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May 14th Weekly Update

Message From Tony

Foreign Interference

Last week, the Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc, and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Arif Virani, tabled Bill C-70, An Act respecting countering foreign interference. This bill proposes to update existing laws to better equip the government to detect, disrupt, and protect against foreign interference threats against all people in Canada, including members of diaspora, marginalized, or otherwise vulnerable communities.

This includes proposed changes to the Security of Information Act, the modernization of the 40-year-old Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, the modernization of certain Criminal Code offences, and amending the Canada Evidence Act to introduce a standardized regime to protect and use sensitive information in administrative proceedings in the Federal Court of Canada.

Bill C-70 also introduces the Foreign Influence Transparency and Accountability Act (FITAA), which would enable the creation of a Foreign Influence Transparency Registry. Under the proposed framework, individuals or entities who enter into an arrangement with a foreign principal and undertake activities to influence a government or political process in Canada would be required to publicly register these activities.

This legislation builds off of our previous efforts while continuing to ensure Canadians’ rights are protected. This includes measures such as the Plan to protect Canada’s democracy, which comprises initiatives such as the Critical Election Incident Protocol (CEIPP), the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force, the Digital Citizen Initiative, the G7 Rapid Response Mechanism and the Canada Declaration on Election Integrity Online.

We have also introduced Bill C-65, An act to Amend the Canada Elections Act, which seeks to enact further protections against foreign interference in Canada’s electoral legislation. We will continue to ensure that Canadians can have confidence in our democratic institutions.

Marking 28 years of Police Appreciation Night

Last week I had the pleasure of joining a thousand individuals for the annual York Region Police Appreciation Night The evening marked the 28th year for this event honouring outstanding work by our police force. Proceeds from the night benefit Victim Services of York Region and the York Region Centre for Community.  Individuals and teams were recognized for their work with awards presented for Professionalism in Policing; Garrett Styles Bravery in the Line of Duty; Rob Plunkett Outstanding Service to the Community; Herbert H. Carnegie Community Award and the Leo McArthur Civilian Recognition Award.

To Chief MacSween, let me say thank you for the leadership and for the extraordinary work your officers and staff perform each day to keep our community safe.  It is very much appreciated.

What is foreign interference?

The Government of Canada defines foreign interference as malign activities undertaken by foreign states, or those acting on their behalf, to advance their own strategic objectives to the detriment of Canada’s national interests. These activities target Canada, people in Canada, or Canadian interests and are covert, deceptive, threatening, and/or illegal and threaten all orders of government, the private sector, academia, diaspora communities, and the general public.

It can undermine Canadian sovereignty and erode public trust in our institutions, and disregard the rights and freedoms to which people in Canada are entitled. It is also not new. For decades, our national security agencies have been speaking up about malicious foreign actors seeking to harm our interests.

Foreign partners regularly seek to influence the decisions we make as a country — and most use legitimate and transparent means to advocate for their interests, such as lobbying, political dialogue, trade negotiations, and diplomacy. However, some foreign governments cross the line from standard, legitimate activities into foreign interference when they seek to exert influence in non-transparent ways. This concept is known as malign foreign influence, a subset of the broader threat posted by foreign interference.

Our government takes the threat posted by foreign interference seriously and has various tools and mechanisms in place to protect individuals and Canada’s interests. These include efforts to safeguard federal elections, mechanisms available to the public to report suspected foreign interference, as well as criminal investigations into crimes such as intimidation or threats. Foreign interference is a complex threat that requires a multi-faceted response with emphasis on prevention, protection, accountability, and transparency.

The Foreign Interference Commission

In 2023, following extensive consultations with all recognized parties in the House of Commons, our government announced the establishment of a Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions. This inquiry is being led by Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, a judge of the Quebec Court of Appeal.

The Commission’s work is divided into two phases, with the first focusing on the interference that China, Russia, and other foreign actors may have engaged in, and any impact it may have had on the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. On May 3rd, 2024, the Commission tabled its interim report, which reaffirmed the integrity of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Our government thanks and agrees with Commissioner Hogue that upholding Canadians’ trust in our democratic institutions is of the utmost importance, and we look forward to reviewing the Interim Report as part of our efforts to further bolster the resilience of our election processes and democratic institutions.

Democracies around the world are grappling with the threat posed by foreign interference. Canada has robust safeguards in place to protect our democracy, and our government continuously adjusts these measures to meet this longstanding and evolving threat.

I look forward to reading the Commission’s Final Report by the end of 2024.

Protect yourself from foreign interference

Fundamental institutions like academia, free press, and democratic institutions, governance processes, and diverse Canadian communities are all active targets of foreign interference activities. This is done through harassment, coercion, intimidation, disinformation, cyber attacks, illicit financing, and more. 

To stay safe as an individual:

  • Be aware of the threat; increasing our collective resilience against foreign interference is a shared responsibility.
  • Do your due diligence before sharing information or entering into arrangements, know your partners and assess the risks of any partnership in advance.
  • Be cyber safe.
  • Remember to always verify the credibility of your information sources to ensure that you are receiving accurate information.
  • Report suspicious activities and any incidents of intimidation, harassment, coercion, or threats to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) or to your local law enforcement authorities.

To stay safe as an organization:

  • Don’t be a permissive target for foreign interference. Protect yourself, your organization, your reputation and your work by being aware of the threat and doing your due diligence.
  • Develop policies, procedures and processes for dealing with instances of foreign interference. Make these public to ensure that potential threat actors are aware that you will not tolerate foreign interference activities.
  • Provide awareness materials or training on associated policies and procedures to all employees.
  • Inform any prospective partners, employees, and investors of your position and policies.
  • Protect your reputation by publicly affirming your values and ethics and describing measures and policies that you are taking to advance and protect them.
Tony Van Bynen

Member of Parliament for
Newmarket—Aurora

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