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Sarah Teich, David Matas, and Hannah Taylor
Human rights violations abroad tend to generate global diaspora. Authoritarian regimes repress their people to the point that many of them flee the country of their birth in search of greener pastures. Hundreds of thousands of refugees make their way to Canada each year – many of them fleeing the oppression of an authoritarian government abroad.
However, authoritarian regimes do not stop at committing human rights violations in their home countries. Rather, many of these regimes reach beyond their borders and continue to oppress diaspora community members. Many of these regimes also engage in attacks against institutions. This is a threat to Canadians and to Canada. Per Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ 2020 report, some of the biggest perpetrators are China, Russia, and Iran.
The Chinese Communist Party carries out a widespread transnational repression scheme targeting ethnic and religious minorities, political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists, and former insiders accused of corruption. Its campaign employs an array of tactics, including espionage, renditions, physical assaults, cyber threats, and coercion-by-proxy – the sheer breadth and scale of which is unparalleled. Russia also engages in an aggressive campaign of transnational repression, often by targeting former insiders and those perceived to be threats to the regime’s security. To exert influence over the diaspora, the state also exerts control over key cultural institutions. Iran engages several state agencies to carry out transnational repression and is particular about its targets. In Canada, Iran has predominantly targeted critics of the regime. Other authoritarian regimes, including Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, and Turkey, engage in transnational repression as well.
There are a variety of methods of transnational repression and foreign interference. Following a review of the relevant literature and witness and victim interviews, we discuss the presence in Canada of direct attacks, such as harassment, threats, and intimidation; assault, detentions and arrests; involuntary returns; and assassinations and attempted assassinations. We also find that perpetrating states carry out long distance threats such as cyber threats and coercion- by-proxy and impose controls on the mobility of their victims living abroad. States may co-opt other countries or abuse INTERPOL processes. Finally, perpetrating states may interfere with Canadian parliamentarians, elections, government agencies, media, academic and university life, and the business sector.
Canada is legally obligated to protect people within its borders against certain human rights violations arising from incidents of transnational repression and there are legal frameworks and mechanisms available to Canada at the international and domestic levels to combat such incidents. Despite this, the Canadian government has yet to sufficiently respond.
Following an in-depth review of the problem, and of the relevant legal frameworks and mechanisms, we propose thirty-seven (37) recommendations for the Government of Canada to combat foreign interference and transnational repression:
1. Create a dedicated agency: Canada should create a centrally coordinated government agency to address transnational repression. It should serve as a central coordinating organization and facilitate cooperation between agencies to ensure fulsome responses.
2. Create a Commissioner of Foreign Influence: The foreign influence commissioner should be able to receive complaints, including of violations by foreign embassies and consulates, and should make annual reports.
3. Create a dedicated hotline or reporting mechanism: A singular reporting mechanism, encapsulated by a dedicated agency, could clarify where victims should report and ensure that one organization has all the relevant information.
4. Define ‘transnational repression’ and ‘foreign interference:’ Currently, there are no clear and consistent definitions for these terms in Canadian law.
5. Review and update the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act: The CSIS Act should be reviewed and updated to ensure it no longer limits CSIS’ ability to achieve its mandate and reflects the progression of digital technologies.
6. Review and update the Security of Information Act: The Act is not sufficient to combat all types of foreign interference and does not sufficiently provide avenues for justice. Sections 19 and 20 should be closely reviewed.
7. Review and update the Lobbying Act: Currently this Act requires registration of any person who is paid to communicate with federal public office holders. Canada should consider expanding this to unpaid volunteers acting on behalf of a foreign state.
8. Review and update the Canada Elections Act: The Canada Elections Act needs to be continuously updated as new threats and technologies emerge.
9. Create a civil cause of action specific to transnational repression: There is no specific civil cause of action for transnational repression. Government could pass legislation that creates a civil cause of action specific to transnational repression.
10. Criminalize refugee espionage: There are several criminal offences that may be engaged by acts of transnational repression, but there are no Criminal Code offences specific to transnational repression. Canada should pass new legislation defining ‘refugee espionage’ as a criminal offence.
11. Criminalize online harassment and digital violence: Canada should implement a scheme to protect those who receive harassing or threatening messages, have their private information, including contact information and locations posted, and have their reputations smeared, including through the release or doctoring of private photos.
12. Develop clear public policy guiding Attorney General consent: Prosecution under many of the existing offences relevant to transnational repression require the Attorney General’s consent to proceed. To enhance the ability of victims to seek redress, there should be clear public policy outlining when the Attorney General’s consent will or will not be provided.
13. Bar perpetrators: Various provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act should be utilized to bar or remove individuals engaged in transnational repression, where appropriate.
14. Implement a Foreign Agents Registry: The government should ensure that it follows through in the development and implementation of a Foreign Agents Registry, similar to that of the US and Australia.
15. Review Canada’s terrorist lists: Designating states as state supporters of terrorism and/or adding entities to the terrorist list under the Criminal Code might allow terror victims to pursue civil lawsuits and seek financial compensation in Canadian courts under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.
16. Monitor and track incidents of transnational repression: Having a singular reporting system to track domestic incidents of transnational repression and identify perpetrators could allow the government to monitor and track incidents, inform the development of comprehensive watchlists and help determine at-risk targets.
17. Form explicit partnerships between government agencies: The federal government should establish a permanent mechanism to share information and coordinate policies and operations between different levels of government.
18. Provide physical protection services to victims: Many victims are told that if they are concerned about their safety, they should hire private protection or stop their activism, which is not an appropriate response. Victims of transnational repression often require physical protection and support and this should be provided to them.
19. Provide psychological support services to victims: Victims of transnational repression, even where a crime cannot be proven, should be offered psychological and mental health supports by those who have been trained on issues of transnational repression.
20. Create a specialized victims of transnational repression fund: The government should create a fund that can be used to assist victims of transnational repression for things like emergency housing, personal security, new phones or laptops, and physical and mental health treatment. Financial support should be extended to support legal initiatives victims may undertake.
21. Build community resilience: Support should be provided to build greater resilience within communities thereby reducing the vulnerability of potential targets. One aspect of building resilience is community education. Educational materials for targeted victim communities in Canada should be prepared, published and distributed, in multiple languages.
22. Train law enforcement officers: Law enforcement officers should be trained on responding to incidents of transnational repression. Clear standards should be established to ensure that police responses are legally justified and specific training to ensure that law enforcement does not breach the Charter rights of either victims or alleged perpetrators should be provided. Training should also be provided to RCMP and CBSA officers, and to officials at Canadian diplomatic missions.
23. Train campus security officers: Campus security officers should be trained on responding to incidents of transnational repression on campus and made aware of the particular threats that these communities face on campus.
24. Implement additional safeguards for asylum seekers: Among other things, Canada should ensure that every single asylum request from a national of a state that is a perpetrator of transnational repression, including China, Russia, and Iran, takes into account their history of transnational repression. Further, victims of INTERPOL abuse who become endangered abroad should be prioritized in IRCC’s “Global Human Rights Defenders Stream”, and the allocated quota of the two-hundred and fifty (250) for this stream should be doubled in number.
25. Engage in increased multilateralism: Canada must work with allies to coordinate responses and track transnational repression worldwide.
26. Learn from our allies: The Canadian government should study its allies’ responses to transnational repression, both positive and negative, effective and non-effective, to better inform responses.
27. Close foreign states’ police stations in Canada: The alleged Chinese police stations illegally operating on Canadian soil should be closed. Diplomats conducting illegal activity in Canada can be declared persona non grata and removed and employees of the service stations conducting illegal activity may be prosecuted under Canadian criminal law.
28. Publicly speak out against transnational repression: The federal government should take every opportunity to publicly speak out against transnational repression, and to publicly call out perpetrators of transnational repression. It could do so by including data on transnational repression in human rights reports or by raising the issue of transnational repression at the next UN Human Rights Council session.
29. Update travel advisories: Travel advisories for perpetrating states, including Russia, China and Iran, should be updated to explicitly include the risk of transnational repression and mention specific communities at risk.
30. Implement targeted sanctions: The Canadian government should implement targeted sanctions on individuals and entities engaged in qualifying acts of transnational repression under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act and the Special Economic Measures Act.
31. Request that INTERPOL amend its rules: The Red Notice and Diffusion systems need to be changed so that INTERPOL does not accede to requests to send out Red Notices or Diffusions where the requests emanate from states not subject to the rule of law, as these systems are often abused by repressive states to harass and intimidate their targets overseas.
32. Limit mutual legal assistance with repressive regimes under the Convention on Cooperation in International Crimes: If Canada is to sign the Convention, a reservation limiting the obligations that it owes under the Convention only to states parties with which Canada has operative extradition treaties is advisable. If it turns out that the reservation is not acceptable to the other states parties, Canada should withdraw from the Convention.
33. Terminate the Treaty Between Canada and the People’s Republic of China on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters: Canada should terminate the treaty and there should not be similar treaties with other countries not subject to the rule of law.
34. Encourage the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Transnational Repression: This could provide a central focal point globally for victims of transnational repression and enable deeper investigation into and combatting of this issue at the UN level.
35. Encourage the creation of a specific treaty on transnational repression: Canada should work with its allies to encourage the creation of an international treaty to combat transnational repression containing provisions obligating states parties to take various actions to combat transnational repression including many of the suggestions contained herein.
36. Implement Human Rights Watch’s 12- point Code of Conduct for universities and colleges: Canadian institutions should implement this Code, created originally to respond to threats by the Chinese government, and apply it to other perpetrators of transnational repression as well.
37. Sanction and/or ban surveillance companies complicit in transnational repression: These companies may be sanctionable under the Special Economic Measures Act and any assets they have in Canada may be repurposed to compensate victims.
There is no clear or universally accepted legal definition of transnational repression. The term “transnational repression” was coined by Dr. Dana Moss, a sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame. She developed the term to refer to the ways that authoritarian regimes engage in direct and indirect practices to repress and silence criticism abroad.
The Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto (“Citizen Lab”) defines transnational repression as when governments reach across borders to stalk, intimidate, or assault people with the aim to silence dissent among diasporas and exiles. Citizen Lab describes transnational repression as forming “part of a pattern of spreading global authoritarianism and the impairment of human rights and democracy”.
Similarly, Dr. Gerasimos Tsourapas, a professor of international relations at the University of Glasgow, founded the term “transnational authoritarianism”, and conceptualizes it “as any effort to prevent acts of political dissent against an authoritarian state by targeting one or more existing or potential members of its emigrant or diaspora communities”.
Under Canadian law, acts of transnational repression fall under the term “foreign influenced activities”. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (“CSIS Act”) stipulates foreign influenced activities as “activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interest of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person”. Foreign influenced activities, or foreign interference, is further described by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (“CSIS”) as “deliberate and covert activity undertaken by a foreign state to advance its interests, often to the detriment of Canada’s”. CSIS also states that foreign interference or foreign-influenced activities broadly include “attempts to covertly influence, intimidate, interfere, corrupt or discredit individuals, organizations and governments to further the interests of a foreign country”.
CSIS explains that transnational repression is “purposely covert, malign, and deceptive”, with the goal of achieving geopolitical, economic, military, or strategic advantage, and that hostile actors may attempt to sow discord, disrupt the economy, and influence politics through strategic targeting.
Global Affairs Canada (“GAC”) states that foreign interference is “the attempt to covertly influence, intimidate, manipulate, interfere, corrupt or discredit individuals, organizations, and governments. It is an attempt to further the interests of a foreign country over the views of its citizens. Activities can be carried out by both state and non-state actors, and it differs from normal diplomatic conduct due to its deceptive and clandestine nature”.
As such, various similar terms and definitions are used in current legal and political spheres. In general, the term “transnational repression” is often used to refer to incidents against individuals, such as direct harassment, while “foreign interference” is commonly employed to discuss institutional incidents, such as cyber-attacks against a government agency or processes, such as democratic elections. However, this is not always the case. Because this difference is not made explicitly clear in Canadian legislation, for the purposes of this paper, the terms “transnational repression”, “transnational authoritarianism”, “foreign interference”, and “foreign influence” will be used interchangeably.
Incidents of transnational repression are becoming increasingly prevalent and pervasive globally for a variety of reasons, including the development of new technology, an expansion of ideological extremism, and an increase in global threats such as climate change and pandemics. Such factors have ushered in an over-growing resurgence of authoritarian power and leaders who readily exploit a shifting world order – one that is not governed by the current rules-based international order.
Transnational repression includes acts from harassing phone calls and text messages to physical surveillance and stalking, to deportations and detentions, to attempted or successful assassinations. These acts are orchestrated by authoritarian regimes in democratic countries across the world, including Canada. Acts may be committed by the state itself or by non-state actors at the behest of the state.
One of the most infamous recent cases of transnational repression was the October 2018 assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist who had previously migrated to the US, was murdered inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Dr. Tsourapas advises that Khashoggi’s murder “served as a brutal demonstration of how authoritarian power … is not confined to the boundaries of the nation-state”. Another high-profile case is that of Sergei Skripal, a British citizen, who had formerly worked as a Russian intelligence officer, and his daughter Yulia, who were poisoned in 2018 with the Soviet nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury, England. While Russia immediately denied any involvement, it is otherwise nearly universally accepted that the Russian government was behind the attack. Older cases include the 1940 assassination of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky in Mexico City by the Soviet NKVD, and the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov by ricin injected via the tip of an umbrella in London, England.
Transnational repression can also take form short of assassination. For example, in May 2021, Belarus used a fighter jet to force Ryanair to divert a passenger airplane to land in Minsk, falsely claiming that a bomb was on board. In reality, Belarus diverted the plane in order to arrest opposition journalist Roman Protasevich. China repeatedly kidnaps dissidents abroad, or lures individuals into returning to the country, where they are promptly arrested and jailed without trial. Other times, states have harassed activists in-person or digitally, threatening the targeted individual or their families.
Different institutions have developed different methods of categorizing incidents of transnational repression.
In 2021 and 2022, Freedom House released a two-part project on transnational repression, mapping its global scale and scope. The project split incidents into four categories:
- Direct attacks referred to “[o]rigin country tactics that physically reach the individual targeted”, such as assassination, assault, physical intimidation, disappearance, and rendition.
- Long distance threats referred to “[o]rigin country tactics that do not require physically reaching the individual targeted”, such as cyber threats and coercion-by-proxy.
- Mobility controls referred to incidents in which “origin countries restrict individuals’ ability to travel”, including via passport revocation or denial of consular service.
- Co-opting other countries referred to incidents in which “origin countries manipulate host country institutions like police or immigration authorities to harass, detain, or transfer individuals”, including unlawful deportation, detention, rendition, or INTERPOL abuse.
The Central Asia Political Exiles database, also used by the China’s Transnational Repression of Uyghurs Dataset, uses a 3-stage model to evaluate cases of transnational repression, from least to most severe:
- Put on notice includes warnings and threats to individuals and their family members, and arrest requests issued bilaterally or through international organizations such as INTERPOL.
- Arrest/detention includes short or long detention, imprisonment, or conviction overseas associated with suspected activities at home.
- End game includes formal extradition, informal rendition, disappearance, serious attack, and assassination.
Bradley Jardine, a political analyst and journalist based in Washington, D.C., has built a comprehensive database of incidents of transnational repression against Uyghurs globally, in collaboration with the Uyghur Human Rights Project and Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs, categorizing acts of transnational repression against Uyghurs into three stages:
- Stage 1 attacks include the freezing or seizure of assets; calls to return home; cyberattacks and malware; intelligence and data gathering; intimidation (including active surveillance and threats); recruitment as informants; restrictions on movement and legal status via passport control; restrictions of free speech and assembly (including attacks on journalists or public speakers); smear campaigns; and the use of threats and proxies.
- Stage 2 attacks include detention, house arrest, physical assault, and the destruction of property.
- Stage 3 attacks are coercion to return, deportation, extradition, rendition, and attempted or successful assassination.
To systematize threats of transnational repression, a December 2021 CSIS report disclosed China’s use of a colour-coded system of political interference tactics to gain influence over Canadians. CSIS identified that:
- Blue refers to “sophisticated cyberattacks on targets’ computers, smartphones and hotel rooms for possible blackmail”.
- Gold refers to bribes.
- Yellow refers to what CSIS describes as “honey pots”, or using sexual seduction to compromise targets.
Since no universally recognized method of categorizing incidents of transnational repression exists, this paper will generally follow the categories put forward by Freedom House, as they include the most encompassing definitions.
Transnational Repression and Foreign Interference in Canada
All four categories of transnational repression are present in Canada, and these incidents are on the rise. According to CSIS, in 2020, they saw the highest levels of foreign interference directed at Canadian targets since the end of the Cold War.
There have been several studies into transnational repression in Canada undertaken by large NGOs, including Freedom House and Citizen Lab, and smaller reports by organizations such as the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP), in attempts to highlight individual cases of transnational repression. However, there has been no comprehensive attempt to map all incidents, or even all types of incidents, in Canada. And there has been no mapping attempt by the Canadian Government.
As part of their 2022 Report, Freedom House released a case study on Canada. Freedom House found that the mechanisms available to report incidents of transnational repression in Canada are inadequate, and that victims are often “disappointed by the lack of response from law enforcement”. There is no specific reporting mechanism for incidents of transnational repression, nor have authorities engaged in significant or meaningful outreach to communities. Freedom House also noted that many of the threats posed by foreign states do not rise to the level of a criminal offence in Canada, but rather fall outside the scope of Canadian criminal law. This poses a unique challenge in responding to threats, and many victims have stopped reporting incidents due to lack of responsiveness by Canadian authorities.
Citizen Lab, in a March 2022 report on digital transnational repression in Canada, reported similar findings: that Canadian law enforcement is unresponsive, and “participants simply avoided dealing with the police, fearing that it might make the situation worse or that they could not be of assistance”.
In its 2020 Annual Report, Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (“NSICOP”) warned that “foreign interference activities pose a significant risk to national security, principally by undermining Canada’s fundamental institutions and eroding the rights and freedoms of Canada”.
Despite warnings, the Canadian government has been slow to act. Recent reports on foreign influence in Canadian elections suggest that CSIS has been prodding the federal government to take action for several years now, only to have their concerns dismissed. Former governor general David Johnston was appointed by the government as Independent Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference on 15 March 2023, but his positioning on the issues and an “appearance of bias” pertaining to threats of transnational repression by China against Canadian parliamentarians forced him to publicly resign by June 2023, after he delivered a final – but classified – report to the Canadian government. Overall, Canada’s response to foreign interference has long been criticized for lagging behind those of our allies.
On 7 September 2023, the establishment of a Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions led by the Honourable Marie-Josée Hogue was announced. Justice Hogue is mandated to “examine and assess interference by China, Russia and other foreign states or nonstate actors, including any potential impacts, to confirm the integrity of, and any impacts on the 43rd and 44ths federal general elections at the national and electoral district levels.”
