OTTAWA — A prospective foreign influence registry must not be "overly broad" to avoid unfairly targeting members of the Chinese-Canadian community and other minority groups,a senator said Thursday.
Yuen Pau Woo, who sits in the Independent Senators Group, spoke to reporters Thursday about the upcoming centennial anniversary of the introduction of the Chinese Immigration Act, known also as the Chinese exclusion act.
In a recent tweet, Woo compared the legislation, which forced Chinese immigrants to register themselves or face deportation, to the idea of a foreign influence registry that would keep track of those working in Canada on behalf of other countries.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino had announced last week that the Liberal government was beginning consultations on setting up a registry as part of its response to allegations of Chinese interference in recent Canadian elections.
Mendicino said the government would pay attention to feedback from the Chinese diaspora community.
Woo called the consultation process an "excellent opportunity" for Chinese-Canadians to weigh in, saying their voices are important to ensure the registry "will not be stigmatizing, will not be punishing, will not be alienating in the way that the exclusion act was 100 years ago."
He warned that the registry could stigmatize communities if it is designed too broadly.
"An overly broad registry that forces individuals to register because of where they come from, because of what they think and because of who they affiliate with would probably go too far."
The Liberal government's announcement that was looking to usher in a foreign influence registry comes amid swirling allegations that Beijing meddled in the last two federal elections, as reported by Global News and the Globe and Mail newspaper.
The government has not said when such a registry could be up and running — only that consultations will end in early May.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2023.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press