Senate Passes Countering Foreign Interference Act, Awaits Royal Assent

Bill C-70, officially known as the Countering Foreign Interference Act, has passed the Senate, setting the stage for significant reforms aimed at safeguarding Canada’s political and electoral integrity. The legislation, which will come into effect 60 days after receiving royal assent, introduces a series of robust measures to combat foreign interference, a growing concern for the nation’s security and democratic processes.

On Thursday, the House of Commons voted unanimously to approve the comprehensive bill, which includes the establishment of a foreign agent registry, expanded powers for intelligence agencies, and the introduction of new criminal offenses related to foreign interference. This legislative push comes amid mounting pressure on the Liberal government to address threats to diaspora communities and the electoral system, following a series of alarming reports on foreign meddling.

“The passage of Bill C-70 marks a critical step in protecting Canada’s democracy from foreign influence,” said Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc when it was first proposed. “These measures are designed to ensure transparency, accountability, and the integrity of our political processes.”

Bill C-70 includes several key provisions:

  • Foreign Influence Registry: Modeled after similar systems in the United States and Australia, this registry mandates individuals or entities acting on behalf of foreign governments to disclose their activities when communicating with public office holders or disseminating political information.
  • Enhanced Intelligence Powers: The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) will gain expanded warrant powers, enabling more effective surveillance and disruption of foreign interference activities.
  • New Criminal Offenses: Specific offenses targeting foreign interference will be introduced, addressing activities that current laws inadequately cover.

The bill has garnered widespread political support, although not without controversy. The Conservatives have been vocal in urging swift action to implement these measures, especially with the next federal election scheduled for October 2025.

However, civil liberties organizations have expressed concerns over the bill’s potential overreach. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) criticized the rushed legislative process and called for more thorough examination.

“The legislative study of this important bill is currently taking place in an extremely rushed fashion,” the CCLA stated, adding that there are “several Charter issues that must be addressed before the bill passes into law.”

The urgency surrounding Bill C-70 intensified following a report by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), which revealed that some parliamentarians might be collaborating with foreign governments, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Additionally, an interim report by Justice Marie-Josée Hogue’s commission of inquiry confirmed foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections, although it reportedly did not alter the outcomes.

“The evidence of foreign meddling in our elections, even if it didn’t change the results, is deeply troubling,” said Justice Hogue. “It undermines the democratic process and the trust Canadians have in our electoral system.”

The government has underscored its commitment to addressing foreign interference comprehensively. Amendments to the Security of Information Act, the modernization of the CSIS Act, and changes to the Canada Evidence Act are among the steps planned to fortify Canada’s defenses.

“Foreign interference poses a significant threat to our national security and the integrity of our democratic institutions,” said Justice Minister Arif Virani. “This legislation equips us with the necessary tools to detect, disrupt, and deter these activities.”

The 60-day transition period is expected to see intensive preparations for the implementation of the new measures, including the establishment of the foreign influence registry and the appointment of an independent commissioner to oversee it.

Information for this story was found via Global News and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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