Justice Hogue is also mandated to “assess the capacity of federal entities to detect, deter and counter foreign interference targeting Canada’s democratic processes, and to make any recommendations she deems appropriate to better protect Canada’s democratic processes from foreign interference…” According to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference, Justice Hogue must
“…examine and assess the capacity of relevant federal departments, agencies, institutional structures and governance processes to permit the Government of Canada to detect, deter and counter any form of foreign interference directly or indirectly targeting Canada’s democratic processes, notably in relation to…
…the supports and protections in place for members of a diaspora who may be especially vulnerable and may be the first victims of foreign interference in Canada’s democratic processes…”
Appointed under the Inquiries Act, the Commissioner will operate independently from the government and will have a full range of powers, including the power to compel witnesses and testimony on matters within federal jurisdiction. As Commissioner, Justice Hogue is given the authority to “recommend any means for better protecting federal democratic processes from foreign interference” that she finds appropriate and must deliver an interim report of her findings by February 29, 2024, as well as a final report by December 2024.
Structure of This Paper
Despite the rise and severity of transnational repression and foreign interference in Canada, there has to date been no comprehensive overview conducted. While this paper brings together academic literature, government and non-governmental organization publications, news articles, and first-hand victim interviews, it does not serve as a database of all cases, incidents, or methods of transnational repression with a Canadian nexus. Rather, this report serves to map Canada’s legal and political landscape as it pertains to transnational repression and propose steps that the Canadian government should implement to protect Canadians from the risks transnational repression poses. The first step is to conduct a comprehensive review of tactics and incidents.
Part I of this paper provides an overview of how authoritarian states operate abroad to control their citizens and diaspora, focusing on China, Russia, and Iran. Part II presents various incidents of transnational repression and foreign interference with a Canadian nexus, drawing on media reports, academic articles, governmental publications including from parliamentary hearings, civil society reports, and first-hand interviews. Part III describes the legal framework, including relevant international and domestic laws, as well as Canada’s responses, ultimately concluding that the Canadian government has failed to meet its legal obligations by inadequately understanding and responding to these incidents. Finally, Part IV outlines a series of recommendations for the Canadian government to undertake to ensure that we have a robust and comprehensive response in place to protect individual victims – as well as wider Canadian society and institutions – from transnational repression and foreign interference, both from a human rights and national security perspective.
Part I. Authoritarian States and Their Operations Abroad
Despite the increase of transnational authoritarianism, Dr. Gerasimos Tsourapas concludes that “the field of international studies lacks a coherent framework that explains how, when, and why governments engage in repressive action against their citizens beyond national borders”.
States engage in foreign interference as a means of achieving their “immediate, medium and long-term strategic objectives”. Bradley Jardine, mentioned above, writes that as the normative costs of engaging in transnational repression remain low, autocrats are emboldened “to make increasingly dramatic moves to stifle dissent”. Incidents of transnational repression often lead to self-censorship, behavioural modification, and social isolation. The URAP report describes the “psychological torture” of transnational repression as “an almost all-encompassing suffering that [victims] could never escape”. Many of the victims we spoke with also articulated significant fear and anxiety, as well as incredible sadness and distress.
In its 2020 report, Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians named China, Russia, and Iran as three autocratic regions posing a foreign interference threat to Canada. Some of our allies, including the US, the UK, and Australia, have taken steps to counter individual threats posed by these three regimes.
However, authoritarian states learn techniques and approaches from each other, boldening their strategies to repress and evade accountability. China, Russia, and Iran work together to repress human rights and civil liberties both domestically and abroad. Neither Canada nor any of its allies have significantly addressed the even greater threat posed by these three countries working together, both formally and informally.
A fulsome analysis of the cooperation between authoritarian regimes is beyond the scope of this paper. However, it is notable that beyond bilateral and ad-hoc collaboration on specific issues, many of the world’s most repressive autocrats now use multilateral organizations and mechanisms to further their cooperation. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (“SCO”), for example, encourages cooperation between China, Russia, and Central Asian states, including by the sharing of data and possibly of surveillance technology. A March 2011 white paper by Human Rights in China describes the SCO’s counter-terrorism framework as a “vehicle for social and political control over ethnic and vulnerable targets”.
Authoritarian states work together, learn from each other, and collaborate to continue repression abroad. While Canada has failed to recognize the threat posed by such regimes working together, so have our allies. No state has yet put forward a national security strategy that addresses how authoritarian countries may be working together to further their control and repression of individuals abroad. This is a critical gap that should be filled.
The following sections focus on how China, Russia, and Iran operate to repress individuals abroad.
The autocratic political system in China conflates the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese government, which it completely controls. The CCP’s transnational repression scheme is incredibly widespread and intricate, using several agencies and methods to spy on, harass, and detain individuals abroad, including in Canada. Freedom House has found that China wages “the most sophisticated, global, and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world”. CSIS supplements this finding – asserting in 2022 that China conducts more foreign interference than any other nation in the world. In March 2023, CSIS stated that China’s foreign interference activities are the “greatest strategic threat to national security” in Canada, using “all the state powers at its disposal to carry out activities that directly threaten the national security and sovereignty of the country”.
Freedom House states that the CCP’s efforts to control the overseas population are marked by three distinctive characteristics.
First, their campaign targets many groups, including ethnic and religious minorities, political dissidents, human rights activists, journalists, and former insiders accused of corruption. On top of former officials, critics, and activists, China targets anyone who fits into one of the groups they are targeting, whether it be Uyghurs, Falun Gong, Tibetans, Hong Kongers, or Inner or Southern Mongolians.
Second, their campaign spans the full spectrum of tactics, including espionage, renditions, physical assaults, cyber threats, and coercion-by-proxy.
Third, the sheer breadth and global scale of their campaign is unparalleled.
From at least the late 1970s, China has been targeting its nationals abroad. We spoke with many victims who reported incidents of transnational repression since at least the early 2000s. These acts have only increased in recent years.
One victim, Grace, told us that China’s method of targeting anyone that falls into a particular group helps create an atmosphere of fear as anyone could be next, regardless of whether they have taken on a public activist role or not. In addition, those not in the group try to maintain distance from them in order to avoid being targeted themselves. Some have been targeted for “mundane” activities, such as practicing their religion or joining a political party. Others have been targeted for who they know. These ordinary acts are perceived as a challenge to authoritarian rule and put individuals at risk of transnational repression. Another victim we spoke to, Louisa, told us that because China’s targeting is so prevalent and random, many believe that they could be next at any time, and thus take measures to stay out of public spheres.
Kayum Masimov, a leading activist in the Uyghur community, described to us that “you could literally interview any Uyghur in Canada and they will have a story [of transnational repression]. Everyone is affected”.
In 2013, Xi Jinping became President of China, soon implementing and systematizing a strong crackdown on what the CCP called “corruption’” In July 2014, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) launched Operation Fox Hunt, an international campaign to battle corruption and persuade economic refugees to return to China. However, many national security experts agree that Operation Fox Hunt is “more about CCP extending tentacles of repression into diaspora communities abroad and clamping down on dissidents”.
Chinese authorities use Operation Fox Hunt to forcibly return those who have fled overseas after being accused of corruption in China. MPS leads a task force to identify, track down, and apprehend those who have fled. Madrid-based NGO Safeguard Defenders explains that regarding these involuntary returns, “the CCP’s message is that nowhere is safe; fleeing overseas will not save you, there is no escape”.
A year later, in April 2015, the CCP, under the leadership of the Supreme Procuratorate, launched Operation Sky Net, which absorbed Fox Hunt as one of its many branches. Under Sky Hunt, Operation Fox Hunt targets higher value suspects, such as former high-level officials. Operation Sky Net is a massive operation, with several additional task forces focusing on issues like money laundering, fake passports, and illegal income. In April 2018, Operation Sky Net was taken over by the National Supervision Commission (NSC), a new non-judicial organ. Safeguard Defenders says that “its creation is one of the single greatest strikes to the rule of law in China”.
The NSC replaced the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) in some of its functions, especially in its “anti-corruption” activities targeting CCP members. The NSC is designated as a state organ (rather than a party body), and as such can deal with both party and non-party members. It also wields investigatory powers over the police, prosecutor’s offices, and courts, and is leading China’s growing reach overseas. Despite not being a judicial organ, it often leads China’s international judicial cooperation in bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Today, China’s transnational repression campaign utilizes several parts of the state apparatus, including the Ministry of State Security (persecution of Uyghurs, Tibetans, and political dissidents), Ministry of Public Security (coercion-by-proxy), 6-10 Office (anti Falun-Gong activities – extralegal security agency tasked with suppressing banned religious groups), the People’s Liberation Army (spyware campaigns), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (issues that involve legal and political systems of foreign countries, including detentions and extraditions). Each agency’s exact role is blurred, and they sometimes overlap.
In addition to direct government agencies, China also uses a “network of proxy entities” abroad. China’s “transnational repression activities are embedded in a broader framework of influence that encompasses cultural associations, diaspora groups and in some cases, organized crime networks”. It also includes student groups and scholarly bodies.
The expansion of the CCP’s reach overseas is “intricately linked” and “instrumental” to Xi Jinping’s domestic anti-corruption drive. As diaspora communities grow, so does the CCP’s desire to control them. According to Safeguard Defenders, “Beijing has never been more motivated to expand the powers of its security forces overseas”.
These actors all make up what is part of the United Front Work Department (UFWD), a network of CCP and state agencies tasked with influencing groups outside of the CCP. Operation Fox Hunt and Sky Net are perpetrated by the UFWD, whose influence networks abroad significantly increased in 2015, in turn increasing the interference threats to Canada by China.
Very little data about these operations are made public. According to official Chinese data, they have successfully returned nearly 10,000 people under Operation Fox Hunt, since its launch in mid-2014. Experts agree that this figure is likely just the tip of the iceberg, and that almost none of these cases are legally processed. In their report on involuntary returns, Safeguard Defenders presents 80 cases of involuntary return actions across 18 countries, including Canada. The Uyghur Human Rights Project’s Transnational Repression of Uyghurs Dataset identifies at least 395 Uyghurs that were repatriated to China, including extraditions, deportations, and involuntary returns.
In 2018, the Supreme Procuratorate offered a 130-day grace period for those who returned to China to face justice, warning that those who did not return would face severe punishment if they were ever returned to China at a later date. They also threatened to punish anyone who helped their targets, and offered rewards to anyone who provided the CCP with information about them or helped persuade them to return and surrender.
Safeguard Defenders explains that China’s extraterritorial policing targets two key types of individuals – those accused of economic or political corruption crimes, and critics of the CCP. For the first category, their goal is to seek their return so they can be prosecuted. For the second category, the CCP’s objective is to frighten them into giving up their activism. The line between the two is often blurred. Recently, Uyghurs have been particularly targeted by China’s transnational repression.
China’s foreign interference in Canada is orchestrated by the Third Bureau of the United Front Work Department, “which mobilizes large sections of society abroad to fulfil” CCP objectives. Of its four main agencies, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (“OCAO”) is most relevant to these activities. The UFWD oversees several types of organizations, including hometown associations, ethnic Chinese professional associations, cultural and religious groups, and student groups. The UFWD is also used to target critics and groups it considers the “five poisons”: Uyghurs, Tibetans, Taiwanese, democracy advocates, and Falun Gong. The United Front also facilitates interference operations from Chinese consulates in Canada, from which officials direct funds into Canada’s political system using CCP proxies.
The CCP also engages in sophisticated hacking and phishing attacks. The Jamestown Foundation’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology found that in 2019, the UFWD spent nearly $600 million on foreign influence operations and overseas proxy groups. Safeguard Defenders notes that China is extending its reach overseas and building a legal framework to try to legitimize these operations. For example, officials encourage nationals at home and abroad to help them identify and locate targets. Officials have even established a website to allow people to easily report information on targets, and reward those who do.
Freedom House warns that China’s use of transnational repression poses a long-term threat to rule of law systems as “Beijing’s influence is powerful enough to not only violate the rule of law in an individual case, but also to reshape legal systems and international norms to its interests”.
In March 2022, China announced that Operations Sky Net and Fox Hunt are set to expand.
Strikingly, the Federal Court of Canada concluded in Gao v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) that the OCAO is involved in espionage activities that harm Canada’s interests.
In that case, a Canadian citizen applied to sponsor her parents (the “Applicants”) from China for permanent residence in Canada. The Applicants were found to be inadmissible by the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada office in Hong Kong. The Officer found that the father was inadmissible to Canada as he had formerly worked for the OCAO for 20 years and there were reasonable grounds to believe that the OCAO had engaged in acts of espionage “contrary to Canada’s interests”, per paragraph 34(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”).
In other words, the Officer found that the OCAO’s covert intelligence gathering activities constituted espionage and that their activities were contrary to Canada’s interests. The Officer also stated that “based on information from open credible sources, OCAO is known to have engaged in covert actions against overseas Chinese communities around the world and thus, it is reasonable to believe this includes overseas Chinese communities in Canada and allied countries which can be considered contrary to Canada’s interests”.
On judicial review, the Officer’s decision was upheld, and the case dismissed. The Federal Court found that “it was reasonable for the Officer to conclude that OCAO engaged in covert action and intelligence gatherings against the overseas Chinese communities and other minorities around the world”, and that this was against Canada’s interests.
Grace said that China uses “all the nation’s machine[ry] against us”. She said that if Canada does not act soon to combat transnational repression, but rather continues allowing victims to remain in the grips of authoritarianism, “more Canadians will fall victim”.
Russia also engages in an aggressive campaign of transnational repression. Russia is controlling of its citizenry both inside and out of the country. Within Russia, the state focuses on repressing activism and controlling the information received by domestic audiences. Freedom House explains that outside of Russia, the state tends to target former insiders and those perceived to be threats to the regime’s security, and gain control over key cultural institutions in order to exert influence over the diaspora.
Transnational repression began in the early days of the Soviet Union, which existed from 1922 to 1991. The Joint State Political Directorate (OGPU) – the Soviet security service and secret police – persecuted opponents who had migrated abroad. They have been accused of committing several assassinations on foreign soil.
Beginning in 1934, these efforts were overtaken by the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). Famously, the NKVD was responsible for the 1940 assassination of dissident Leon Trotsky in Mexico City. The Soviet Union also often forced opponents into exile by removing their citizenship and declaring them enemies of the state.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia operated both domestically and abroad to silence opponents. Since 2000, when President Vladimir Putin came to power, the Russian regime has engaged in an “ongoing subversion campaign” abroad. As part of this “political warfare” campaign, Russia builds influence networks through corrupt means, builds alliances with other authoritarian actors, and conducts hacking operations abroad.
Regarding individuals, Freedom House found that Russia tends to target those who defected to NATO member states or cooperate with their intelligence agencies, those who previously engaged in armed conflict against Russia, or who have conflict with Russia’s security services due to business or political activities.
Despite international condemnation, Russia still commonly engages in assassination. There have been several cases of attempted or successful assassinations of high-profile Russians in exile, including the already mentioned case of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who nearly died after being attacked by the nerve agent Novichok in England in 2018.
In addition, Freedom House found that the “Kremlin is perhaps the world’s most prolific abuser of the Interpol notice system”. Russia is responsible for 38% of all public Red Notices worldwide, and Freedom House concludes that without more transparency, it is difficult to ascertain how Russia continues to use the system so extensively.
Russia combines these tactics with attempts to control key pillars of the Russian community abroad, including the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian media, and Russian cultural institutions. Freedom House concludes that rather than trying to control the entire Russian diaspora with coercion, the Russian regime uses domestic repression to drive activists out of the country.
On a different note, however, Russian citizens from the Chechen Republic do face a full-scale campaign of transnational repression. As a result of over a century of Russian occupation, and the two Chechen wars (1994-1996 and 1999-2000) seeking independence from Russia, the Chechen diaspora has grown significantly. After the separatist movement was defeated in 2000, Akhmad Kadyrov was appointed head of the administration of the Chechen Republic by Russian president Vladimir Putin, and the republic was reintegrated under Russian rule. Kadyrov eventually became President of the Chechen Republic. After his assassination in 2004, his son, Ramzan Kadyrov, came to power as Head of the Chechen Republic.
Today, Ramzan Kadyrov leads the transnational repression campaign against the Chechen diaspora, with the approval of the Russian central government. The intense repression and brutality of Kadyrov’s regime has caused tens of thousands of Chechens to flee. Dissidents have been killed in Europe, including in Austria, Germany, and France. Freedom House writes that “[e]ven in exile, Kadyrov’s brutality follows Chechens”.
Chechens abroad face assassination, surveillance, digital intimidation, and coercion-by-proxy, where the government arrests, threatens, and even tortures family members in Chechnya to gain leverage against Chechens abroad. The government also seeks and recruits asylum seekers to act as spies within the Chechen diaspora.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is another prolific perpetrator of transnational repression around the world. Iranian intelligence agencies have been spying on, abducting, and killing dissidents since the country’s inception in April 1979. Iran utilizes several state agencies in these operations, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
MOIS – Iran’s primary intelligence body – became responsible for coordinating the country’s entire intelligence community in 1989, consisting of 16 intelligence and counterintelligence bodies. While MOIS initially focused on eliminating Iranian opposition elements, after 1989, the agency turned its attention to abducting and assassinating Iranian dissidents abroad.
In February 2017, MOIS’ foreign intelligence branch had its powers and responsibilities formally expanded. The organization increased its extensive monitoring and targeting of dissidents abroad, including abductions and killings.
According to the US Department of State, the Iranian regime has been responsible for “as many as 360 targeted assassinations in other countries” since its inception in 1979. According to a May 2020 fact sheet on the State department website, “Iranian diplomatic personnel have repeatedly been implicated in assassinations abroad, as evidenced by arrest warrants, judicial and police investigations, intelligence services, and witness reports”.
Freedom House has also identified several successful or attempted assassinations by Iran since 2014, including in the Netherlands, France, and Denmark. One notorious example includes a June 2018 bomb plot against a gathering of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in France. The plot was foiled by Belgian authorities, who attributed the plot to the Iranian regime. Four individuals were arrested in a joint operation by German, French, and Belgian police, including Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, who was convicted and sentenced to a 20-year jail term.
Freedom House found that Iran mobilizes the “full spectrum of transnational repression tactics”. In Canada, these tactics include attempted kidnappings and death threats, physical and digital intimidation, spyware, mobility controls, and property damage. Freedom House notes that Iran’s transnational repression scheme is “distinguished by the total commitment it receives from the state, the level of violence that it employs, and its sophisticated application of diverse methods against a similarly diverse set of targets”.
Unlike China, who will target any member of a specified group, Iran is particular about its targets. In Canada, Iran has predominantly targeted critics of the regime, including civil and human rights activists. Members of the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims have also faced extreme and specific harm and targeting, both in Iran and Canada. Iran also aims to reputationally harm anti-regime activists abroad. Iran publicly refers to them as drug addicts, traitors, terrorists, and enemies of the state, in a bid to turn public support against them and stigmatize them.
It should be noted of course that countries beyond China, Russia and Iran participate in transnational repression and commit acts similar to those discussed in these sections.
