourage reporting. So what exactly can the Foreign Influence Transparency Register adds to prevent foreign interference in Canadian politics? That is, no matter whether your organization is engaged in political activities or involved in Canadian election activities, your existence is foreign influence. So, is this “Foreign Influence Transparency Register” used by all organizations connected to foreign governments? Probably not. According to the explanation on the Canadian “Foreign Influence Transparency Register” public consultation website, the registration is set up for “hostile countries”. What is a hostile country? How to define a “hostile country”? This is very arbitrary and there is no objective standard. For example, countries that have normal diplomatic relations with Canada and have not declared war on each other should not be “hostile countries”, which is in line with international law. However, the proposal of this registration is to characterize countries according to democracy and dictatorship. However, there is no international law to define this characterization, and each country has its own definition. For example, China’s socialist core values define China as a democratic country, but Canada does not recognize it. So is a constitutional monarchy a democracy? This certainly does not agree with all scholars. Therefore, the “Foreign Influence Transparency Registration” is likely to become a discriminatory law against certain ethnic groups in Canada. It’s like the Chinese Exclusion Act 100 years ago. As long as the country of origin of a certain ethnic group is defined as an autocratic country, the organizations of this ethnic group will be stigmatized. Even if you don’t have a connection with the government of your home country, nobody knows if you are required to register or not. How many people checked the registered lobbying organizations? As long as the public knows which country is required to register, they will regard immigrants from this country as “national security threats.” This is a very dangerous racially discriminatory law.

In international politics, there are no permanent enemies and friends, only permanent interests. Requiring registration by country distinction violates Canada’s national interests and the spirit of Canada’s rule of law. The “Foreign Influence Transparent Registration” should be based on the protection of Canada’s national interests. To uphold the principle of equality before the law, foreign registration must treat all countries equally and must treat all organizations in Canada equally, regardless of ethnicity and ancestry country. If the “Foreign Influence Transparency Registration” is necessary for national security, it must maintain the spirit of the rule of law in Canada and must not be arbitrary or discriminatory. Using Canada’s domestic law as a geopolitical tool will destroy Canada’s legal society and selectively implement laws, which will lead to racial discrimination and humanitarian disasters. Using the Foreign Influence Transparency Register as a geopolitical tool will cause Canada to lose judicial independence and judicial sovereignty.

If the “Foreign Influence Transparency Registration” is for national interests and national security, Canadian citizens should support it; on the contrary, if it is for geopolitics, it will sacrifice Canada’s national interests and national security, and Canadian citizens should oppose it. Geopolitics should use international law and foreign policy, not domestic law. A law that is not based on activities and behavior, not based on what activities and what an organization is engaged in and what it has done, but simply based on whether it is associated with certain governments of the country of origin, is a discriminatory law and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For example, citizens of Chinese descent may not do anything illegal, yet they may be required to register just because they have connections with the government of their home country, while some other ethnic groups do not need to register for their connection with the government of their home country. This is discrimination.

For example, Canada and China have normal diplomatic relations, Canada and China have not declared war, and Canada and China are not in a state of war. Treating China as a hostile country and Chinese people as potential spies will lead to discrimination against Chinese people in the whole society. If the implementation of the “Foreign Influence Transparency Registration” is not indiscriminate and equal to all countries, but only for a few countries, and the Chinese are a visually distinguishable ethnicity, the employment and promotion of Chinese Canadians will be discriminated against.

On the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act, we must be highly vigilant to prevent the Foreign Influence Transparent Registration from becoming the Chinese Exclusion Act 2.0 that discriminates against Chinese.