A national registry for foreign agents should be expedited, says Vancouver East Member of Parliament Jenny Kwan, after tabling a petition in Parliament Tuesday.
“Foreign actors will try to coerce, co-op, reorient, neutralize, or even silence our voices. We must not allow foreign interference to suppress our voices and deter us from fighting for those who do not enjoy basic human rights,” said Kwan, who said last May she herself has been a target of affiliates of the People’s Republic of China.
The official petition garnered 5,799 citizen signatures and was largely a reaction to multiple media reports indicating the Chinese government promoted the election of certain politicians. It also follows years of heightened concerns in the Chinese-Canadian community that the PRC government is becoming more involved in civic affairs through the state-operated foreign propaganda network, the United Front Work Department.
Kwan specifically cited human rights and free speech matters the Chinese Communist Party is attempting to suppress in Canada, according to pro-democracy groups that organized the petition.
“For those who openly criticize human rights violations, and are concerned about the genocide of Uyghurs, erosion of the 'One Country, Two Systems' policy in Hong Kong, and the implementation of the Hong Kong national security law, we must be vigilant and be on guard about such foreign forces,” wrote Kwan in a news release.
“Setting up a comprehensive system of our own Foreign Influence Transparency Registry is one of the most effective ways to safeguard our Canadian democratic system and uphold the universal core values of freedom, democracy, and justice,” the petition reads.
The petition (e-4534) was supported by several pro-democracy groups. In a joint statement, Mabel Tung, chairperson of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movements, said the petition garnered twice as much support than prior petition (e-4395) calling for the federal government not to implement a registry.
The first petition stated the registry would "stigmatize" racialized communities — a position Tung said is misplaced.
“Anti-Chinese racism cannot be used as a shield to distract from and to minimize the urgent actions required to preserve our Canadian democracy,” the petition states.
Cheuk Kwan, co-chairperson of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China and Teacher Tong, a chairperson of Calgary’s Movement for Democracy in China, also released a statement lending their support for the petition.
Kwan said a parliamentary committee report suggested implementing new criminal laws for all foreign interference actions, including harassment and intimidation, as well as holding online platforms accountable for disseminating false information — actions Kwan believes will be effective measures against foreign interference.