For example, the Turkish government’s campaign of transnational repression is “remarkable for its intensity, its geographic reach, and the suddenness with which it [has] escalated.” Following the failed coup attempt of 2016, Ankara initiated a “global purge” of those it suspected to be connected to the Gülen movement, often targeting teachers and administrators. It has pursued diaspora members in at least 31 different host countries, relying heavily on the use of mobility controls, detentions and illegal renditions, often persuading “targeted states to hand over individuals without due process…”. The Turkish government states it has returned 116 people in connection with the coup attempt and UN experts have referred to “at least 100 individuals … subjected to arbitrary arrests and detention, enforced disappearance and torture.”
Part II. Incidents of Transnational Repression and Foreign Interference with a Canadian Nexus
This part describes a wide variety of methods and incidents of transnational repression and foreign interference with a Canadian nexus. We include cases where targeted individuals have legal status in Canada, and/or where at least part of the incident took place on Canadian territory.
The first four sections below follow the lead of Freedom House’s categorization of acts of transnational repression, namely, (1) direct attacks, (2) long distance threats, (3) mobility controls, and (4) co-opting other countries. The final four sections focus on attacks against Canadian institutional sectors, including the government, media, academia, and business sectors. These categories are not mutually exclusive, and there is significant overlap; multiple incidents may fit multiple categories.
According to Cherie Wong, Executive Director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, “[d]issidents are not safe – not in their own homes, not in civil societies, not at work, and not in Canada”. Direct threats are common, and include harassment, threats, and intimidation; assault; detentions and arrests; involuntary returns; and assassinations and attempted assassinations.
Harassment, Threats, and Intimidation
Numerous authoritarian states – including China, Russia, and Iran – engage in the harassment, threats, and intimidation of individuals outside of their borders.
In March 2020, the Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China (CCHRC) and Amnesty International Canada (Amnesty Canada) published a report on the “organized and sustained campaign of intimidation and harassment aimed at activists working on China-related human rights issues in Canada, in circumstances suggesting the involvement or backing of Chinese government officials”. The CCHRC and Amnesty Canada found that several individuals have faced personal harassment and intimidation, including online attacks and harassing phone calls.
The CCHRC and Amnesty Canada found that individuals targeted include Falun Gong practitioners across Canada, including in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Calgary.
Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, is considered a loosely religious movement, founded in China in the early 1990s. They are known for speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party and have faced extreme persecution within China, including detention, death, and forced organ harvesting. They are also a heavy target of transnational repression.
Practitioners engage in this spiritual practice via a set of exercises and meditation. The three underlying tenets of their belief are truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance/tolerance. Across Canada, Falun Gong practitioners engage in “Clarifying Truth” events. These events involve practicing the set of exercises and meditation in a public place, often in a group of people. Practitioners often hold banners or provide information about their practice.
The CCHRC and Amnesty Canada found that Falun Gong practitioners have faced threats, bullying, and false correspondence sent out in their name to discredit them. The interviews we conducted with Falun Gong practitioners corroborate this.
One Falun Gong practitioner that we interviewed, Louisa, told us that many in their community have faced extreme threats, harassment, and intimidation, particularly during Clarifying Truth events. She said that these acts of harassment are both “purposeful and malicious” and are “meant to threaten practitioners”.
Daria, another Falun Gong practitioner, has attended events in both Toronto and Niagara Falls. Daria works as a translator and is well-connected within her community. She said that her community is often verbally and physically harassed at Clarifying Truth events. She described the harassment in Niagara Falls as “intentional” and “very systematic”, saying that practitioners are followed wherever they go.
In Toronto, Falun Gong practitioners engage in Clarifying Truth events throughout the city, including at Lakeshore, Chinatown, Toronto City Hall, and before the Chinese Consulate, among other locations. Daria said that they practice in front of the Consulate every day, are often yelled at and harassed by ethnically Chinese passersby, or individuals who have emerged from the Consulate.
Rachel, another Falun Gong practitioner who works for an organization helping Chinese individuals “quit” the CCP, told us that she was once practicing outside the CN Tower when someone came up to her and began filming her. She asked him why, and he said that he was from the Chinese Consulate in Toronto. She said that people often come take photos of them during their practice, and due to this incident, she believes that most of them are linked to the Consulate.
Daria told us that once a practitioner was being harassed and verbally assaulted when the perpetrator began saying her father’s full name. Her father remains living in Mainland China, and thus she became immediately concerned for his safety. Daria told us about another practitioner who had newly arrived in Canada when she spoke to another practitioner about her family in China. At the time, she believed this person was a true practitioner. Soon after, her sister, who is also a Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested in China. She believes that these incidents were connected, and that her sister’s arrest was due to her own activities in Canada. Daria said that in response, her community is now aware of “someone hiding among” them, and that there could be spies pretending to be practitioners. Rachel told us that there have been individuals that have tried to join her community that she believes were CCP spies.
Grace, a volunteer for the Falun Dafa Association of Canada, told us that during practitioner activities in Toronto and other cities, there have been incidents where posters were destroyed, banners were torn, and people were verbally and physically assaulted. She said that they have reported some of these incidents to police, who say they cannot do anything as they are unable to identify individual perpetrators. Eventually, they stopped reporting these incidents to police.
Pro-Hong Kong democracy activists have reported similar incidents. At organized protests across Canada, they have been met by pro-China counter-protestors in aggressive, confrontational attacks. Experts believe these counter-protesters are organized or directed by Chinese state authorities. Counter-protestors have physically dismantled protest installations, and verbally and physically assaulted protestors. Counter-protestors have attended and harassed individuals at pro-Hong Kong democracy protests in several cities, including Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver.
Many pro-Hong Kong democracy activists have expressed concerns that CCP agents could take photos of them at protests and use facial recognition software to identify them. They “expressed serious and legitimate fears that once their identities are known by Chinese state agents, this information could be used to arrest or detain them if they were to travel to China, and/or intimidate or retaliate against their loved ones, family members, employers/colleagues, and any individuals associated with them”.
Anastasia Lin, a Falun Gong practitioner, former Miss World Canada, and senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, has stated that believes that she is physically monitored at community events and has her phone communications monitored by Chinese agents.
Rachel told us that she often coordinates groups of practitioners from the Toronto community to go to Niagara Falls. Once, after meeting the group at a subway station and seeing them off, she headed off and was followed by someone back to her home. Annie, a Falun Gong practitioner who arrived in Canada in 2010 as a refugee, told us that once while engaging in Falun Gong exercises, she and others had photos taken of them, later discovering that she and others in her circle had been followed to their homes via drone. She believes the CCP was collecting intelligence and images of her home and places she frequents. Another time, while Rachel was engaging in her practice in a park in Niagara Falls, she found herself surrounded by three large, strong men. One of them opened their jacket to reveal a shirt that said, “Falun Gong is a cult”. She described feeling frightened that they would harm her, and they only left after she said that “this is Canada, not China”, and that if they did anything to her the police would take action.
Mehmet Tohti, a renowned Uyghur activist and Executive Director of URAP, said that he was surprised to discover how much information the CCP had on him. He said that they know where he lives, works, and what his schedule is. He said that he believes he is being physically watched in-person and online.
Harassment online is widespread and conducted across multiple communities. Sheng Xue, a public critic of the Chinese government and pro-democracy activist, has been the target of a “long-standing” online smear campaign. She has had her phone hacked and been subjected to death threats on several online platforms, including Twitter, and several of her associates have been harassed by Chinese security agents due to their associations with her. Some of her associates have been impersonated online to spread more false information about her. She has tried reporting these threats to police but no action has been taken. Amnesty International’s East Asia regional director, Nicholas Bequelin, analysed her case and said that while these incidents cannot be definitely linked to the Chinese government, they do have the markings of a coordinated attack by the CCP.
Sheng Xue told us that on top of receiving harassing private messages, her personal information was leaked online. She said that while hosting an event about the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre online, her home phone, web phone, and cell phone number were all published online in advertising columns claiming that she was offering sexual services. These ads were run in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. She received dozens of phone calls requesting these services. She reported it to the police, “but of course, I received no help” she said. The police advised that she change her number, which she knew wouldn’t help as they could just as easily find her new number. The police told her that there is not much they can do in this type of situation.
Sheng Xue has had over 10,000 harassing online posts about her. There are several websites, Twitter accounts, and three online books published solely to harass her. There are also many fake email, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts registered with her name and image.
In further attempts to ruin her reputation, images of her face were superimposed onto the bodies of naked women. These photoshopped images, or “deepfake” images, were spread online and identified as her nude photos. This method was used to try to embarrass and shame her. She told me the first time she saw these photos was in October 2013, right before hosting an international conference in Toronto. The images were sent directly to attendee’s inboxes. Immediately after coming off stage, an attendee came up to her and said “I saw your photo. You are beautiful”. She said the incident left her shaken up.
Since then, the photos have been circulated on websites, WeChat groups, and over 10,000 email groups. She said that someone “could write a book on all this evidence”. She said that the campaign was successful, and she has now been ostracized by her community.
Erkin Kurban, a Uyghur activist living in Montreal, told us that his reputation is constantly under attack online. He said that most of these attacks are from people that have never met him, and that it makes him “very angry” as he cannot defend himself.
Anastasia Lin has faced several instances of harassment. Chinese state agents have sent her messages through her father and grandparents, warning her that if she continues her human rights work, she risks turning her family against each other. She has said that her father has repeatedly been intimidated by police in China. He has been barred from leaving the country. She has also faced ostracism from parts of the Chinese Canadian community. Her pageant sponsor, a Toronto dress shop owned by a Chinese-Canadian, dropped her after receiving a harassing email from the Chinese consulate. She is no longer invited to events linked with the Chinese consulate or embassy. In 2015, she was declared persona non grata by the Chinese government. As such, she could not travel to China to represent Canada at the Miss World pageant.
Annie told us that she only uses a fake name on social media due to the harassment she has faced. Helen, a Falun Gong practitioner who came to Canada as an international student, said that she only posts online under a fake name as she is afraid that using her real name will draw the attention of the CCP and encourage them to watch and persecute her.
Helen said that in the past she has been attacked by Chinese people online on several occasions. She explained that there are two types of attackers. First, there are those directly instructed by the CCP to attack her, and second, there are Chinese people who have been “brainwashed” by the CCP but attack her of their own accord. Additionally, Helen said that she registered her phone number under a fake name, and only communicates via online phone platforms to avoid being monitored. She does not have apps like WeChat downloaded to her device. When she wants to speak to someone in China, she uses a phone card that can only be used once.
Helen told us about another practitioner who recently had their backpack stolen from outside the Chinese consulate – they believe by consulate staff. The backpack contained their cell phone, which held sensitive data, including the contact information of several other practitioners. Soon after, the practitioner’s Telegram account was hacked and stolen, where the hacker pretended to be the practitioner online. Eventually, the hacker asked the practitioner to lend them money.
As Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms are banned in China, some believe that it is government officials with access to these channels that target individuals abroad with online harassment.
Russian officials also engage in harassment, threats, and intimidation, both on- and off-line. Marcus Kolga, a critic of the Kremlin and senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, testified before the Standing Committee on National Defence in 2023 that “independent media … reports that the Russian embassy in Canada is actively monitoring the social media activities of Russian diaspora members and critics of the Putin regime in Canada”. He testified further that:
“One Russian Canadian was sent a message by the Russian embassy in Ottawa warning him, ‘We know you, we’re watching you, we know what you do’. Last year the Estonian honorary consul in Toronto received a letter threatening to spread anthrax if Estonians continue to support Ukraine. There have been reports of attempting phishing attacks in various diaspora communities as well.
Canadian parliamentarians also face a daily barrage of emails and trolls on social media that seek to influence their decision-making. I’ve been told by some members that their support for Ukraine is frequently attacked by anonymous social media accounts.”
Kolga himself has faced intimidation, threats, and harassment. He described that in May 2020, York Regional Police investigated violent threats against him. Online, Kolga has described the “toxic mix” of “automated and radicalized trolls”, who have accused him of being “demon, Satan, Ukrainian, evil Jew”, and have told him to “die”.
Harassment, threats, and intimidation may occur in individuals’ homes, workplaces, and schools. Helen told us that a Chinese man once came to her front door in Toronto and began asking about her father. She said the man identified her father by name, which frightened her as her father was still living in China. She said that she immediately ended the conversation and left her home as she was afraid of what the man might do to her or her family.
Sheng Xue has had several experiences with physical surveillance, including by four separate tenants who lived in her home near Toronto. Sheng Xue told us that she rents out the basement of her home and tries to be careful in selecting tenants. She only accepts those recommended by other community members and does not advertise online.
Over several years, Sheng Xue had three tenants with similar experiences: After living in Sheng Xue’s home for several years, they returned to China for a short trip where they were visited by the State Security Department. They were threatened and asked to spy on Sheng Xue, and report on her activities back to the CCP. Two of them told Sheng Xue about this upon their return and immediately moved out. One tenant told her that the State Security Department told him they would “go to toss his family” if he didn’t spy on her, and thus had to move out. Sheng Xue said she often wonders what would have happened had the tenants not told her and rather just done what the CCP had asked them to do.
The third individual did not tell Sheng Xue about it for three months, but eventually did and also moved out. She said that she understands why the individual didn’t immediately tell her: she needed to protect herself and her family. Despite living in Canada, there was no way for her to stand up to the CCP. Sheng Xue said that this results in “a very complicated, difficult situation for everyone”. Rather than blaming individuals, she said that the “criminal source is the CCP”.
The fourth person lived on and off in Sheng Xue’s home over the course of 10 years. She said that “I trusted this person very much”. He had been an activist for over 20 years, and Sheng Xue met him via the Overseas Democracy Movement. She eventually discovered that he was collecting information on her and worked for the Chinese government.
Ardeshir Zarezadeh is an Iranian-Canadian and Toronto-based paralegal, who had been arrested 12 times and spent two years in solitary confinement in Iran before moving to Canada. He was confronted by an Iranian intelligence officer at his Toronto law office. Mr. Zarezadeh reported the incident to the FBI and RCMP, but after confirming that the officer was a known threat and a top regime operative, the FBI merely warned Mr. Zarezadeh to be very careful. The RCMP did not even respond to his messages.
In an interview with CBC News, Mr. Zarezadeh described feeling so unsafe that he “[brings] people … everywhere I go because who knows any day now I could get a knife in my back”.
Harassment, threats, and intimidation may also occur by phone. Victims report receiving two main types of phone calls. The first type is harassing robocalls, and the second type are personal phone calls from a live agent.
Many Uyghurs have reported receiving robocalls instructing them to immediately present themselves at the Chinese Embassy or Consulate to pick up important documents. URAP listened to several of these robocalls, and documented that they were delivered in a female voice in mandarin, and ranging from 15 seconds to 1 minute. None of those interviewed by URAP actually visited a Chinese government building, but some reported that upon calling the number back, they reached the Chinese embassy or a consulate and were either hung up on or evasively told that the embassy had not made the initial call. URAP states that the “robocalls serve as a powerful reminder to Uyghurs, and especially activists, that even in Canada, the Chinese state is keeping an eye on them and expecting them to remain silent”.
Falun Gong practitioners have also reported receiving robocalls. Louisa told us that in March 2023, a Vietnamese practitioner began receiving several phone calls from China after signing a petition to “end” the CCP. The calls originated from Shanghai and Shenzhen, China. The practitioner did not pick up, but received voicemail messages in Mandarin telling him that he would be deported from Canada.
Rachel, who helps people in mainland China “quit” the CCP, often receives harassing phone calls using abusive, dirty, and swearing language. She often receives these calls during the night, which she points out is daytime in China. She believes these individuals are paid by the CCP to call her, and they often call her from different phone numbers.
Gloria Fung, President of Canada-Hong Kong Link, has said that she was the victim of several cyber-attacks, harassing phone calls, and intimidation. She said that she has received several phone calls from various individuals using foul language to threaten her.
Dilnur Enwer, a Uyghur living in Montreal, has also reported receiving several phone calls from embassy and consulate officials asking her to attend to pick up “important travel documents”. Dilnur had recently fled the Uyghur region, and prior to having all contact with her relatives in the region cut off, including with her young children, she was warned by a relative that the Embassy would catch her and deport her to China.
Kayum Masimov, another Uyghur activist living in Montreal, told us that right after being elected chair of a Uyghur committee in 2012, he began receiving dozens of calls from unknown numbers. The caller knew that he was Uyghur and threatened to kill him and his family. Some of the threats included them saying “people like you should be killed”, and “you don’t deserve to live”. He reported these calls to the Montreal police, who opened a file and analyzed his phone. After a few months, they told him that they were not equipped to trace the phone calls and have no mandate to do international investigations. As such, their solution was to advise that he change his phone number.
Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, said that she has faced significant harassment and intimidation since at least July 2019, when she became an outspoken leader in the Hong Kong community. She has reported being subjected to coordinated online harassment, including rape and death threats.
In January 2020, Cherie was in Vancouver to host events surrounding the launch of Alliance Canada Hong Kong’s work. Out of caution, her hotel room was booked under someone else’s name. Still, she received a phone call to her hotel room, where a man aggressively and repeatedly demanded she leave her hotel room immediately with all of her belongings and that he was sending people to collect her. He repeatedly said “[w]e know where you are. We’re coming to get you”. She hung up and called the Vancouver police, concerned that she may have been doxed, and feeling threatened, intimidated, and unsafe. She is still unclear on who the caller was, why they wanted her to leave, or whether she was actually in any danger. While the Vancouver police gave her some comfort, they were unable to take any concrete action and claimed that there was “no credible threat”. In response to the threats they face in Canada, she said “I don’t want to discourage any Hong Konger from coming here… but don’t think that once you’re here, you’re free – there’s nothing stopping the regime from coming after you here”.
Mehmet Tohti receives disturbing phone calls prior to significant events. On February 1, 2023, the House of Commons voted to pass a motion facilitating the arrival of 10,000 Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim refugees to Canada. Mehmet was instrumental in passing this piece of legislation. Two weeks prior, on January 16, 2023, Mehmet received a phone call from the Chinese police stating that his mother and two sisters were dead, his three brothers were disappeared, and all their children and spouses have disappeared as well. They said they took his uncle and cousin hostage. They told him that if he continues with his activism, they will suffer a terrible fate. Mehmet says this is further proof that the CCP is watching him and his daily activities.
In our interviews, victims also described varying incidents involving property damage.
Michelle Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner, told us that while living in Vancouver in the early 2000s, her husband’s car, parked 50 metres from their apartment, had its windows smashed. A few months later, they noticed a very bad odour from around their apartment, before realizing that human feces had been spread all over their balcony. Michelle believes both incidents were perpetrated by CCP agents, who were monitoring them and tapping their phones.
At several Clarifying Truth events in Toronto, banners have had things thrown at them, been ripped, or destroyed. Practitioners in Niagara Falls have reported the same thing. Daria told us that often their banners are covered with Christian signs, and that the police often show up to their demonstrations as soon as they arrive. She said that “obviously, it is only after receiving malicious reports” that the police are able to arrive so soon. She said that she believes the calls come from the CCP’s secret insiders.
