Respondents to a public consultation favoured establishing a foreign influence transparency registry, but stressed a need for clarity on how it would work, the federal government said Friday.
A newly released summary of the consultation says participants wanted a registry to appropriately define who has to sign on and to spell out what falls within the scope of covered activities.
Following a flurry of media stories about alleged foreign interference, Public Safety Canada announced a consultation in March on how Canada could implement a foreign influence transparency registry.
States might engage in interference to advance foreign political goals, and can employ people to act on their behalf without disclosing ties to the foreign state.
Some believe that requiring these individuals to formally register with the government they are trying to influence, with the possibility of fines or even prison time for failing to comply, can make such dealings more transparent.
The consultation summary, made public on Friday, says respondents supported both financial and criminal penalties, and “adequate enforcement capabilities” to ensure compliance.
They also emphasized that a registry should, to the extent possible, avoid undue administrative burden for registrants, the summary adds.
While respondents “were overwhelmingly in favour” of establishing a registry, many said it was just one tool of many to counter foreign interference.
The summary report is an overview of comments from over 1,000 online respondents and more than 80 key stakeholder groups, as well as public commentary in Canadian media.
The summary says stakeholders urged the government to undertake “structural and cultural reform” and other legislative amendments in the national security realm, continue its outreach program with communities at risk from foreign interference and allocate additional resources toward the enforcement of existing counter-foreign interference legislation.
With an eye toward other measures, the government announced Friday it is beginning new consultations on possible changes to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, which governs Canada’s spy service, as well as the Criminal Code, the Security of Information Act and the Canada Evidence Act.
“Engaging with individuals and communities most affected by foreign interference threats is critical to ensure a wide range of views and expertise is captured in developing enhanced measures,” the government said in a statement.
It is accepting online submissions until Feb. 2 through a consultation webpage.
“In addition to the online public consultations, the government will also seek the input of experts, stakeholders and community groups through roundtable discussions in the coming weeks and months.”
As the threat of foreign interference evolves, so too must Canada’s response, the statement added.
“The government of Canada continues to consider new and innovative ways to enhance the measures currently in place and explore new approaches to keep pace with the changing threat environment.”