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Letter to the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, summarizing key recommendations by the Business Council of Canada and its members to the federal government’s consultation on a foreign influence transparency registry.

Re: Prioritize measures to detect, deter and disrupt national security threats

Dear Minister Mendicino:

Thank you for meeting last month with our members as you and your department consider new measures to detect, deter, and disrupt threats to Canada’s national security. As discussed, Canada’s leading employers are deeply concerned by the efforts of hostile states to undermine our democratic institutions, military preparedness, and economic security. Such disruptions present significant risk to all Canadians, be they employers, employees, consumers, or communities.

Two steps we urge you to prioritize to help address these threats are:

  • the adoption of a foreign influence transparency registry, and
  • the amendment of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act.

In our view, these measures will go a long way in building a stronger, more prosperous Canada.

A foreign influence transparency registry

Canada and its closest allies are engaged in a strategic contest with hostile states that seek to undermine our security, prosperity, and social cohesion.

The threat posed by these actors is a growing, diversifying, and evolving one. It manifests itself in different forms, from cyberattacks and attempts to steal intellectual property, to disruptions to critical infrastructure and democratic processes.

Foreign states engage in hostile activities directly, including through their security services. They also increasingly do so indirectly, such as through individuals and organizations who covertly work on their behalf.

To counter the threats posed by maligned foreign agents, Canada’s closest allies – including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia – have introduced foreign influence transparency registries.

These schemes require entities acting on behalf of a foreign state to publicly declare their activities intended to influence government decision-making or public opinion. Failure to comply may result in compliance orders, financial penalties, or criminal prosecution.

Foreign influence transparency registries deter states from engaging in hostile activity; enable the earlier, and more effective disruption of malicious state behavior; and foster greater resiliency by increasing the public’s awareness of the nature, scale, and extent of foreign activities in domestic affairs.

Canada needs a similar set of tools.

The adoption of a foreign influence transparency registry would better protect our national security by making the country a more challenging environment for maligned foreign agents. It would also demonstrate to our allies that Canada takes the threat seriously and remains a reliable partner.

Of course, the adoption of any registry must be consistent with the values we share in our democracy, including our commitment to be an open, free, and welcoming place to study, work, and invest.

Here again, Canada can look to the examples set by our closest allies who have sought to respond to growing national security threats in a fashion that best reflects what democracies stand for.

Modernizing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act

A foreign influence transparency registry is one tool. In addition, we reiterate our request that you align Canada’s laws and policies with our partners’ efforts to tackle foreign threats directed against employers.

Canadian employers of all sizes frequently find themselves on the frontlines of geopolitical battles, defending Canadians against a growing list of national and economic security threats.

To make our country safer, our economy healthier, and our supply chains more resilient, we urge you to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to allow CSIS to proactively share threat intelligence with employers where it is in the public interest and subject to all necessary safeguards and oversight.

Each of Canada’s Five Eyes partners already have legal frameworks allowing their security services to work with employers to defend their nations against economic security threats. It is time that Canada had one, too.

Minister, thank you for the opportunity to share our views. I look forward to continuing dialogue with you on ways to protect Canadians, now and in the future.

Best regards,

Goldy Hyder

c.c.     The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

David Vigneault
Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service