Additionally, Louisa told us that the Epoch Times (and its Chinese version, Dajiyuan), a newspaper founded by Falun Gong practitioners, is often vandalized. In her city, the Falun Gong community has placed a newspaper rack in a large university’s central building. She said that every new term in which a new batch of students arrives, the rack is damaged and vandalized, and the papers are stolen to prevent their dissemination. She believes that the new students are ordered to do so. Louisa also told us about a grocery store in her city that had to install a new type of newspaper rack with security features to prevent individuals from stealing stacks of Dajiyuan papers and trying to destroy the rack.
Rachel told us that she was once in a group of Falun Gong practitioners travelling from Toronto to Niagara Falls. The group entered a rest stop and while inside, someone had hammered nails into the tires of their vehicle. When they went to have their car repaired, the mechanic told them that the nails used were quite unique and very different from ones that may typically be found on roads from other vehicles. She believes that they were followed and attacked by CCP agents.
Another incident involving a vehicle occurred to Hamed Esmaeilion, who at the time was the spokesperson for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims. Hamed, whose wife and daughter were killed on Flight PS752, has faced significant threats and intimidation by Iranian officials. He testified in a Canadian parliamentary hearing that he felt himself in danger in Canada, describing an incident in which two of his car tires were flattened when he went into a grocery store. He testified that “[t]he police came and did some investigating, but the car was not in the range of the camera, so the case was closed”. He further testified that he and other family members “see suspicious cars around our houses”, without much response from the government. He testified that “nothing is shared with us if we are under threat or not”.
The harassment, threats, and intimidation faced by Hamed Esmaeilion form part of the broader pattern of Iranian officials targeting family members of those killed on Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, which was shot down by the IRGC on January 8, 2020, moments after it took off from Tehran’s International Airport. The IRGC fired at least two missiles at the aircraft, killing all 176 passengers and crew, and an unborn child, onboard. 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents were among those killed.
Initially, the Iranian government denied all wrongdoing, blaming the crash on technical failures. Due to mounting evidence and international pressure, Iran changed their official position, stating that the missiles were fired at the aircraft due to “human error”. This position has been widely discredited, including in a Canadian civil court case, in which the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that “on the balance of probabilities… the missile attacks on Flight 752 were intentional and directly caused the deaths of all onboard”, and that “the plaintiffs have established that the shooting down of Flight 752 by the defendants was an act of terrorism and constitutes ‘terrorist activity’”.
Iran has intimidated, threatened, and harassed the surviving family members, both inside and outside of Iran. Human Rights Watch has described this as “a campaign of harassment and abuse” perpetrated by Iranian authorities against the families of those killed.
Javad Soleimani, who lost his wife Elnaz on Flight PS752, was targeted by Iranian officials after criticizing the local Mullah – a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei – the day after his wife’s burial, in a mosque at her memorial event.
The next day, he received a call from the city’s Intelligence Office to discuss his online posts, and they asked him to come to their office. He said that he had already left the city and so could not come in. That next day in the evening, he boarded a flight out of Iran, worried about what might happen to him if he stayed.
In March 2020, Javad received a message on Instagram from someone identifying themselves as the head of Iran’s Aircraft Accident Investigations Board, saying that he would like to speak with him about the downing of Flight PS752, and his online criticism of the regime. Javad told us that they spoke on the phone, before he was threatened to remove an Instagram post about the regime. Javad said that he was asked to return to Iran to talk, which he refused. He was then asked to meet somewhere more neutral, like Paris or another European city. Again, Javad refused, concerned about what could happen to him if he did so.
Since then, he has been very vocal against the regime, speaking out in both English and Persian media. In response, he has received several hate messages online, particularly through Twitter and Instagram. He often gets messages stating things like, “we will kill you”.
Javad’s friends have told him that he is under physical surveillance by the regime. He explained that “this is the case for many activists in Canada”. He asked, with the amount of IRGC supporters, agents, and commanders living in Canada, “how can we feel safe?”
Javad said that “if I had the opportunity to leave Canada, and go to another country, like the US, I would”. He said that he no longer feels safe in Canada, as it is “very obvious that [the] Iranian regime is right here”.
Harassment, threats, and intimidation perpetrated by the IRGC target others critical of the Iranian regime. Beyond the incident targeting Ardeshir Zarezadeh, described above, many Iranian-Canadians have reported being threatened, monitored, and followed by the Iranian regime. Speaking to CBC News, Maryam Shafipour, an Iranian activist living in Canada, said that members of the IRGC acquired personal information about her through surveillance, including the view out of her apartment, that she had three cats, and which of her friends had come to her home. The IRGC tried to use that information to threaten her family in Iran with the hopes of luring her back to the country. While still living in Iran, Ms. Shafipour had spent two months in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin Prison for “spreading propaganda against the system”. As a result of the threats and monitoring she has endured in Canada, Ms. Shafipour has cut ties with all her friends, and reported being now very isolated. She said that she has not received any help from Canadian police or government officials, and feels the threat is not being taken seriously.
Two young Iranian Canadians interviewed by CBC News said that they went to police to report harassing messages but could not even get past reception. They say they were told no one could help them. One of them said, “I feel like the police, whether in Toronto or anywhere in Canada… wait until someone dies and then they will do something”.
Authoritarian regimes have also engaged in death threats.
In November 2022, CSIS publicly announced in a media statement to CBC News that it was “actively investigating several threats to life emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran” toward individuals in Canada. CSIS said that it was aware that state actors from Iran were monitoring and intimidating individuals inside Canada, particularly aiming to silence those who criticize the regime.
According to CBC News, this was “the first time the agency has confirmed multiple ongoing investigations into what it calls ‘lethal threats to Canadians and people located in Canada’ emanating from Iran”.
Kayum Masimov told us that he has also received several death threats for his activism in the Uyghur community.
Falun Gong practitioner Michelle Zhang told us that three months after moving to Toronto in 2008, she left her apartment on the eighteenth floor for the day, leaving her two children, aged four and seven, with a babysitter. While gone, a man with a gun came to her apartment door, demanding that the babysitter hand over the two children. Michelle said that at the time, only the babysitter knew where they were living. The babysitter asked the children to hide, and the gunman eventually left. She reported the incident to the police and was interviewed. Michelle says that she believes that her and her children’s lives were threatened. It is a possibility, given the other incidents of transnational repression described by Michelle, that this threat was perpetrated by the CCP or by pro-CCP elements.
Individuals have also been harassed, threatened, and intimidated to spy on other community members.
Erkin Kurban, a Canadian citizen of Uyghur ethnicity living in Montreal, was able to continue visiting his relatives in China until 2010 when his anti-CCP activism became known to Chinese state officials. He soon began getting phone calls from his brothers in China, who sounded terrified as they requested information about his move to Canada and political activities. His requests for travel visas were continually denied until 2013, when he sought to return to the Uyghur region for a visit to see his ill mother prior to her passing. Chinese officials called Erkin’s brother in, asking him to tell Erkin that he would only receive his visa if he cooperated with them. As Erkin was eager to see his mother, he agreed.
He travelled to Ürümqi, the capital of the region, in April 2014, where he was called in to speak with the Public Security Bureau. He said that after being interrogated for ten hours by four people about his political activities and contacts in Canada, he was allowed to leave after pointing out that they had no right to detain him as he is a Canadian citizen. He was told that his Canadian passport had no value in China. About a week later, he was ordered to return to their office and harshly interrogated for another three hours. Chinese officials threatened to deport him back to Canada, before pressuring him to send back reports on the Uyghur community in Canada. Erkin said that they were well informed about the Uyghur community in North America. Erkin said the officials told him that they “have special people” in Canada to whom he can provide the information he collects. They told him that if he did not commit espionage, he would be removed from China and unable to visit his hometown. In order to secure his release, Erkin gave them a list of seven fake Uyghur leaders, and pages of fake handwritten information. After returning to Canada, Erkin reported these events to CSIS. He continued to receive threatening phone calls from Chinese officials for several months after.
We spoke with Erkin Kurban about this incident. He told us that he was asked to collect general information on Uyghurs in Canada, and on activists like Mehmet Tohti and Kayum Masimov. He was asked to forward information on what they were planning, who they contact within the Canadian government, and information on upcoming events. He said that the CCP would not trust Uyghurs to spy on someone “really important”, but rather, they are asked to spy on other community members to instill fear and mistrust.
We asked Erkin how he was expected to forward the information he gathered to China. He told me that he did not know exactly, but that he would not have done so through the consulate. Rather, he said that “they have intermediaries here in Canada” that he would report to.
Erkin insists that he never spied on Uyghurs in Canada and has been unable to return to China for fears to his safety. He has also heard similar stories from other Uyghurs asked to spy on their community in Canada. He said that he has suspicions that information is being passed on about Uyghurs in Canada by community members. He suspects that these Uyghurs may be older community members who do not care about the Uyghur cause or plight. Rather, they want to be able to return to China and visit their relatives, and for this purpose “they are willing to sacrifice their morals and break the law”.
There have been a few incidents of transnational repression involving physical assault in Canada. While many of the incidents below were reported to Canadian authorities, so far, no concrete action has been taken.
Several Falun Gong practitioners told us of incidents where drinks were thrown at individuals. For example, Annie told us that in February 2023 an elderly practitioner was standing outside the Consulate when a man in a car drove up to them and began taking pictures. When the practitioner asked him why, the man threw a cup of hot coffee on her. A woman then emerged from the Consulate and got into the car before they drove off. The incident was reported to both the local police and the RCMP. Annie told us that several years prior, another practitioner had water sprayed all over him and their banner in a clearly intentional manner. Others also told us about incidents where water was thrown at practitioners.
William, a Falun Gong university professor, told us that he was once practicing outside his university, with another practitioner, when a man came up to them and began videotaping them. The man began swearing at the other practitioner and threatened to beat her to death. In response, William began recording the man’s threats, before the man came up to William and threw his lit cigarette at him, hitting him in the face. William said that he went to the police station and showed them the video but decided not to pursue legal charges against the man and instead show him compassion.
Helen was once attending a Clarifying Truth event outside the Chinese consulate when someone tried to attack her with a backpack. She said that she avoided being hit but is often sworn at and verbally attacked. Helen said that she was not sure whether either of these incidents are considered crimes under Canadian law, or where she would report these types of non-urgent incidents.
In a more serious incident, Rachel told us about an assault that recently took place in front of Toronto City Hall. She said that practitioners had been coming to the same spot for several days in a row and holding a banner. One day, as soon as they arrived, a “western man” came up to them, grabbed the banner and ripped it up, and then grabbed a practitioner “viciously by the neck”. She says he squeezed the practitioner’s neck so hard that the person couldn’t breathe. Rachel said that she and other practitioners have “noticed oftentimes CCP instructed some paid westerners to do the harassment and intimidations”.
In an interview with CTV News, Cherie Wong, executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, explained that “[e]very decision I make surrounds my own safety”. She said that she is afraid to go outside or to protests and worries about being attacked, despite living in Canada. She said that colleagues abroad have been attacked in public, and that she is “afraid that would happen to me, and I don’t think the police or the government could protect me from that kind of violent attack”.
Detentions and Arrests
There have been several cases of Canadians being detained or arrested by authoritarian governments.
Famously, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arbitrarily detained for over 1,000 days, in deplorable conditions, in China. Their detentions are considered a Chinese use of “hostage diplomacy”, as their detentions were blatantly used by the CCP to pressure Canada to release Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, who was lawfully arrested in Canada in December 2018. Kovrig and Spavor were released in September 2021, a few short hours after Meng Wanzhou was permitted to leave Canada.
Around the same time, there were also several cases of Canadians receiving harsher sentences in China.
Fan Wei received a death penalty sentence in April 2019 on allegations of serving in a multinational drug smuggling case. Although Canadian officials had stated that they had “not had an indication that his sentence was arbitrary”, there are irregularities in the case, including the fact that Mr. Fan was not sentenced to death “until the dispute over Ms. Meng’s arrest”.
Robert Schellenberg, a Canadian convicted of drug smuggling in China in 2018 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment, was suddenly re-tried and re-sentenced with the death penalty after Meng was detained in Canada. The re-trial was ordered shortly after Meng’s arrest; Schellenberg has maintained his innocence; and Canadian officials have repeatedly called his conviction and sentence arbitrary.
Xu Weihong and Ye Jianhui were also both sentenced to death in China in August 2020, after being found guilty of drug charges. They were the third and fourth Canadians to be sentenced to death on drug charges in two years.
Grace told us about the case of Professor Kunlun Zhang, a Falun Gong practitioner and former visiting professor at McGill University. In 2001, he traveled to China to visit his ill mother-in-law, where he was arrested, tortured, and sentenced without trial to three years in a forced labour camp. His daughter, who lived in Ottawa at the time, reached out to then-Liberal MP (now former Justice Minister) Irwin Cotler, who took up Professor Kunlun Zhang’s case. Grace said that soon after, Mr. Cotler received a letter from an individual known to be close to the Chinese embassy, claiming to be writing on behalf of 25 Chinese organizations in Ottawa, telling him not to help Falun Gong practitioners as it would jeopardize the relationship between Canada and China. Later, Grace spoke with some of the listed 25 organizations, who were not aware of the letter. Many of the organizations had no real contact information, and Grace suspected that they may not actually exist. Grace said that the CCP uses these Chinese groups as the Chinese government’s mouthpiece to influence politics and government in Canada.
Other MPs also advocated for his release, including then-Canadian Alliance MP Scott Reid, who at the time said that the “Canadian message has changed from condemnation to complacency, even though it is one of our own citizens that has fallen victim to these horrific acts”.
In February 2017, Sun Qian, a Canadian citizen and Falun Gong practitioner, was arrested without a warrant and has remained in detention in Beijing ever since. She was forced to renounce her Canadian citizenship.
Canadian businessman Xiao Jianhua, who was kidnapped from his hotel room in Hong Kong in 2017, also remains arbitrarily detained in China.
Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur-Canadian, also remains in detention in China. Celil arrived in Canada in 2001 as a political refugee and became a Canadian citizen four years later. He was arrested by Uzbek police during his visit to Uzbekistan in March 2006, and quietly handed over to Chinese authorities in June 2006. In February 2020, Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton appeared before the House of Commons Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, and “appeared unaware that Celil is a Canadian citizen”. Barton “claimed that Canada had done everything it could to access him in order to provide consular services, but supposedly had not succeeded due to his citizenship status”.
The contrast between Canada’s treatment of cases like Huseyin Celil’s, and Kovrig and Spavor, illustrate the potentially differential treatment received in cases where dual nationals are detained abroad. This is problematic. As Alex Neve, then secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, articulated: “Dual nationals, who may have been born in China before coming to Canada, absolutely have the same urgent need for Canadian protection as do Canadian citizens who do not have Chinese roots”; “Canada’s commitment to all of these cases must be the same”.
Detentions and arrests of Canadians abroad occur in authoritarian countries beyond China, including in Russia and Iran.
Paul Whelan, an American-Canadian citizen and former US marine, has been arbitrarily detained in Russia for almost five years. He was detained in Moscow in December 2018 and accused of involvement in an intelligence operation. He maintains his innocence, and the US government faced some criticism for leaving him behind when they secured the release of American hostage Brittney Griner. Meanwhile, it is unclear if Canadian authorities have done anything of substance to assist in securing Whelan’s release.
Vladimir Kara-Murza is another individual arbitrarily detained in Russia. He was arbitrarily arrested mere hours after condemning Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and is widely considered a political prisoner of the Kremlin. Kara-Murza was arrested in April 2022 in Moscow, and in May 2023, he was granted honourary Canadian citizenship. Kara-Murza stated in Russian court that he “[knew his] verdict”: “I knew it a year ago when I saw in the mirror people in black uniforms and black masks running after my car. Such is the price for not being silent in Russia now. But I also know that the day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate”.
It is unclear how many Canadians are, or have been, detained in Iran.
Homa Hoodfar, a Canadian professor, was jailed in Iran in 2016 for “dabbling in feminism and security matters”. She was arrested in June 2016 and detained in Evin prison for 112 days. Around the same time, famous Iranian-Canadian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli had his passport confiscated in Iran and was barred from leaving. He temporarily faced criminal charges for two weeks before authorities dropped the case and he was permitted to return to Vancouver.
Canadian permanent resident Saeed Malekpour was arrested while visiting his ill father in Iran in 2008. For a time, he faced the death penalty, before it was “commuted to life in prison” following international pressure. Saeed has been described as “a ragdoll in the middle” of the tensions between Iran and Canada. Saeed was held in solitary confinement and tortured, and denied sufficient medical treatment for eleven years. He was granted a three-day release, during which time he escaped to Canada through a third country. Saeed landed in Vancouver on August 2, 2019.
Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian journalist of Iranian origin, was arrested and imprisoned in Iran in June 2003, after taking photos outside Evin prison in Tehran. She was sexually assaulted, tortured, and beaten in prison. She lapsed into a coma and died two days later. Zahra’s family launched a civil lawsuit against Iran and Iranian officials in Canada, but the Supreme Court ultimately held that Iran and Iranian officials are protected by Canada’s State Immunity Act, which prevents plaintiffs from suing foreign countries (or their officials) unless the act falls under a handful of limited exceptions. Neither torture nor death abroad falls under one of the exceptions.
A Canadian couple is currently missing in Iran. Thirty-five-year-old Behnoush Bahraminia and her partner Mathew Safari visited Iran almost two years ago; their families have not heard from them since they landed in Tehran on November 6, 2021. Security sources told the family that the couple were arrested. The family has appealed to the Canadian government for assistance. It is unclear what, if anything, has been done so far to facilitate their return.
Safeguard Defenders defines involuntary returns as the “use of non-traditional, often illegal means of forcing someone to return …against their will, most often to face certain imprisonment”. Looking specifically at China, they describe three methods, outside of formal bilateral agreements, that are used to forcibly or involuntarily secure the return of targets from abroad.
The first method is to force a target to return by targeting their loved ones in China. This is a form of coercion-by-proxy, which is further discussed below. Officials threaten that family members will be arrested or worse unless the targeted individual returns to China. The second method is to force a target to return by directly approaching the target where they reside. This typically involves using Chinese police officers working abroad illegally, as well as locally hired individuals, like private investigators, to harass, surveil, and directly threaten individuals to return to China. The third method is state-sanctioned kidnapping, and this typically involves covert cooperation with host countries. This often involves tricking targeted individuals into a third country where they can be returned to China without due process.
The scale of use of these methods is massive. According to China’s Vice-Minister of Public Security Du Hangwei, in 2021, the CCP “persuaded 210,0000 people to return” from abroad.
All three of these methods have been used against Canadian citizens.
The first method has been used against Uyghur-Canadian Mehmet Tohti. Mehmet has been cut off from his entire family living in the Uyghur region, and several of his siblings have been detained. Before cutting contact, he received several phone calls from family members urging him to end his activism because of the effects it could have on them. In 2016, Mehmet called a distant relative living in China, who was immediately detained after their phone call. Mehmet believes that his family is being targeted in a bid to prevent him from speaking out and to force him to return to China. Mehmet told us that this has occurred to many Uyghur-Canadians, many of whom have had to completely cut off contact with their families for their own protection.
