Consulting with Canadians on Countering Foreign Interference

Current status: Closed

The online public consultation commenced on November 24, 2023 and closed to new input on February 2, 2024.

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Countering Foreign Interference

Canada is a country open to the world. We are an advanced trading economy and an open democracy with positive relations with a great number of nations. We also believe in collective security, and we have built durable security and military partnerships with like-minded states around the world.

Foreign partners regularly seek to influence the decisions we make as a country, just as Canada seeks to influence the decisions of others. Foreign partners generally use legitimate and transparent means to advocate their interests, such as lobbying, political dialogue, trade negotiations and diplomacy.

Some foreign states use covert, deceptive and sometimes threatening means to interfere in our political system and our economy. They do so to advance their own strategic objectives, to the detriment of Canada's national interests.

The threat of foreign interference is not new, but has increased in recent years as the world becomes more competitive. The digital world has created more ways for people and governments to have far reaching impact, and some states are willing to use all means available to them to challenge our democratic way of life. These interference activities are not acceptable and Canada will never tolerate them.

Foreign interference can affect all individuals in Canada: government officials, civil society, communities, businesses, academia, and the media. Examples of interference by foreign states, or those acting on their behalf, include:

Foreign interference poses one of the greatest threats to Canada's national security, our way of life, and our economic prosperity and sovereignty. We must shine a light on these threats, and come together as a country to defend our nation from those who attempt to harm us. These examples underscore the urgency needed to hold those who would threaten individuals in Canada and Canada's sovereignty accountable for their actions by strengthening the consequences of engaging in interference activities in Canada.

Modernizing Canada's Toolkit to Counter Foreign Interference

Foreign states, or their proxies, are known to target certain vulnerable groups within Canada – often based on their ethno-religious background. They do this in an effort to sow divisions, fear, and suspicion within Canadian communities. They can threaten the basic rights of individuals in Canada, including personal security, religious and cultural freedoms, freedom of speech, movement and the right to earn a livelihood without interference. Furthermore, these interference activities can result in increased stigmatization of certain groups in Canada.

As the threat of foreign interference evolves, Canada's response needs to adapt. Domestic and international experts have noted that Canada needs to modernize its tools to counter the threat of foreign interference. Canada's closest allies and like-minded partners have also brought forward legislative initiatives to modernize their counter-foreign interference toolkits.

Consulting with Canadians is an important step in this effort to modernize our toolkit to counter foreign interference, so that potential solutions are aligned with our national values, capture a wide range of expertise, perspectives, views and opinions, and respect Canadian fundamental rights and freedoms. The Canadian public has expressed interest in greater transparency, as well as deeper engagement with the Government of Canada on national security issues, including foreign interference.

This is why on March 10, 2023, Public Safety Canada launched public and stakeholder consultations to guide the development of a Foreign Influence Transparency Registry (FITR). Public consultations closed on May 9, 2023. The FITR consultations yielded a large number of responses from across Canada and included engagements with a wide range of groups, such as community organizations, academia and the private sector. The consultations demonstrated broad support for the introduction of a FITR in Canada, but one of the main themes that emerged from the consultations is that a registry is not a universal solution, and should be accompanied by other legislative amendments to address other aspects of foreign interference.

What we know, and what has been reinforced through the consultations, is that Canada's toolkit needs to adapt as the threats emanating from foreign interference evolve. To address these gaps Canada must consider:

In recognition of this, and of the above challenges, the Government of Canada is launching consultations on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, the Criminal Code, the Security of Information Act and the Canada Evidence Act. The purpose of these consultations is to assess potential amendments to these laws to bolster Canada's counter-foreign interference toolkit.

Together, we can protect Canadian values, principles, rights and freedoms from those who seek to harm our way of life.

Criminal Code/Security of Information Act/Canada Evidence Act

Justice Canada is seeking to initiate a meaningful dialogue on whether to amend the Security of Information Act (SOIA) and modernize certain Criminal Code offences, amend the Criminal Code to reform how national security information is protected and used in criminal proceedings, and introduce a review mechanism in the Canada Evidence Act (CEA) to manage sensitive information.

An Overview of Existing Measures

The Government currently uses various measures to counter foreign interference, including investigating and laying criminal charges in accordance with Canadian laws. These laws include Canada's SOIA, which criminalizes information-related conduct that may be harmful to Canada, such as unauthorized disclosure of information, spying, economic espionage and foreign-influenced threats or violence. There are Criminal Code offences that address different types of conduct in connection with foreign interference, such as sabotage, intimidation, computer hacking and bribery, amongst others. And, there are provisions in the Canada Elections Act which address foreign involvement in our federal electoral processes.

In recent years, however, many experts have called on Canada to modernize these laws to address new and evolving foreign interference threats and to ensure consistency with allied countries. The SOIA, for example, has not had a substantial revision since 2001 and may benefit from updates to better respond to modern threats. Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. have all recently taken steps to enhance their ability to identify and counter foreign interference.

About the Consultation

Justice Canada is examining whether to:

Furthermore, Justice Canada will consult on measures that could be taken to provide an overall legislative scheme for the protection and use of national security information in judicial reviews and statutory appeals of federal governmental decision making. Finally, it will gauge views on potential reforms relating to intelligence and evidence in criminal proceedings.

How to Participate

Visit our consultation page: Consulting Canadians on Modernizing Canada's Toolkit to Counter Foreign Interference. Consultations will be open for 71 days.

Next steps

Feedback from consultation with the public and stakeholders will inform the Government's decision on what measures to bring forward, and what they could look like.

Related information

Contact us

Department of Justice
284 Wellington St.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H8
Email: justicecanada-ficonsultationie@justice.gc.ca

Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is seeking to initiate a meaningful dialogue on potential amendments to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (CSIS Act) to more effectively counter modern-day threats, including foreign interference.

An Overview of CSIS Act Challenges Impacting ability to Counter Foreign Interference

Canada is witnessing aggressive foreign interference from highly-capable state actors who exploit technology and other means to advance their national interests to the detriment of Canada's. To counter this sophisticated threat requires CSIS to have the right tools and authorities.

The objective in amending the CSIS Act is to ensure CSIS can continue to protect Canada and Canadians in an increasingly digital world. In the face of sophisticated foreign interference threats, CSIS Act amendments will:

About the Consultation

CSIS will consult the Canadian public on the potential for CSIS Act amendments in key areas including:

As a complement to public consultations, CSIS will also engage with a broad array of stakeholders in round table discussions, including those from community advocacy organizations, businesses, critical infrastructure, academia, and legal, privacy and transparency experts.

The consultations will allow Canadians to participate in a full and informed discussion about national security tools and authorities. CSIS recognizes that the authorities in the CSIS Act must reflect the values and ideals of those it seeks to protect. Engaging in a dialogue with Canadians on maintaining the right balance between protecting national security and respecting Canadians' expectations of privacy is a prerequisite to achieving this objective.

How to Participate

Visit our consultation page: Consulting Canadians on Modernizing Canada's Toolkit to Counter Foreign Interference. Consultations will be open for 71 days.

Next steps

Feedback from consultation with the public and stakeholders will inform the Government's decision on what measures to bring forward, and what they could look like.

Related information

Contact us

Public Safety Canada
269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P8
Email: ps.publicsafetyconsultations-consultationssecuritepublique.sp@ps-sp.gc.ca

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