A citizen petition against a foreign agent registry that was sponsored by Liberal MP Chandra Arya in the House of Commons in April was drafted by Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, The Epoch Times has confirmed.
“At the request of organizers across the country, I helped to draft the petition,” Woo told The Epoch Times in an email.
The petition, initiated by Coquitlam, B.C., resident Li Wang, says “a foreign influence registry poses a serious harassment and stigmatization risk for racialized communities.”
It adds: “A registry is a misleading way to identify sources of foreign influence.”
Opposition and diaspora groups have been calling for Canada to enact a foreign agent registration act to combat the issue of the Chinese Communist Party’s influence activities in Canada. The United States and Australia have already enacted laws for this purpose.
While Canada has yet to adopt this legislation, the Liberal government said late last year that it will begin consultations on enacting one.
Wang, who is listed as the initiator of the petition, has published several articles on Chinese-language media against the proposed legislation. In one of her articles, dated April 27, she wrote that the petition “received guidance” from Woo. She also noted that Woo, along with MP Arya and Conservative Sen. Victor Oh, have accepted interviews and recorded promotion videos for the petition.
Woo further told The Epoch Times that he “provided input to the drafting process,” while working with “a group of concerned citizens.”
“Petitions have to be sponsored by an MP before they can be posted, hence parliamentarians are very much part of the process,” he said. “Also, in my capacity as a senator, I am responding to a BC resident seeking my advice.”
The Epoch Times reached out to Wang, Arya, and Oh for comment, but didn’t hear back by publication time.
Foreign Agent Registry
Parliamentary efforts to create a foreign agent registry have been going on for over two years in Canada. In the current session of Parliament, Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos has presented a Senate bill, S-237, to create such a legislation, but so far the bill has not received government support. Before that, in 2021, then-Conservative MP Kenny Chiu introduced a private member’s bill, C-282, seeking to establish a foreign agent registry act, but the bill wasn’t passed before an election was called in August that year.
Chiu lost his seat in the B.C. riding of Steveston–Richmond East in the 2021 federal election, while saying that he was the target of a widespread misinformation campaign in Chinese media accusing his Bill C-282 as being anti-Chinese.
Housakos and Chiu have emphasized that the proposed legislation is targeted at authoritarian regimes, and is meant to protect members of the diaspora in Canada from such regimes’ persecution.
Woo has been outspoken against attempts to adopt a foreign agent registration act, speaking out against it in the Senate and in the media.
“100 years ago, as part of the #ChineseExclusionAct, Canada forced all Chinese people in the country to register or face deportation. How can we prevent this registry from becoming a modern form of Chinese exclusion? S-237 & the former C-282 are not the answer. Time to speak out,” he said on Twitter on March 10.
Woo, who was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016 and is a member of the Independent Senator’s Group, has been a strong advocate for closer ties between Canada and China. In his first speech in the Senate, Woo spoke against a motion critical of China’s aggressive behaviour in the South China Sea. He has also spoken out against Canada criticizing China’s human rights record, citing the issue of residential schools for indigenous people in Canada.
Sen. Oh, who has also been critical of the proposed legislation calling for a foreign agent registry, has followed a similar argument as Woo on the issue.
In an interview with a Chinese-language media published on May 1, Oh urged Chinese Canadians to support the petition initiated by Wang, saying in Chinese that a foreign agent registry would “stigmatize” ethnic Chinese and cause discrimination. He also said the law would prevent parliamentarians from engaging organizations such as Chinese hometown associations.
On March 29, 2022, Oh said in the Senate that he had told Chiu that claims that “Chinese agent influence” sabotaged Chiu’s re-election campaign is not true, and told Housakos Chiu is “lying to you” on the issue. Oh later issued an apology to Chiu and Housakos for his remarks in the Red Chamber.
Oh has voiced support for some Chinese associations in Canada that have a history of taking positions aligned with Beijing. In 2020, he signed a letter issued by an Ontario-based association to a Chinese Communist Party official, which said that the association had been promoting China’s image in fighting COVID-19 and pledged to continue support of the “great motherland.”
Oh signed as an honorary president of the Richmond Hill-based Chinese business association, Jiangsu Commerce Council of Canada, and as a Canadian senator and member of the parliamentary forum Canada-China Legislative Association.
Isaac Teo and Justina Wheale contributed to this report