Several targets that we interviewed faced the second method: being directly approached in Canada. Safeguard Defenders found that many targets are persuaded to return or harassed by “one of the roving squads of agents” across several countries, including Canada. This method is perpetrated both legally and illegally, either with the host country’s permission or clandestinely. Safeguard Defenders found that in at least three instances, “Chinese police, agents and/or non-state actors” have been sent to Canada to try to force a target to return.
The third method, state-sanctioned kidnappings, has also been used to target Canadians. The true number of state-sanctioned kidnappings will likely never be known, as very few victims are able to come forward.
Huseyin Celil, whose case is detailed in the previous section, provides an example of this method. Celil has been arbitrarily detained in China since 2006, after being arrested by Uzbek police in March 2006 and quietly handed over to Chinese authorities in June of the same year. Amnesty International Canada detailed that Celil was arrested by Uzbek police at the behest of Chinese officials. In another instance, Xiao Jianhua, a Canadian citizen, was abducted by Chinese agents from his Four Seasons hotel room in 2017 in Hong Kong. While he has not been seen since, there have been reports that he was returned to mainland China after CCTV footage showed him being pushed out of the hotel in a wheelchair, followed by about a dozen agents.
Xie Weidong, a former judge on China’s Supreme Court, fled to Canada after publicly criticizing China’s criminal justice system. Chinese officials have, on multiple occasions, tried to force him to return to China. Chinese authorities accused him of corruption and asked him to return voluntarily. Upon refusing, his sister and son were detained in China. Authorities also reached out to his other contacts in China, including his ex-wife, a former business partner, and his sister’s lawyer, to try to convince him to return. Eventually, a Chinese lawyer was sent to Canada to confront him and try to persuade him in person. In 2017, two people repeatedly rang his doorbell at 2 a.m., leaving before he opened the door. One of the people was later identified as the wife of a lawyer still living in China, and he believes that they were there to threaten or kidnap him back to China. Chinese officials later admitted that they had been recruiting Xie’s associates to speak with him.
Sheng Xue told us that the tenant that was living with her and providing information about her to the CCP tried very hard from November 2012 to May 2013 to get her to travel to Thailand and Burma. He was adamant that she should travel to one of those locations, and very disappointed when she did not. A month later, he started an online attack campaign against her. She said that that is when she understood why he was so eager for her to go there. When we asked what she thought would have happened to her had she travelled to Thailand or Burma, she said “you wouldn’t have had the chance to talk to me now”. Sheng Xue reported this person to CSIS. The person eventually moved to Shanghai, China, where he passed away in March 2023.
In addition to the three methods detailed above, China also tries to force Chinese nationals abroad to return through other means, such as by having the Embassy refuse their request to renew their passport, which would force them to return to China to do so, directly harassing them online into returning, or by misusing legal avenues and institutions, such as the INTERPOL Red Notice system. Chinese nationals who have been detained abroad have also reported being visited by Chinese officials and being forced to choose to either return to China or stay in the host country to spy on the diaspora.
Strikingly, Safeguard Defenders identified cases where democratic countries, including Canada, secretly cooperated with Chinese law enforcement to track down and deport alleged fugitives. Regarding Canada, Safeguard Defenders found that:
“Documentation from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) from late, drawn up whilst Canada was in negotiations with China about a possible readmission agreement showed that Canada was assisting Chinese officials and police in entering the country to carry out “negotiations” with Chinese nationals there, with the expressed intent of “persuading” them to return to China. Assistance was offered for both Chinese embassy staff, as well as visiting Chinese police, and includes help in securing the visiting police officers’ visas. CBSA clarified that it does not participate in the negotiations between the Chinese national and the official Chinese side, which indicates that such meetings, carried out inside Canada, are unsupervised. The documentation continues to state that in the event negotiations are successful, CBSA can assist with logistics at the airport to help with the smooth departure of the individual. The documentation acknowledges that those sought are alleged criminals in China and not convicted of crimes in Canada.” [emphasis added]
In their 2022 briefs, CSIS stated that in 2020, a Chinese police agent worked with a Canadian police officer to repatriate an economic fugitive.
Iran has also targeted Canadians in this manner. For example, in 2021, five individuals were targets of a kidnapping plot by the Iranian regime. One of the targets, Iranian American journalist Masih Alinejad, was surveilled by regime agents in New York. Of the four others targeted in this plot, three were residing in Canada.
US authorities foiled the plot and arrested four individuals, claiming that the defendants formed an “Iranian intelligence network”, and that they had reportedly hired private investigators in the US and Canada to spy on their targets. The perpetrators planned to kidnap the targets and send them back to Iran.
Javad Soleimani told us that he knows that he was not a target in this plot, but that after the news broke, a Canadian official called him to ensure that he was in a safe place. He said this news was very concerning to him, as “Canada is a safe haven for [the] Iranian regime and its officials”. He said that he has “real security concerns” and does not feel completely safe in his home knowing that regime officials are here in Canada. He explained that in the US, the IRGC is on the terrorist list, so at least cannot officially operate. Javad also expressed his concern that it was the FBI, and not Canadian officials, that foiled the plot. He believes that without the FBI’s involvement, they may have been successful at kidnapping individuals on Canadian soil.
The Turkish government has also engaged in involuntary returns. For example, in 2016, under the initiative of the Turkish Embassy, illegal deportations were carried out against the Acar family by Bahraini authorities. Public officials forcibly abducted Murat and Candan Acar, along with their two children, from their residing country, Bahrain, and brought them to Turkey on the basis of their alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement.
In August 2016, the Acars’ passports were suddenly canceled without the implementation of any legal process. Murat and Candan were separated from their children and from 8 October 2016 until 12 October 2016 were informally detained in the law enforcement unit at Istanbul Atatürk Airport. They were then detained at the Ankara Security Directorate. Both were accused of membership in an armed terrorist organization; however, no evidence was put forward against them at the time of, or after, their detention. In the inhuman and severe conditions of detention, the basic hygienic and nutritional needs of Murat and Candan were not met. The conditions of their detentions were designed to break their will.
The Kaçmaz family was similarly targeted and victimized by Turkish authorities in September 2017 due to their alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement. Mesut and Meral Kaçmaz had been working as teachers and administrators and residing in Wapda Town, Lahore, with their two children, when their home was raided by Pakistani officials. Mesut and Meral were subjected to violence and threats and kept in a secret base for 17 days. They were then handed over to security guards from Turkey and illegally abducted from Pakistan back to Turkey. While in transit, they were subjected to torture and ill-treatment.
When they arrived in Turkey, Mesut was taken to the Istanbul Police Department where he was detained arbitrarily and tortured. Meral and their two daughters were taken to the detention center at Istanbul Airport. After a few hours, Meral was transferred to the Ankara Police Department and her daughters were released from custody into the care of a family friend. Both Mesut and Meral faced long periods of arbitrary detention under difficult conditions that amounted to torture and ill-treatment. The Acar and Kaçmaz families now reside in Canada as citizens and permanent residents, respectively.
Assassinations and Attempted Assassinations
There have been cases of alleged assassination plans or attempts in Canada.
Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi Arabian intelligence officer, believes that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman orchestrated a plot to kill him in Canada, similar to that of Jamal Khashoggi. He believes the Saudi authorities want him dead due to his close relationship with US intelligence officials. In August 2020, Aljabri filed a federal lawsuit in the US, alleging that the prince and his associates pressured him to return to Saudi Arabia, and sent agents to the US to locate him and place malware on his phone. Once he was located, he asserts that a “hit squad” was sent to kill him in Canada in October 2018. This alleged group, known as the Tiger Squad, was stopped by Canadian customs officials, and were found to be carrying tools that could be used to dismember a body. He has had to hire private security for protection in Toronto.
Aljabri has had several family members detained and/or tortured by Saudi officials, including two of his children, which he asserts in the lawsuit is “all in an effort to bait [Aljabri] back to Saudi Arabia to be killed”. Aljabri said that the crown prince has repeatedly tried to have him return to the country, even sending private messages, with one saying, “We shall certainly reach you”. In response, Canada’s then-Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said that he could not comment on specific cases but was aware of incidents of transnational repression in Canada. He said that it “is completely unacceptable and we will never tolerate foreign actors threatening Canada’s national security or the safety of our citizens and residents. Canadians can be confident that our security agencies have the skills and resources necessary to detect, investigate and respond to such threats”.
Mehmet Tohti told us that he believes he may have been the victim of an attempted assassination by China on Canadian soil. Mehmet was hospitalized for several days after another vehicle drove directly into his driver’s side door. At the time, Mehmet was advocating for the release of Huseyin Celil, the Uyghur-Canadian citizen detained in China, discussed above. Mehmet said that during this period he was being followed by neighbours, and a suspicious black car had been parked outside his home. While Mehmet said that it is still a mystery whether this car crash was politically motivated or not, he believes that it was a deliberate attack on his life. After this incident, he became very concerned about his safety, and left for Europe. He said that he “left Canada for five years due to that fear”. He said that there were many suspicious activities occurring around him at the time, and he did not believe that the Canadian government would do anything to protect him.
In October 2020, Iranian Canadian human rights activist Mohammad Mehdi Amin Sadeghieh, or Mehdi Amin, was found murdered in his home in Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto. Both Kaveh Shahrooz and Ardeshir Zarezadeh, mentioned above, knew Mehdi Amin, and at the time, both urged police to investigate whether his death was politically motivated. On November 4, 2020, police arrested a 27-year-old, charging her with second-degree murder in Amin’s death. The police said that they do not believe there is any connection between Amin’s death and his political views. However, many in the Iranian community believe the police got it wrong, or at least did not seriously consider the possibility that the Iranian regime could have been involved.
In December 2020, 34-year-old Karima Baloch, an outspoken Pakistani activist living in exile in Canada, was found dead under suspicious circumstances, having drowned off the Toronto lakeshore. Karima had been living in exile in Canada for five years, after Canadian authorities helped her flee Balochistan, a region in western Pakistan, where she was being persecuted for her work as a well-known human rights activist. She was a leader in the Baloch Students Organization (BSO), a student movement campaigning for human rights and the rights of students in Balochistan.
After arriving in Canada, Karima continued to face harassment and receive death threats. On December 20, 2020, Karima went missing after traveling to Toronto Island, and her body was discovered the next day. Within 16 hours, the Toronto Police concluded that Karima had committed suicide. Her family and friends disagreed. Her brother, Sameer Mehrab, told police that he believes she may have been murdered, and that the family was unclear on how the police came to the suicide conclusion. Chris Alexander, Canada’s then-Minister of Immigration when the Canadian Embassy helped bring Karima to Canada, similarly believed this was the wrong conclusion. In a podcast with Mary Lynk, he stated, “I don’t think it was one of the finest moments for the Toronto Police Service. I think it was given to a front-line officer who looked at the immediate evidence before him or her and came to the wrong conclusion”. When asked whether he believes that Karima committed suicide, he said “Absolutely not. I think she was killed”.
On the day of her death, Dr. Zaffar Baloch, President of the Baloch Human Rights Council of Canada, tweeted that their organization rejects the suicide finding. He wrote that Karima “did not escape Pakistan to come to Canada and commit suicide. BHRC demands an independent enquiry into her death that excludes any Pakistani-Canadian police”. Naeli Quadri Baloch, president of the Vancouver-based World Baloch Women’s Forum, said that this case has caused fear within their community and that “Karima’s death is scary for all the persecuted people who have taken asylum in Canada”. She said that the “way justice is denied to Karima has created a grave sense of insecurity” in those who had immigrated to Canada.
Activist Gulalai Ismail, who escaped Pakistan in 2019 and currently resides in the US, said that she is “devastated by the fact that even refuge in Canada couldn’t save her life. The stories of Baloch don’t change. They go missing and are then found dead. Be it Pakistan, … or Canada”.
Long Distance Threats
Long distance threats refer to “[o]rigin country tactics that do not require physically reaching the individual targeted”, such as cyber threats and coercion-by-proxy. As discussed, there is overlap in multiple instances between categories, including between long distance threats and direct attacks. For example, many cyber threats and incidents of coercion-by-proxy also constitute harassment or intimidation, and were discussed in the prior section.
The continuous development of new digital technologies has provided authoritarian regimes with incredible tools to repress individuals abroad. These technologies allow regimes to monitor exiles like never before, using both digital repression and more “traditional methods of extraterritorial coercion” against their targets.
The use of cyber threats and digital spyware on political opponents are a common tactic for a variety of reasons. They are relatively low-cost and low risk; hacking a single individual may expose entire networks of individuals and information; and this tactic may be incredibly effective at fostering fear and mistrust among diaspora communities, preventing them from participating in social and political life. Louisa said that as digital threats can reach anyone anywhere, including in their own homes, their use also prevents individuals who have not yet been targets of transnational repression from fully participating in Canadian society as they fear that anyone could be next.
Targets may be monitored and spied on, hacked, or have malware attacks sent to their devices. Many witnesses that we spoke to said that they have repeatedly been the targets of cyberattacks. Often, they are sent malicious links by email or WhatsApp from someone posing as a friend or community member. Other times, they don’t know the exact source of the malware. Others told us that while they were not aware of any specific attacks, they assumed that their mobile phones had been hacked and were being monitored.
Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi Arabian dissident living in Montreal, is an emblematic case study of this tactic. Omar was a close associate of murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi Arabia, had gone to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up legal paperwork, where he was tortured and killed by a Saudi Arabian hit squad.
After Khashoggi’s death, Citizen Lab analyzed Abdulaziz’ mobile phone and found that it had been infected with the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. The powerful surveillance tool gave the hackers access to his files, including emails and messages. As such, they could track his communications with others, including conversations with Khashoggi in the weeks leading up to his killing. The Saudi regime only decided to go forward with their plan of killing Khashoggi after hacking Abdulaziz’ mobile phone and learning the details of different activism projects the two were planning together. In the case of Jamal Khashoggi, “sophisticated digital spyware deployed across borders was an underappreciated component of the violent plot on his life”. Khashoggi’s death also reveals the great lengths that authoritarian regimes will go to silence their opponents.
China likewise engages in cyber threats regularly, and across multiple platforms.
In March 2021, Facebook disclosed that Canada’s Uyghur community had been targeted by a sophisticated cyber espionage campaign. Facebook stated that the operation tried to infect devices with malware to permit surveillance of the owner’s device by targeting hundreds of Uyghur activists, journalists, and dissidents across several countries. Facebook said that they traced the malware to two companies in China and would be notifying “fewer than 20” people in Canada who had been targets. Facebook’s head of cyber espionage investigations Mike Dyilyanksi and their head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher released a media statement saying that the “group used various cyber espionage tactics to identify its targets and infect their devices with malware to enable surveillance”.
While they said they were unable to determine whether the Chinese government was involved, the operation “had the hallmarks of a well-resourced and persistent operation, while obfuscating who’s behind it”. Hostile actors set up Facebook accounts posing as “journalists, students, human rights advocates and members of the Uyghur community” to trick individuals into clicking on malicious links. Facebook said the hackers also set up malicious websites that looked like popular Uyghur or Turkish news sites, fake third party stores with Uyghur-themed apps, including a keyboard app, prayer app, and dictionary app, and used “watering hole attacks”, which infect device users visiting legitimate websites.
Many Uyghurs as well as Falun Gong practitioners have also reported being tracked and intimidated by Chinese authorities on WeChat, an unencrypted platform that is regularly monitored by the CCP. For many, WeChat is the only tool available to communicate with their relatives. They have been asked to provide ID information and numbers, passport photos, and their locations or residence by Chinese police on WeChat. China also routinely hacks personal devices to track and listen to conversations between activists and/or potential dissidents.
Hong Kong organizations have reported several phishing attempts to hack into their computers and have reported an influx of cyber-attacks around important and symbolic dates. Uyghur organizations have reported similar issues with receiving malware. Both Tuyghun Abduweli, president of the East Turkistan Association of Canada, and Mehmet Tohti have said that the websites of their current organizations, and previous organizations they have led, have been repeatedly hacked over several years. They personally, and their organizations, have often been targeted by virus-laden emails, and as a result have had to routinely purchase new computers.
In the early 2010s, Kayum Masimov received an email in Uyghur from Mehmet Tohti, right after to speaking to him on the phone. The email summarized their discussion, and included an attachment that he was prompted to open. While the details of their conversation were accurate, Kayum noticed slight deviations from Mehmet’s normal pattern of language. He called Mehmet again, who told him that he had never sent the email. After checking the email address closely, he noticed that a single letter had been changed from Mehmet’s real email address. Kayum concluded that someone had listened in to their phone conversation and delivered a sophisticated, custom, and rapid malware attack.
Speaking to the Parliamentary Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, Rukiye Turdush said that she often received viruses meant to destroy her computers, email, and blog. She said that for many years she was threatened online on Twitter and YouTube, receiving messages from Chinese trolls saying to “be careful” and that “you are looking for your own death”.
Grace said that Falun Gong practitioners in Canada and around the world have been subject to countless cyber-attacks that have paralyzed websites, stolen private information, and destroyed files. Practitioners have had to replace things like computers and file servers. Rachel said that she and her fellow practitioners helping former CCP members are often hacked. She also said that she often receives messages on her personal computer that she is being watched and monitored. Annie also said that her phone and computer have been hacked several times, she believes by the Chinese government. Once in 2018 or 2019, she believed that her home computer and Wi-Fi were being repeatedly interfered with and interrupted. Shortly afterward, she was informed by experts that her computer had been hacked and she was advised to reset her computer and cellphone to factory settings.
Coercion-by-proxy “constitutes the actual or threatened use of physical or other sanctions against an individual within the territorial jurisdiction of a state, for the purpose of repressing a target individual residing outside its territorial jurisdiction”. Authoritarian states operate within their own territory and jurisdiction to target the family members or associates of individuals living abroad, to punish, threaten, or control them. This type of repression is relatively “low cost”, it does not receive a lot of media attention, and it does not violate the sovereignty of other states.
Coercion-by proxy is used to punish, deter, compel, or control those living abroad, and can be used against individuals, or entire groups, like students studying at institutions abroad. Coercion-by-proxy as punishment is retribution for acts committed by targets; deterrence refers to using threats to prevent actions by targets; compelling involves using threats to coerce targets into specific behavior or actions; and control refers to controlling groups through self-policing and self-censorship. Coercion-by-proxy may be used “as a means of information gathering and retribution against dissidents abroad”. It can entail tactics such as threats, surveillance, mobility restrictions, imprisonment, physical attacks, disappearances, or even assassinations.
Hannah, a Falun Gong practitioner and former Epoch Times employee, faced coercion-by-proxy soon after arriving in Canada. Her husband remained in China, where he was visited by CCP officials. They warned him that she had attended many Falun Gong events in Canada, and that if she ever returned to China she would be immediately arrested, so she should just stay in Canada. Soon after joining the Epoch Times, her husband was visited again by police where he was harassed and told that the Epoch Times is “anti-CCP” media. He called her afterward and asked her to stop attending Falun Gong events and stop doing anti-CCP media. Hannah refused, saying that Falun Gong was legal in Canada.
