Mendicino: foreign agent registration will need fair lens


Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the registry to track foreign agents operating in Canada could only be rolled out in sync with diverse communities.

“There is a historical context when it comes to some of the communities in this country and their relationship to [security] law enforcement agencies and communities,” Mendicino told the House committee on Canada-China relations Monday night.

“We need inclusive, diverse, culturally sensitive agencies.”

Two months ago, the Liberals said they would finally consult the public about the possibility of establishing a foreign agent registry, to prevent outside interference in Canadian affairs.

But the government has yet to officially launch that consultation.

The United States and Australia have public registries that require foreign national campaigners to register their activities, punishable by fines or imprisonment.

Mendicino told the committee that Ottawa must be careful not to isolate communities already felt under the microscope by security agencies. He also told reporters after his testimony that Ottawa was pitching the idea to its own advisory boards before soliciting public comment.

“I wouldn’t describe it as a hesitation; I think we need to be diligent, thoughtful and comprehensive, when it comes to getting all Canadians involved in the modernization of tools and arsenal that we create for our intelligence and national security communities,” he told the committee.

Mendicino also told MPs that registering a foreign agent would not significantly change Canada’s ability to detect and respond to national security threats and would only be introduced as part of the law. “toolbox” of other measures.

“While it is prudent to look at each of the examples of instruments we can refer to, including the foreign agent registry, I would discourage members of this committee quickly conclude that any of these tools will work on their own,” he said.

Conservative public safety critic Raquel Dancho accused the Liberals of delaying the launch of a registry.

“Anything stopping it would be just an excuse at this point. I think any government operating through legitimate diplomatic ties in Canada should welcome a registry. official,” she said in an interview among witnesses.

“It has to be some kind of cost of doing business in Canada through diplomatic relations.”

Mendicino appeared at the committee based on a request last October from MPs asking senior officials to testify about three police stations allegedly operating in the Greater Toronto Area.

Since then, advocates from Spain-based civil rights group Safeguard Defenders have accused China of running two other police stations in Canada, including one in Vancouver.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told MPs that the Mounties were aware of only the four alleged police stations and that officers in uniform traveled to locations in the Toronto area to gather information and be seen.

She believes that has garnered advice from the public and notes that at least one of the police stations apparently appears to have been operating behind the scenes of a commercial enterprise.

But officials declined to answer many questions from MPs about the so-called police station, such as whether Canadians were harassed or detained by them.

“Anything we know regarding the alleged police stations is not something I can comment on,” said RCMP Chief of Police. Matt Peggs testified.

Lucki noted that no one has been charged in connection with the stations and suggested the public would be notified if that was the case.

Similarly, Mendicino said the public would be made aware if any diplomats were ordered to leave Canada in connection with the matter.

However, the NDP’s foreign affairs critic, Heather McPherson, questioned how the police handled tips from communities that suggested they were being targeted by foreign countries.

MP Edmonton said the reported Uighur or Hong Kong-based voters were passed between the RCMP, local police and a hotline operated by the RCMP, and the local police apparently don’t know how to handle reports.

“We are hearing a very different story from people living in these communities,” says McPherson.

Monday’s meeting followed the appearance of a Chinese balloon drifting over Canadian territory before it was spotted over Montana, prompting opposition parties to question why Ottawa had not informed the government. Canadians earlier.

Mendicino and senior officials will not share information about how they first learned about the incident and whether they would otherwise notify the public if a similar event occurs.

Meanwhile, Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong has pressed the government to ban Chinese state broadcaster CGTN from airing in Canada for broadcasting forced confessions.

He noted that the Liberals had directed the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to consider banning Russia Today, which the regulator chose to do shortly after.

“As a government, we try to respect the independence of those agencies rather than politicize those decisions,” Mendicino replied.

Chong said the entire meeting showed the government’s lack of transparency on national security issues and this caused distrust.

Last November, the federal Liberal Party announced its Indo-Pacific strategy, which called for closer ties with countries other than China to counterbalance its approach. Beijing’s approach on human rights and trade.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 6, 2023.

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