Emma, another Falun Gong practitioner who had been previously imprisoned in China, faced a similar situation. The day after delivering a speech in front of the Chinese consulate in Toronto about her imprisonment in China, her relatives were visited by Chinese police, complaining of her anti-CCP work in Canada. Afterward, Emma’s husband tried to pressure her to stop speaking out in Canada. Emma did not. After an article was published in which Emma criticized the CCP, the police went back to her relatives’ home and demanded that Emma and her brother return to China. Emma says that had she returned, she would have been immediately arrested, tortured, and imprisoned.
China often uses coercion-by-proxy to further involuntary returns. They target family members, friends, and even associates to persuade targets to return to China. Safeguard Defenders has identified three roles that family members can play: middleman, hostage, or scapegoat.
When a family member is used as a middleman, their role is to persuade the target to return, often to face prosecution or penalty. Authorities often order family members to call the target and urge them to return. In some cases, officials may bring family members, friends, or lawyers to the host country to encourage the target to return in person.
In 2015, Chu Shilin, a Chinese businessman living in Canada and accused of financial crime in China, received a phone call from his ex-wife who had been detained in China, and forced to call him from the detention centre. During the call, he says that an agent took over and urged him to return to China for the sake of his family. In 2016, Jiang Qian, a Chinese business executive living in Canada and accused of corruption in China, received a recorded video from his father-in-law in China asking him to return. When he refused, his father-in-law came to Canada to urge his return face-to-face. In another case, Chinese police brought a Fox Hunt target’s brother and father to Canada and refused to allow them to return to China unless the target fugitive agreed to return as well.
Family members can also be used as hostages. Where they are unable to persuade family members to return, authorities may arrest them and hold them in detention centres, work camps, or black sites. Officials threaten that they will only be released on condition that the target returns to China. Officials will often fabricate evidence or make up charges to justify their detention.
Dilnur Enwer, a Uyghur woman living in Montreal, has said that she is afraid to speak out about her parents’ detention in the Uyghur region for fears of her own and her relatives’ safety. She has two young children living in the Uyghur region, with whom she has no contact.
Tuyghun Abduweli was cut off from his family on February 1, 2016, after receiving a phone call from his father telling him not to call anymore, as he had been warned by Chinese police that he would be imprisoned if his son ever called again. His siblings received the same warning. He later learned, from a contact living in Turkey, that his brother had been sentenced to 20 years in prison as retribution for his activism in Canada.
Turnisa Matsedik-Qira, a Uyghur woman living in Vancouver, has faced intense harassment while organizing protests outside of the Chinese consulate. She once received a phone call from a man warning her in Mandarin “not [to] jump too far. You need to think about your family in China”. She did not heed the warning, and continued her long-standing activism. In August 2021, she found out that her brother had died in a concentration camp in the Uyghur region. Turnisa believes that he was killed as retribution for her activism.
Another way of holding relatives hostage is by preventing them from leaving China. These exit bans can be issued by Chinese law enforcement agencies and the NSC. Chinese authorities refuse to issue exit visas to family members, thus trapping them in the country. Kayum Masimov said that his relatives were “most certainly punished” for his activism. He believes they will never receive exit visas or passports, and face the risk of being sent to concentration camps. He said that the main barrier activists face are fears for their family in China, but that some decide that “silence is not an option”.
Mehmet Tohti’s whole family has faced retribution for his activism. He has been publicly advocating for Uyghur rights since moving to Canada in 1998. In 2004, he was told by a security officer to stop his activism or his family will be in danger. Soon after, his brother was fired from his job and sent to prison. In 2011, Tohti’s sister died in mysterious circumstances after giving birth to her first child at a hospital in the Uyghur region. In October 2016, all communication with his family in the Uyghur region was cut off, after Chinese authorities began interrogating his family members every time that he would call. Mehmet said that he cannot call his family or friends in China as their phones are heavily monitored. Sometimes, the police will call him directly and connect him with his family members, who tell him about “hospitalizations, detentions, and consequences the family faces because of him”, and saying “please stop or I will face the same thing”. On January 16, 2023, Mehmet received a phone call from Chinese police stating that his mother and two sisters were dead, his three brothers were disappeared, and all their children and spouses have disappeared as well. They said they took his uncle and cousin hostage. They told him that if he continues with his activism, they will suffer a terrible fate.
Mehmet’s experience is not unique within the Uyghur diaspora community. As noted by David Tobin and Nyrola Elimä, “[f]amily separation, either by direct threats to end communication or forcing people to sever contact to protect their family, is the central tactic of the party-state’s transnational repression of Uyghurs and its attempts to globalise its governance over individuals born in PRC territory”.
Karima Baloch, the Balochistan activist whose alleged murder is discussed above, also faced this type of coercion-by-proxy. Her uncle in Pakistan was arrested, tortured, and killed, which she found out about immediately before attending her refugee hearing in Montreal.
The third role identified by Safeguard Defenders is that of the scapegoat. If other approaches to get a target to return to China fail, officials may simply punish their family members in their place. Authorities often accuse family members of conspiring with the target, and often fabricate evidence to justify their arrest or detention.
For example, in July 2022, the government of Wenchang City, Hainan province, issued a notice warning those who had fled to Myanmar to return immediately or their relatives would be suspended from receiving subsidies, including medical insurance, their children would be disqualified from registering for urban schools, their immediate family would be banned from joining the CCP, military, and from taking exams to become public servants or work for state-owned companies, and their real estate would be vacated and auctioned off. Other cities have made similar announcements, including that children would be sent back to their hometowns and that relatives’ and friends’ bank accounts would be controlled or cancelled if the targets did not return.
In this situation, relatives are considered by the CCP to be guilty by association. This type of punishment is clearly prohibited under international law.
There are several extralegal strategies commonly used by authoritarian regimes to control the mobility of its targets, either by denying them the ability to leave the country or trying to force them to return once they have left. One strategy includes controlling the issuance or renewal of travel documents, such as exit visas or passports. Another strategy involves forcing or coercing individuals to appear at consulates or embassies in host countries, where they are apprehended or forced or induced to return to their country of origin.
Consular services may also be withheld as a form of punishment by authoritarian regimes. In January 2023, it was reported that Elena Pushkareva, a Russian national, had an appointment with the Russian Embassy in Ottawa cancelled because she subscribes to a Facebook page for a group in support of Alexei Navalny, the jailed opposition leader and anti-corruption activist in Russia. She said that she received a call from a member of Russia’s diplomatic mission to Canada, who told her that the ambassador had decided not to meet with her. She went to the embassy anyway to clarify the situation, where she was denied entry into the building and told by a security guard that she was a “security threat to the Russian foreign mission”.
An embassy representative confirmed that the refusal to meet was due to the Facebook Group which calls “for violent actions to damage the interests of the Russian Federation”. Pushkareva said that while the page discusses politics, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and supports political prisoners, including Navalny, it does not promote violence. She said that in October 2022, another member of this Facebook Group also had issues with the Russian embassy. They said to him “[w]e know you, we’re watching you, we know what you do”.
Taking a different tactic, China attempts to lure Uyghurs to China by denying extensions or renewals of passports, other travel documents, or birth certificates for their children. China often refuses to issue passport renewals or travel visas for Uyghurs out of embassies or consulates, including the ones in Canada. Rather, Uyghurs are told that they must return to China in order to renew their passport, and are only offered one way travel documents to do so. They are often prevented from visiting family members, and if they can visit, they may be putting their freedom or life at risk. Many have submitted complaints to the RCMP, but report receiving very little to no follow-up.
China has also used the provision of consular services as a front in their global efforts to lure targets to China. In 2022, Safeguard Defenders identified dozens of alleged secret Chinese police stations across the world, including three in Toronto, used to repatriate Operation Fox Hunt targets. Two more were quickly discovered, with at least one being in Vancouver. In March 2023, two more were discovered in Quebec.
While China purports that these stations are used to assist Chinese residents in obtaining consular services, such as renewing drivers licenses, the stations are used to harass and threaten individuals in attempts to involuntarily return them to China. Some of these stations are tied to the UFWD, seeking to influence diaspora communities rather than provide genuine services.
As part of their involuntary returns campaign, China circumvents “normal bilateral mechanisms of policy and judicial cooperation”, to extra-legally target Chinese residents abroad. According to Safeguard Defenders, China is establishing their own “alternative policing and judicial system” in Canada and other democratic countries, circumventing “firmly-set international principles such as the non-derogatory principle of non-refoulement”.
Annie told us that prior to coming to Canada, she and her husband were imprisoned in China. She said that it is possible that China wants her arrested in Canada, and she believes that they could make that happen. She said that she is very concerned about the Chinese police stations, and believes it is possible that they have illegally arrested or kidnapped people on Canadian soil.
The US cracked down on Chinese police stations using their foreign agent registry – legislation that Canada does not yet have but is amid discussion. In April 2023, US authorities shut down a Chinese police station in New York, criminally charging two American citizens with failing to register their work on behalf of China and obstruction of justice after trying to delete text messages with a Chinese state security official.
According to CBC News, “[t]hese are believed to be the first charges laid anywhere in the world against people suspected of running extra-territorial Chinese police stations”, and that US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Breon Peace “called it surreal that an authoritarian state could set up a police outpost in the heart of Manhattan”.
In March 2023, three Canadian officials testified in parliamentary hearings that the police stations are being shut down. Laura Harth, campaign director for Safeguard Defenders, said that Canada has done more about the Chinese police stations than most other countries, praising Canada for opening an investigation and providing individuals with an RCMP phone number and email to report incidents of harassment by staff of Chinese police stations.
China responded by accusing Canada of smearing its reputation, stating that China has been “strictly abiding by international law and respecting all countries’ judicial sovereignty”.
Co-opting Other Countries
Under international law, states have an obligation to comply with the principle of non-refoulement, which prohibits states from returning individuals, directly or indirectly, to a country where they face a substantial risk of irreparable harm upon return, including persecution, torture, severe ill-treatment, or other serious human rights violations. The principle of non-refoulement is explicitly enshrined in the Refugee Convention, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (“ICPPED”). It is also guaranteed in several regional instruments and is considered an essential protection under international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law. This principle has also reached the status of customary international law, meaning that it is binding on all states. The principal applies to any form of removal or transfer of individuals, regardless of their legal or migration status.
Yet, many countries do not respect this principle. Some countries are open about their violations. For example, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay recently announced in a parliamentary speech that over 100 people have been forcibly returned to Turkey by their National Intelligence Organization (MiT) due to “intelligence diplomacy”.
Some countries, like Thailand, Turkey, and Egypt, have sent back Uyghurs to China at China’s request. While Canada does not brazenly return Uyghurs to China, it does sometimes cooperate with authoritarian regimes to return individuals who are at significant risk of human rights violations.
Freedom House points out that Canada has acted on false accusations of terrorism made by foreign states. For example, Canada has denied entry to Uyghurs based on accusations that they are members of a terrorist organization, for being members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, despite the fact that it is not listed as a terrorist group in Canada.
Clearly, there is some protection offered by being physically located in Canada. URAP points out that “while Uyghurs residing in liberal democracies do not face the same threat of being detained and forcibly returned to China, they nonetheless remain the subject of persistent harassment and repression by the Chinese government”.
Both Uyghurs and Iranians have recounted being asked to attend their respective consulates in Canada to pick up important documents, where they believe they would have been detained and kidnapped. Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, mentioned earlier, was encouraged to stop his activism and return to Saudi Arabia by government officials, “urging him to visit the Saudi Embassy to renew his passport”.
Kayum Masimov told us that being a target is financially taxing. For example, it now costs him significantly more to travel internationally, a key aspect of his activism work. He cannot take flights with stops in places like Hong Kong or Macau and does not even fly over China. Additionally, he avoids countries that don’t have transparent institutions, as he fears they may try to arrest and/or extradite him.
INTERPOL is the world’s largest police organization, representing 195 member countries. It is the second largest international organization in the world, after the United Nations. It facilitates cross-border police cooperation and assists in combatting international crime. Each member state has a National Central Bureau to liaise with INTERPOL’s General Secretariat to share information and provide mutual assistance. Canada’s National Central Bureau, INTERPOL Ottawa, is operated by the RCMP, housed at RCMP National Headquarters, and composed of RCMP and other Canadian police officers, public service employees, and civilian members.
The RCMP’s website makes clear that “[a]n arrest warrant from another country has no legal status in Canada”. However, an arrest warrant issued by a foreign state may be accompanied by an INTERPOL Red Notice, which may lead to legal implications in Canada. INTERPOL Red Notices basically serve as international arrest requests. Under international law, there is no legal obligation for another member state to enforce the notice, however, many countries use a Red Notice as grounds for arrest and treat Red Notices as specific arrest warrants.
Red Notices may be initiated by National Central Bureaus (NCBs) or the International Criminal Court. Red Notices are examined by INTERPOL headquarters in Lyon, France, before being sent to member states. In Canada, INTERPOL Ottawa then conducts its own vetting before deciding whether to act on a Red Notice.
INTERPOL also has other mechanisms in place, such as Yellow Notices, which are used to track missing persons. Diffusions – requests for international cooperation, including the arrest, detention, or movement restriction of an individual – are similar to Red Notices, but used much more often.
Not all Red Notices are made public, even to the wanted individual. Of the approximate 62,000 INTERPOL Red Notices worldwide, only about 7,000 have been made public. INTERPOL only publishes limited data on its issuance of Red Notices, and almost no data on Diffusions, “putting those individuals who are unaware that they are being hunted on political grounds by non-Rule of Law countries … at additional risk and unable to mitigate its effects until it’s too late”. INTERPOL cannot notify individuals of a notice against them without permission from the issuing country, and as such, the INTERPOL notice system violates the right to due process.
INTERPOL’s “neutrality rule” states that it is strictly prohibited for them to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious, or racial character. While INTERPOL rules ban member states from issuing Red Notices for political crimes, many countries do so anyway as a means of suppressing dissidents who have fled abroad. Moreover, regarding Diffusions, INTERPOL rules merely state that NCBs must ensure the Diffusion follows their rules. Diffusions are immediately sent to other member states, prior to any review by INTERPOL headquarters. Thus, they are a useful tool for authoritarian regimes, even if they know the Diffusion may be withdrawn upon review by INTERPOL. If the review shows that the Diffusion is in violation of INTERPOL rules, the Diffusion is deleted from INTERPOL’s system. However, the Diffusion is not automatically deleted from member states’ own systems. As such, this post-review system “opens the door to significant and unmitigated misuse”.
Safeguard Defenders analyzed several studies and reports, including INTERPOL’s annual reports, to put together the most comprehensive data publicly available on Red Notices. Safeguard Defenders says that INTERPOL ignored all their requests to fill in the gaps.
A Red Notice may impact one’s ability to travel or seek asylum. Those subject to Red Notices are generally considered wanted criminals, and this can make international travel for many impossible. It may effectively trap them in one country, as crossing borders may put them at risk of arrest and deportation to the requesting country. These individuals have valid fears that they may be deported to a country where they will not receive a fair trial. Additionally, under the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (“Refugee Convention”), countries are not obligated to grant asylum to individuals wanted for or convicted of criminal offences.
The Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (“CCF”) is an independent body responsible for maintaining the integrity of INTERPOL’s work. The CCF maintains a mechanism to challenge Red Notices, however, these challenges can be very difficult to make and often take several years. While INTERPOL has implemented some reforms in response to criticism, there are still many issues with their systems.
In 2015, INTERPOL introduced a new policy to remove Red Notices for individuals who have been recognized as refugees under the Refugee Convention, if the individual requests it.
A 2019 reform implemented new rules to the Rules on the Processing of Data, allowing individuals to seek information on Red Notices, Diffusions, and other instruments possibly made against them. However, the process is slow, taking several months, and INTERPOL will only release information that the issuing NCB agrees to have disclosed. Safeguard Defenders concludes that this renders the process meaningless, and that “[d]espite the urgent need for further reforms, INTERPOL has so far resisted implementing any more changes”. While INTERPOL rules allow for countermeasures against states that misuse their mechanisms, Safeguard Defenders believes that these countermeasures have never been applied.
The use of INTERPOL’s Red Notice system is increasing. With this has come an increase in the misuse and abuse of the Red Notice system. In 2022, INTERPOL released data for the first time, revealing they delete or reject approximately 1,000 Red Notices and diffusions per year: about half are rejected on human rights or neutrality grounds.
INTERPOL abuse is perpetrated by authoritarian regimes, including China and Russia.
China joined INTERPOL in 1984, and dramatically increased their use of these tools under Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. INTERPOL has now become an important tool in China’s global reach, especially as a means of implementing Operations Fox Hunt and Sky Net.
Between 2015 and 2017, CCP officials, through Operation Sky Net, released an annual top 100 list of wanted persons for which China had applied for Red Notices. However, China stopped publicizing this list in 2017. The CCP would also announce how many people it had successfully returned, most of whom were returned via involuntary returns rather than INTERPOL or other official channels. While the CCP often focuses on involuntary returns, leaders have increasingly stated that they will use INTERPOL and other legal means to chase Chinese “fugitives” globally. Freedom House states that China uses the INTERPOL system to “imply international endorsement of its pursuit” of fugitives, despite these notices not being subject to judicial review.
While INTERPOL rules state that Red Notices are to be issued for the “arrest or restriction of movement for the purpose of extradition, surrender, or similar lawful action”, China continuously violates this rule. In 2019, Meng Qingfeng, China’s deputy minister of public security, said that “[t]he US and Canada, countries with which China has no extradition treaty, have become top destination[s] for Chinese fugitives. Bringing them back to face legal action in China therefore requires the use of INTERPOL protocols”. However, as Safeguard Defenders points out, this is a clear violation of INTERPOL protocols as Red Notices and Diffusions are meant to apprehend and detain individuals while the requesting country files a formal extradition request. As Canada and China have no extradition treaty, China is violating INTERPOL rules every time it issues a Notice for an individual in Canada.
In November 2021, Michael J. Abramowitz, President of Freedom House, presented at the 89th INTERPOL General Assembly, respectfully opposing “the candidacy of any Chinese government representative for a place on INTERPOL’s executive committee or in any position of leadership at INTERPOL. According to Freedom House, China and other authoritarian regimes have abused INTERPOL’s notification system to target critics, dissidents, and others abroad, rather than to combat serious crime as intended. The Chinese government has misused the INTERPOL system to target former officials, peaceful activists, and members of minority groups, and “used INTERPOL’s reputation to legitimate its campaign of transnational repression both domestically and internationally”.
Safeguard Defenders has also found that while data on China’s use of INTERPOL is “extremely sparse”, their focus on the return of Chinese nationals and expanding effort to control the Chinese diaspora “has led to a significant increase in its use of INTERPOL as a means to advance these goals”.
Three years prior, before INTERPOL’s 86th General Assembly, Human Rights Watch released a letter to INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock about China’s misuse of the INTERPOL Red Notice system and concerns about INTERPOL’s “ability to adhere to human rights obligations under the leadership of the new president, Meng Hongwei, the vice minister of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security”. The Ministry of Public Security overseas the domestic security branch tasked with silencing dissent, which continuously uses harassment, arbitrary detention and torture to pursue their goals.
In 2018, while still President of INTERPOL, Meng Hongwei disappeared while on a trip to China. He was secretly detained before reappearing, when China confirmed that he had been arrested on corruption charges for allegedly accepting bribes. His wife, Grace Meng, who remains living under protection in France, has argued the charges are politically motivated. Meng was eventually sentenced to 13.5 years imprisonment. In July 2019, his wife filed a legal complaint in the Permanent Court of Arbitration against INTERPOL, claiming the agency failed to protect her family and “is complicit in the internationally wrongful acts of its member country, China”.
In the aftermath of Meng Hongwei’s disappearance, Canada’s Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security met in November 2018 and discussed, among other things, INTERPOL abuse by authoritarian regimes. Among others, the Parliamentary Committee heard from Chief Superintendent Scott Doran, Director General of International Specialized Services within the RCMP’s Federal Policing Program; Bill Browder, Head of Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign; and Marcus Kolga, a Canadian journalist and expert on Russia and foreign policy.
Bill Browder provided evidence on Russia’s INTERPOL abuse. Browder testified that due to his activism, Vladimir Putin has a vendetta against him, and Russia has tried to use INTERPOL mechanisms to arrest him on at least seven separate occasions throughout the years, including immediately after the US passed their Magnitsky Act, after Canada passed their Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law), and after the E.U. began serious discussions on their Magnitsky Act. Sometimes his lawyers have had to file evidence proving the request was politically motivated, while other times, INTERPOL has rejected the request themselves without intervention. Browder explained that Russia has been abusing INTERPOL on “a serial basis”, and is allowed to continue doing so. He suggested that INTERPOL should use its rule that if a country consistently abuses INTERPOL, then that country can be suspended from using its mechanisms, to suspend Russia from using the INTERPOL system.
While not Canadian, Browder raised issues with the INTERPOL system that are present in Canada. Browder concluded his testimony by stating that:
“…my story tells you about serial abuse. In theory, some people from INTERPOL could argue, ‘Look, our systems do work, because every time Russia has gone after Bill Browder, we have rejected it’. That’s all fine and nice, except that I’m probably the most high-profile person in the world with this problem. I’ve even written a book called Red Notice…”
Marcus Kolga, who has also faced the wrath of Russia due to his activism, testified that Russia is the leader in “politically motivated abuse of INTERPOL’s notice system by various authoritarian regimes”, and that without reform, Canadians too could become targets of this abuse. Kolga explained that Russia restricts free speech “regardless of borders”, to “target and convict critics globally”.
Russia uses the Red Notice system to restrict targets’ movements, and targets foreign activists who have advocated for gay rights or who disagree with the official Russian state version of Soviet history. Kolga testified that “INTERPOL’s Red Notice system allows the Kremlin and other authoritarian regimes to extend the reach of their repression around the world, and while local authorities are responsible for choosing whether to execute these notices, they do represent a significant threat to activists, who are at risk of being targeted by laws intended to silence them”.
Attacks on Government Institutions
CSIS states that while foreign interference targets all facets of Canadian society, one of the key targeted sectors is our “democratic institutions and processes”. Governmental institutions are particularly vulnerable.
Recent reports have shown that Canadian politicians at all levels are targeted by foreign agents. Some Members of Parliament have received illegal foreign funding toward their campaigns; others have had their offices infiltrated by spies. Voters and candidates are targeted through foreign-funded media agencies and attack ads. Individuals in Canada, or their loved ones abroad, may be targeted if they do not donate toward, or publicly support, a particular candidate. Foreign states may also use flattery, promise compensation, including gifts or travel, or blackmail to target the outcomes of elections. There are allegations that foreign agents have infiltrated some government agencies, including the RCMP and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). These serious allegations must be investigated. Even if untrue, the Government of Canada must take steps to address them and the widespread distrust prevalent within diaspora communities.
Interference with Parliamentarians and Elections
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has conducted research into cyber-interference targeting electoral events, identifying two main spheres. Cyber operations, which include attacks to disrupt voting infrastructure, and online information operations, meant to “exploit the digital presence of election campaigns, voters, politicians, and journalists. Combined, they are used to influence voters, information, and public trust in democratic processes.
In Canada, there have been several cases of attempted or alleged interference with federal elections. CSIS itself states that it “has observed persistent and sophisticated state-sponsored threat activity targeting elections for many years now”, and that they are rising in frequency. CSIS also notes that in general, acts of foreign interference in Canada “tend to increase” around the time of elections.
In the run-up to the 2021 federal election, CSIS warned several MPs and senators that their conversations may be monitored by foreign states. A briefing document on CSIS talking points to officials stated “[y]ou are of immediate and constant interest to certain hostile state actors”. According to the document, officials were warned of different methods used by foreign powers, including “elicitation”, which is “when a foreign actor provides an individual with limited or false information in the hope that the target will correct them and provide the right answers”. CSIS said that the goal of the briefings was to alert Parliamentarians and “create political resiliency against the People’s Republic of China’s foreign interference efforts in Canada”.
CSIS warned that staff members could be taken advantage of, and that foreign agents may monitor public conversations, seek private meetings, and attempt to seek employment with their offices. They warned that threat actors may try to use MPs and campaigns to conduct illicit financing, and that in extreme cases, they may use blackmail or threats against them or their family.
In mid-February 2023, Robert Fife and Steven Chase of the Globe and Mail reported that “China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election”. After viewing secret and top-secret CSIS documents, they reported that an “orchestrated machine was operating in Canada” to ensure that a minority Liberal government won in 2021, and that specific Conservative candidates were defeated. The documents also stated that the CCP was using Canadian organizations to advocate on their behalf.
Among other things, Chinese diplomats engaged in providing undeclared cash donations to political campaigns and getting international Chinese students to volunteer in electoral campaigns. It is also alleged that for some voting stations, Chinese international students and seniors were bussed in from different ridings, instructed to use a fake address to register to vote, and told who to vote for.
Notably, the Globe and Mail reported that CSIS had briefed the federal government on China’s election interference on several previous occasions.
During a parliamentary committee into foreign interference, some MPs told CSIS officials that they struggle to identify foreign interference. NDP MP Rachel Blaney said that “[t]here is not clarity, quite frankly, around what MPs and their parties can do to protect themselves”, while Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell said that there is “little to no briefings or trainings for MPs”.
Foreign interference in federal elections has been ongoing for years. In November 2022, Global News journalist Sam Cooper revealed that in January 2022, Canadian intelligence officials warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet members that China furthered its influence in Canada by clandestinely funding at least 11 Liberal and Conservative candidates running in the 2019 federal election. CSIS reported that China’s consulate in Toronto “directed a large clandestine transfer of funds to a network of at least eleven federal election candidates and numerous Beijing operatives who worked as their campaign staffers”, and that many members of this alleged network are affiliated with the CCP. CSIS did not comment on whether they believe the network successfully influenced the 2019 election results.
Either way, s.363(1) of the Canada Elections Act prohibits contributions and donations made directly or indirectly by foreign nationals or organizations, providing that:
“363 (1) No person or entity other than an individual who is a Canadian citizen or is a permanent resident as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act shall make a contribution to a registered party, a registered association, a nomination contestant, a candidate or a leadership contestant.”
According to CSIS, Beijing also allegedly made payments through intermediaries to candidates affiliated with the CCP, sought to co-opt former Canadian officials to gain leverage in Ottawa, and engaged in aggressive campaigns to punish politicians who stood up to China.
It is also alleged that China was able to place agents as staffers in the offices of several MPs in order to influence MPs and their policies regarding China. Grace said that according to Chen Yonglin, a Chinese defector who used to work for the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, CCP agents have infiltrated MPs offices, and often try to get very close to politicians and their staff members. Chen said there were more than 1000 Chinese spies in Canada. Grace said that it’s frightening as we don’t know who they are or where they work, just that they “live among us”.
CSIS also reported that an official in Toronto’s Chinese Consulate directed a 2019 federal election campaign staffer to control and monitor their candidate’s meetings, which included preventing meetings with Taiwanese representatives.
Louisa told us that CCP agents often attend functions hosted by Members of Parliament, including Prime Minister Trudeau’s events. She said that the Liberal Party once held an event at a convention centre in her city, and there were Chinese nationals present with parliamentary staff that tried to stop anyone who attempted to speak to the leaders about Chinese persecution.
Grace told us that a few individual politicians have been stopped from publicly supporting Falun Gong practitioners and events, or from criticizing China due to pressure from the Chinese regime. She said that one MP who initially showed support for their cause, later asked to have his supporting letter removed from a Falun Gong website. The MP said that he was going to visit China for parliamentary business and was threatened that he would not receive a visa due to his support for the Falun Gong community. Grace did not provide us with the name of the MP.
Most victims reported that there was very little governmental support for them and their communities in the face of transnational repression. Grace said that “we generally don’t get help from officials” and that “we are kind of powerless in fighting transnational repression in our country. We have to fight ourselves, but our resources and means are limited”. She explained that these fights take time, money, and energy, and that not all victims can do this due to how draining it is to fight back. However, she also wanted to point out that many individual politicians do continue to support them even after receiving threats from China. She said that without their support, many more in her community in China would be killed or tortured.
Hannah said that many MPs themselves are threatened. She said that oftentimes, after an official publicly criticizes China, their photos and information are circulated on WeChat with instructions to go attack them. She said this occurs to officials at all levels of government, including for federal MPs.
This occurred in the context of the House of Commons’ February 2021 vote to recognize the Uyghur genocide. In a leaked CSIS report written in July 2021, the Agency stated that China’s intelligence service had “taken specific actions to target Canadian MPs” in this context. Ultimately, the House of Commons still unanimously voted in support of the motion that declared that China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims amounts to genocide.
Some MPs have been particularly targeted, including Conservative MP Michael Chong. On May 8, 2023, the federal government sanctioned a Chinese diplomat, Zhao Wei, who was accused of targeting Chong and his family. Zhao Wei allegedly attempted to gather information on Chong’s family in Hong Kong after he voted in favour of the Parliamentary motion condemning the Uyghur genocide. Canada declared Zhao Wei persona non grata, with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly stating that “we will not tolerate any form of foreign interference in our internal affairs. Diplomats in Canada have been warned that if they engage in this type of behaviour, they will be sent home”.
MP Chong stated in response that the federal government had been warned for years about China’s targeting of diaspora communities in Canada, and that this type of action should have been taken “years ago”. He said that “[t]he fact is, we’ve become somewhat of a playground for foreign interference threat activities”.
The leaked CSIS report stated that China’s intelligence service was seeking information on Chong’s relatives in China “for further potential sanctions”, and that it was “almost certainly meant to make an example of this MP and deter others from taking anti PRC positions”. CSIS also stated that Canada’s lack of a foreign agents’ registry makes Canada a “high-priority target”. Chong stated that he did not know that there was an intelligence report stating his family was at risk of harm. CSIS claimed that the report did not reach higher authorities or those outside of CSIS as they felt that it “wasn’t a significant enough concern”. Prime Minister Trudeau said that he has now instructed CSIS to alert the government whenever it receives intelligence or has concerns “that talk specifically about any MP, or about their family”.
The report also stated that “[t]hreat actors almost certainly perceive their activities in Canada to be low-risk and high reward”. While the report was written in July 2021, the government did not act until May 2023 when it was leaked publicly, nearly two years later.
Before declaring him persona non grata, Minister Joly stated that the government was weighing the blowback they could face from China for expelling Zhao Wei. After the decision was made to do so, she said that it had “been taken after careful consideration of all the factors at play”.
Other federal politicians, and former politicians, have been subjected to smear or disinformation campaigns.
Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister, Chrystia Freeland, an outspoken ethnic Ukrainian, has long been the target of Russian disinformation in attempts to discredit her by claiming that she and her family are “Nazis”. Reuters investigative journalist Mark Hosenball said that his US intelligence contacts believe that “this is part of a propaganda campaign by Russia to embarrass, discredit, [and] possibly intimidate Chrystia Freeland”.
Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has been subjected to smears from Chinese groups. The Chinese Canadian Conservative Association (CCCA) urged O’Toole to resign due to his criticism of human rights violations in China. He was accused of being “anti-China”.
Of course, it is flawed to conflate valid criticism of the CCP with anti-Asian hatred. There needs to be a clearer understanding of the difference between calling out anti-Asian racism, which is a growing problem in Canada, and using this to obfuscate and limit valid criticism of the Chinese Communist Party. There is a “clear distinction between criticism of leadership and support for peoples controlled by communist regimes”.
Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu (Steveston-Richmond East) said that he was the victim of a misinformation campaign, in which voters were convinced that he was racist via WeChat and Mandarin-language media reports after he had called for transparent elections in Hong Kong, voted in favour of declaring China’s actions against Uyghurs a genocide, and tabled a private member’s bill calling for a foreign influence registry. He said that articles about the bill purported to “put Chinese Canadians in danger”, instilling fear in voters. While campaigning, constituents would angrily shut the door in his face. He believed this smear campaign posted on Chinese language media outlets was perpetrated by Chinese agents working on behalf of the CCP, and that China’s alleged interference in the 2021 federal election is why he lost his seat.
In March 2023, Chiu said that he was worried for Canada as we are “continuously allowing and permitting foreign countries that are aggressive and predatorial to penetrate our systems, our institutions and jeopardizing their integrity… without our government doing anything to protect and safeguard it”.
Interference in Governmental Security Agencies
In October 2021, the federal government awarded a contract to provide RCMP communications equipment to a company with ties to the Chinese government, raising concerns about China’s access to RCMP communications and data. University of Ottawa senior fellow Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a former senior federal official and a specialist on China’s science and technology, said that “it’s like giving the key to Canada’s security to Chinese actors”.
The contract was awarded to Sinclair Technologies for a radio frequency filtering system, with one of their purposes being to prevent others from listening in on the RCMP’s land-based radio communication. Sinclair Technologies is controlled by Hytera Communications, a company based in Shenzhen, China. The Chinese government owns 10% of the company. The CBSA also uses communications equipment and technology from Hytera.
In 2021, the US Federal Communications Commission blacklisted Hytera, stating the company poses “an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of the United States persons”. Hytera Communications is also facing charges in a US espionage case.
In response to concerns, the RCMP suspended its contract with Sinclair Technologies in December 2022. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino stated that the RCMP was “in the process of both reviewing the manner in which this contract was awarded, as well as mitigating against any risks”. In January 2023, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told a House of Commons committee that “[w]e are confident there was no breach of security in this process”.
While this may be true, other companies with close ties to the CCP have been operating in Canada’s surveillance sector. For example, Hikvision, which has been sanctioned in the US and UK, still operates in Canada. Their video cameras are used across the country, including on government buildings. In 2020, Nuctech, a Chinese company with close ties to the CCP won a $6.8 million contract to install security devices at 170 Canadian embassies and consulates, before the contract was cancelled. Huawei’s 5G equipment has been installed across the country. Despite being banned in May 2022 by the federal government, they have until May 2024 to remove their equipment. Finally, iFlyTek, blocked from conducting business with US companies, is funding research projects at both Queen’s University and York University.
On August 21, 2023, news broke that a retired RCMP officer is charged “with conducting foreign interference on behalf of China”. Specifically, the RCMP assert that this retired officer “used his knowledge and his extensive network of contacts” to assist the Chinese government with Operations Fox Hunt and Sky Net, including by “build[ing] a dossier on a Uyghur activist”. This officer faces charges under Sections 23 and 22 of the Security of Information Act, which prohibits “preparatory acts for the benefit of a foreign entity”, and conspiracy, respectively.
According to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (the Cyber Centre), misinformation “refers to false information that is not intended to cause harm”. Disinformation, on the other hand, “refers to false information that is intended to manipulate, cause damage, or guide people, organizations, and countries in the wrong direction”. The term malinformation, which is not as commonly used, “refers to information that stems from the truth but is often exaggerated in a way that misleads and causes potential harm”. The Cyber Centre says that misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation (MDM) “are damaging to public trust in institutions and, during elections, may even pose a threat to democracy itself”.
In their National Cyber Threat Assessment 2023-2024, the CSE warned that Canadians’ exposure to MDM “will almost certainly increase” over the next two years. States are increasingly willing to use MDM to advance their own interests, including geopolitical ones.
Russia and China, for example, firmly control the internet within their own countries. In China, many websites, including Facebook and YouTube, are banned. WeChat is strictly monitored. Information about certain topics, such as Uyghurs and COVID-19 are highly regulated. In Russia, this control can be seen in the disinformation propagated by the Kremlin regarding their unprovoked war against Ukraine. Authoritarian regimes try to suppress facts and obfuscate criticism, both domestically and abroad. As discussed above, MDM has been used to criticize the Canadian government and individual officials.
According to CSIS, these campaigns are often used by foreign actors “to influence public opinions, perceptions decisions and behaviours”, often attempting to “change civil discourse, policymakers’ choices, government relationships, and the reputation of politicians and countries both nationally and globally”. MDM campaigns often aim to foster distrust in democratic institutions.
In Canada, foreign actors may “manipulate the media” by sponsoring investigative journalism, funding media outlets or advertising in them, and in some cases even acquiring media outlets. According to CSIS, “[t]hese activities undermine legitimate public discourse and erode the public’s trust in the media, which is a direct attack on our democracy”. In December 2021, CSIS spokesperson John Townsend said that foreign states target both mainstream media outlets like print publications, radio, and television programs, as well as online outlets and social media channels to peddle MDM.
In 2021, Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an organization of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, released a report claiming that the CCP has a sophisticated network to promote Beijing-friendly narratives into media outlets in Canada.
For example, Grace told us that Chinese-language media in Canada refuse to print about Falun Gong activities and have been told to exclude them from events. They often promote CCP propaganda. She said that she has asked them why they continue to support the Communist regime in furthering harm against Falun Gong, and that they responded that the regime forces them to. The CCP has previously pulled funding from publications that publish about Falun Gong events.
MDM allows authoritarian regimes to capitalize on current events, to sow discord and serve their own interests. For instance, there was widespread MDM from China and Russia surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic increased social and political tensions, emboldened extremists, and heightened geopolitical competition. The Canadian pharmaceutical sector became particularly vulnerable to cyber espionage and attacks by hostile states.
During the early stages of the pandemic, Chinese groups in Canada, the US, Australia, and others mobilized to gather scarce medical supplies to send to China. It appears that these acts were linked to directives by the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, a United Front Work Department agency. Once the virus had spread globally, United Front Work Department groups began donating supplies across the world, propagating CCP narratives about the pandemic.
In later stages, many foreign states tried to put forward conspiracy theories about the pandemic and sow distrust about western-developed COVID-19 vaccines. Australia faced a “trade war” with China after calling for an international investigation into the outbreak of the pandemic. In order to deflect attention, Chinese officials claimed that the virus may have come from the US – a theory completely rejected by all facts.
Russia also took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic, “flood[ing] the information environment with toxic narratives that have contributed to vaccine hesitancy and the rejection of public health protocols”.
In February 2021 remarks to the Centre for International Governance Innovation, CSIS Director David Vigneault stated that “[t]he fluid and rapidly evolving environment created by COVID-19 has created a situation ripe for exploitation by threat actors seeking to cause harm or advance their own interests”. He said that, for example, there has been an increase in the exploitation of cyber tools to steal information and conduct attacks, and that violent extremists use online platforms “to recruit others and to spread their hateful messaging, anti-authority narratives and conspiracy theories on the pandemic to rationalize and justify violence”. Additionally, he stated that our adversaries “spread disinformation about pandemic responses in an attempt to discredit government efforts”.
Former Commissioner of Canada Elections, Yves Côté, spoke to CBC News in June 2022 to mark the end of his 10-year term as head of Canada’s chief election watchdog. He said that disinformation and foreign interference are two of the biggest threats facing our electoral system.
There is a significant amount of MDM spread around elections, especially on digital platforms. Images with false information, memes, fake articles, “deepfakes” and links to websites full of MDM are meant to deceive and manipulate voters. Information that misleads voters about how to exercise their rights, such as where their polling station is or when they can vote, could be considered voter suppression, which is illegal. And while there are rules on how parties and candidates advertise, there are ways of “exploiting loopholes in the law” in order to propagate MDM in elections.
University of Ottawa associate professor Michael Pal, an expert on Canadian election law, said that there “are ways the Elections Act could be updated to deal with some of the groups that are advertising online to make sure they are subject to the rules that ensure transparency and a level playing field through spending audits”. However, he points out that “you can have the best law in the world, but if someone in a state-affiliated entity in Moscow is the one spreading the misinformation and they’re not concerned about the impact of being charged, they know it’s unlikely they will ever have to face Canadian justice”.
Academia is another sector that has been vulnerable to foreign interference. This can take many forms. Foreign regimes may engage in the suppression of academic freedom by mobilizing and taking advantage of their international students abroad, targeting researchers, or paying for research in order to influence or manipulate it. Foreign interference in academia can also include “covertly influencing research agendas or peer review processes; exerting economic pressure to achieve desired outcomes; introducing or obscuring conflicts of interests or military ties; [and] recruiting researchers and staff for interference activities”.
China engages in this type of “soft power” in Canada in furtherance of Chinese state interests and policies. Specifically, the UFWD has identified overseas students as one of 12 target groups requiring ideological guidance and promotion of CCP policies. In recent years, there has been a “noticeable mobilization of Chinese international students” and an increase in interference in the realm of academia.
It is important to state that many Chinese international students are victims as well. As Chemi Lhamo has pointed out:
“The long-arm tactics of the CCP is also affecting Chinese international students who are paying four to five times more for an education, but are having to become incognito spies for the embassy or who get bullied to follow party lines and protest initiatives that are deemed threatening, instead of focusing on their education. Anonymous Chinese students have written to their student unions saying they’re terrified by the presence of organizations like Canadian CSSAs [Chinese Students and Scholars Associations], which are reporting campus activities to the Chinese government.”
Incidents related to foreign interference in academia can generally be broken down into three categories: interference with events, campus harassment, and funding of academic institutes.
Interference with Events
There have been several incidents where foreign regimes have been accused of attempting to cancel or disrupt events.
For example, in February 2019, two Muslim student groups held an event on the Uyghur genocide at McMaster University in Hamilton, featuring Rukiye Turdush, a Canadian citizen and ethnic Uyghur activist, as a speaker. Several Chinese students organized themselves via WeChat to disrupt the event. The event was disrupted by at least five Chinese student groups, and filmed by unidentified Chinese students, one of whom “verbally assaulted” Turdush during her presentation. When we interviewed Rukiye, she told us that she believes this person may not have been a student at all, and was rather merely a CCP spy. She said he entered the room first and sat down directly in front of her, near the front of the room. While students were asked not to record her presentation, he was using his phone and computer the entire time.
When showing pictures of the victims of the genocide, Rukiye said “I could see the hatred from his face”. The student identified himself as Chinese, and when Rukiye asked him what he thought of her presentation, he began swearing at her and said that she had no right and could not give this speech. Rukiye responded by saying that “yes, I can”.
Rukiye later saw the video that these disrupting students had filmed and could hear what the group of Chinese students were saying, as it was circulating on WeChat. One student said, “[w]e have been told by the embassy to report this event to the Chinese student association and the school”. Another student was heard instructing the others to determine who her son is – a student at McMaster – presumably so that he could be harassed as well. WeChat messages showed that the protest had been a coordinated effort between students and the Chinese consulate in Toronto. It is believed the disrupting students then reported back to Chinese consulate officials. One of the messages, from an anonymous person stated, “We told you guys to disrupt this separatist’s speech. How come only five people came?” Rukiye highlights that they were instructed and organized to disrupt her speech well in advance.
In response, the campus organizations that hosted the event wrote a letter to Canada’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and then-Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, asking the government to look into the Chinese government’s role in directing students to silence activists on campus.
One of the student groups that disrupted the event, the CSSA, released a bulletin about the event, harshly condemning the university for allowing this type of event to go forward. The CSSA operates on hundreds of university campuses across the world and are often backed or closely tied to Chinese embassies and consulates.
After the CSSA disrupted the talk, the Student Representative Assembly (SRA) – McMaster’s student union – revoked permission for the group to operate on campus over their alleged links to the Chinese government. There were concerns that the CSSA were reporting fellow students to the Chinese Embassy. In September 2022, the club was de-ratified, and no longer allowed to operate, with immediate effect. SRA member Simrangeet Singh said that allowing the organization to continue to operate “undermines the safety of students on campus”, and while they cannot change what is happening in China, “we do have the ability to try to protect people who are here at McMaster”.
Rukiye told us of another event she organized in London, Ontario, in which two people she believes are CCP agents tried to infiltrate. She said they were taking photos of attendees, including specifically trying to take photos of her youngest son. She said they refused to show identification and refused to delete the photos they had taken. In response, Rukiye took their photo and reported the incident to the RCMP. Rukiye said that this was the second time she has been followed in public.
In another instance, in spring 2019, the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University held an event hosting Dolkun Isa, President of World Uyghur Congress. Kyle Matthews, executive director of the Montreal Institute, was contacted the day before the event by the Chinese consul general asking for an urgent meeting. Matthews ignored the request, later finding out that the Chinese consulate in Montreal was trying to cancel the event, even pressuring the mayor of Montreal to do so. The mayor refused to get involved, and the university refused to cancel the event. The consulate claimed that Dolkun was a terrorist and that he should not be allowed to speak on campus. Matthews stated that “[t]his I think shows that a university event attracting 30 people was deemed to be a major foreign policy priority for the Chinese government to disrupt and try to end”.
Louisa told us about another incident where an event hosted at an art college in downtown Toronto was disrupted by Chinese students. The event was about forced organ harvesting; a student who had completed her dissertation on forced organ harvesting in China was hosting a film screening at the school, and Louisa and a lawyer were asked to speak on a panel following the screening.
Louisa told us that a group of Chinese students had tried to have the event cancelled. While university officials met with the student organizing the event, they allowed it to proceed, citing freedom of expression. Louisa said that the crowd in the large lecture hall was approximately 98% Chinese, clearly had leaders, and was purposefully organized. Throughout the film, the students continually disrupted the event, yelling that the documentary was not true, and asking “very inappropriate” questions. At the end of the event, one student from the disrupting group came up to one of the panelists and asked whether he was paid to be at the event. The panelist replied that no, he had not been paid to attend, and asked the student the same question – was he paid to be at the event? The student said that yes, he was paid to be there. Louisa said that she saw a large group of the students deliberating together afterward and believes that they were receiving instructions from the Chinese consulate.
Chemi Lhamo, a Canadian citizen of Tibetan dissent, was attacked by Chinese students in 2019 when she successfully ran for student elections at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Speaking to the Parliamentary Special Committee on Canada-China Relations in May 2021, Chemi shared about her “experiences of the CCP attempting to silence and infringe upon [her] right to freedom of speech and expression, even in an open and democratic society like Canada”.
Chemi detailed how she was intimidated on social media, receiving thousands of harassing comments on her social media posts when she ran for student president. She received rape and death threats targeting her and her family. One commentator led Chemi to believe that her mother may be dead; another said, “that the bullet that would go through [her] was made in China”. Chemi testified that the backlash was “because of [her] Tibetan identity – not because of [her] work or [her] capabilities”. Prior to the student election, a message circulated on WeChat calling on Chinese international students to ensure that Chemi did not become president to prevent the student union from being “controlled by Tibetan separatists”. Chemi believes that due to the pace at which numerous Chinese students rallied against her, they were likely directed by the Chinese consulate.
Campus security was utterly unprepared to help Chemi. The head of security described her case as “beyond [their] pay grade”, and she was merely given a walkie-talkie to stay safe. Chemi has also gone to Toronto Police, CSIS, and the RCMP, but she has “just been pointed from one direction to the other”. Throughout her presidential term at the university, Chemi continued to receive threats. She testified that “prior to COVID-19, students on … campus who threatened to kill and rape me roamed freely [and] pointed, stared, followed and took photos of people whom I communicated with”. She testified that as a result, she had “friends actually escorting [her] to the washrooms”.
Hong Kongers and Uyghurs are also harassed on university campuses. For example, Louisa told us that when students hosted an event at a Canadian university on protests in Hong Kong, many Chinese students came to disrupt the event and harass those present. At another event in which students were raising awareness about the democratic movement in Hong Kong, campus security had to attend the event to separate students as “mainland Chinese students tried to assault them”. Louisa said that “we all know they were funded by [the] Chinese consulate”.
Rukiye Turdush told us that Uyghur students are often harassed on Canadian campuses but are too scared to speak with the media or with Canadian government officials. She said that they do not attend events as they are concerned about being noticed by spies. She said that psychologically, it is too much pressure on young students whose families are at risk in China, and thus they cannot speak out. Rukiye described that Chinese police harass Uyghur students in Canada through video calls, where they may ask for their school address and/or information about their status in Canada. She said that some students have had to officially disown their parents in order to protect their families back home. She said that Uyghur students are often scared to even speak to her, because they are concerned that the CCP is monitoring their calls. Students often worry that if they become involved in activities in Canada, their parents in China will be sent to camps. Those whose parents are already in camps have told Rukiye that they fear their parents will be killed if they become involved.
China is not the only authoritarian state interfering in the academic sector. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, many university students have reported a sharp increase of anti-Ukrainian sentiment on university campuses in Canada. While there are many individuals in the Russian diaspora, and some within Russia itself, that do not support the war or the regime more generally, there have been several instances of targeted attacks by Russians against Ukrainians in Canada.
For example, on January 26, 2023, the Carleton Ukrainian Students’ Society, a student organization at Carleton University in Ottawa, released a statement on “Acts of Hate Against Ukrainian Students”. The statement reads that the club is concerned about the “drastic increase in hate symbols and harassment towards Ukrainian students”, and is particularly concerned about a “recent unauthorized pro-Russian propaganda and disinformation event” held at the university.
The club explains that this event, held by the Ottawa Peace Council, the Young Communist League, and other groups, “featured known provocateurs Yves Engler, Miguel Figueroa and Tamara Lorinz, who appear to be funded by Russian interests”. The club does not define what they mean by “funded by Russian interests”, but state that Lorinz is “known for her disruption of meetings of Canadian high officials”, Figueroa served as leader of the Communist Party of Canada for 23 years, and Egler is a frequent guest on Russia Today, a news channel banned from Canadian airwaves for peddling disinformation.
After reporting the event to university officials, the club was told that the event was unauthorized, the event’s room booking would be rescinded, and that campus security would not allow the event to take place “as it incited violence”. Despite this, the event went forward, with university officials citing that they wished to promote free speech on campus. Ukrainian students at the event said they were made to feel “incredibly unsafe”, and that the event was “encouraging genocide”.
Considering the increasing harassment of Ukrainian students on campus, the Carleton Ukrainian Students’ Society made several recommendations for the university, including developing a “policy which condemns disinformation and propaganda on campus, in line with the Canadian government’s efforts to tackle disinformation surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine”.
Funding of Academic Institutes
Some of those we interviewed expressed concern about foreign interference via the funding of academic institutes. Grace said that the CCP can influence foreign universities with funding, so that they “become China institutes”. She said they pressure Chinese academics abroad on what they can and cannot study, manipulate researchers, and threaten that they will have trouble doing research or academic projects in China if they do not comply.
Louisa conducts research for a large Canadian university. She said that once, while presenting her work on China’s human rights abuses at a Chinese Professor’s Association forum, a colleague began yelling and berating her, saying that she should not present on this topic, even though she had received funding and ethics approval from the university for her research.
In January 2023, the Globe and Mail found extensive collaboration between Canadian universities and Chinese military scientists over the past several years. They found that researchers across 50 Canadian universities published hundreds of joint scientific papers, between the years of 2005 and 2022, in collaboration with researchers connected to China’s military, including on automated surveillance. 240 papers were written in collaboration with the National University of Defence Technology (“NUDT”), the primary research arm of the People’s Liberation Army, which was blacklisted by the US in 2015 for posing “a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national-security or foreign-policy interests of the United States”.
Between 2017 and 2022, researchers at the University of Waterloo, one of Canada’s top research universities, published 46 papers in collaboration with NUDT scientists. Some of this research was on photonics, a key technology in many national security systems.
In response to the Globe and Mail’s report, the federal government announced that it will no longer fund research produced in collaboration with Chinese military and state security institutions. Additionally, they announced that national-security risk assessments would be conducted on research grant applications from three federal agencies.
The University of Waterloo issued guidelines to faculty and researchers, advising them that they are not required to speak to CSIS officials or grant them access to university equipment in their investigations into joint research projects with foreigners. The memo stated that individuals may be approached by CSIS agents who “may be concerned that you could be a target of a foreign state or entity, or they may have questions about some of your activities”. The University stated that the guidelines are to safeguard their work and protect their privacy.
Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, former executive vice-president at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council explained that the “University of Waterloo is the number one target of China to gain access to our most advanced technology and so that puts them on the front line of helping our researchers to protect their own work and protect Canadian technology especially as it may be used by the Chinese military”. In May 2023, the University of Waterloo announced that it would be ending all research partnerships with Huawei to “safeguard scientific research” at the university. The university stated that they realize this will risk some researchers’ work as they will lose a significant amount of funding, but called upon Canadian businesses and government to partner with the university to make up for this lost funding.
The funding and operation of Confucius Institutes may also be problematic. Confucius Institutes, which purport to be Chinese language and cultural education centers, have been established at over 500 schools and universities across the world since 2004. They have deep ties with the CCP, and have been accused of undermining academic freedom at host institutions by engaging in espionage, surveillance, and control of Chinese international students, and furthering China’s interests abroad.
According to the National Association of Scholars, Confucius Institutes “undermine academic integrity and import censorship”. A 2013 CSIS report accused them of political interference and censorship – they do not allow the “discussion of topics that the Chinese government deems sensitive”.
Students who do not engage satisfactorily have their families in China threatened. Teachers are required to adhere to strict teachings. Falun Gong practitioners are barred from teaching, which violates Canadian laws. Some critics have called it a “trojan horse” for Chinese propaganda and influence. Ivy Li, a member of the group Canadian Friends of Hong Kong said that “[o]ur universities are being used as a platform to promote (China’s) message, and that message is disinformation”.
Sheng Xue said that the CCP claims that Confucius Institutes are about education, language, culture, and history, but that they are not about this at all. She said that it is hypocritical for the CCP to support language development when Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, and others are not allowed to speak their language in their homeland. She also said that there are 1.7 million Chinese people in Canada, and that “there is no need at all” for the CCP to export the language or culture to Canada, as community groups can do this instead. Rather, these organizations are a front to propagate CCP interests. She described that “Confucius Institutes are the soft power of the CCP landed abroad”.
In 2014, the Toronto Chinese Consulate allegedly paid $1 million to proxy groups to organize protests to support the continued integration of the culture-education program into Toronto’s district school board system. These protests ultimately failed as the Toronto School District Board trustees voted against it.
Some Canadian universities, such as McMaster University, have cut ties with Confucius Institutes. However, as of 2020, at least ten Confucius Institutions were still hosted in Canada – by two school boards, two colleges and six universities.
Businesses in Canada have also been the target of foreign interference. Businesses in Canada may gather intelligence and remit it to foreign states, or may be used to harass and threaten individuals directly. In the past, there have been “strategic investments in sensitive sectors in Canada by companies who obfuscate their state ties”. Foreign companies working in Canada may also steal intellectual property to advance foreign states’ interests.
Iranian Canadian lawyer Ardeshir Zarezadeh shared that Canada allows those associated with the Iranian regime to own and fund businesses and nongovernmental organizations in Canada. As such, Zarezadeh has begun compiling a list of names and addresses of known Iranian regime affiliates in Canada.
Robert Fife and Steven Chase of the Globe and Mail reported that, in the same CSIS documents about Chinese electoral interference leaked in February 2023, there was evidence that China had instructed its consulates and visa offices to alert Chinese officials of influential Canadians planning visits to China. The Bank of China, a state-owned financial institution, was also instructed to report the travel plans of Canadian business executives attending conferences in China that were sponsored by the bank.
Fenella Sung, a leader in Canada’s Hong Kong community, has said that “she has long believed that Chinese intelligence has infiltrated Canadian diaspora groups, by using business inducements and ‘subtle psychological warfare’”.There are many specific examples of this occurring.
In one incident, detailed above, Anastasia Lin was dropped by her pageant sponsor, a Toronto dress shop owned by a Chinese Canadian, after the shop received a harassing email from the Chinese consulate. Another Falun Gong practitioner that we interviewed told us about an incident when the Shen Yun Performing Arts group (“Shen Yun”) came to her city. The practitioner told us that the owners of a large grocery store had agreed to sponsor Shen Yun’s show in the city. The grocery store owners also owned a restaurant frequented by Consulate employees. Immediately after the grocery store agreed, but before the sponsorship was made public, the owners received a call from the Consulate telling them not to sponsor the group.
William told us about his friend who owns a grocery store in his city. He said that the grocery store distributes the Falun Gong newspaper, the Epoch Times, for free. Additionally, he would post anti-CCP content on WeChat. His friend told him that one day a woman entered the store, said that she represents the CCP, and warned him not to distribute the paper anymore or he would have issues in China. William’s friend did eventually return to China for a short trip, where he was detained, placed in a black room, and interrogated for many hours. As a result, upon returning to Canada, he stopped posting anything that he believed the CCP would not like.
Sheng Xue told us that the CCP tried to prevent her from publishing a book critical of China. In 2001, when Sheng Xue was working on her book, her husband’s younger brother called her and asked her not to publish it. When they asked how he knew about the book, he said that he had been taken to a police station and asked to stop his sister-in-law in Canada from publishing a book, and that this is a very serious matter.
Soon after doing a media interview about her book, she received a phone call from a friend, a Canadian citizen, asking to buy the manuscript for a large amount of money. She refused. He then suggested that she give the manuscript to her husband to bring back to Beijing. When she asked why, he said not to worry, that they would not kidnap him, and just that “our people want to read the book before its published”. She said the kidnapping comment had struck her as very odd, as she had not mentioned anything about her husband being kidnapped. He again offered to pay a large sum for the book, which she again refused. He then told her that he had $4,000 USD in cash at his home, that he would bring her if she at least let him read the book. She said no. He asked her to send him an email explaining the reasons for her refusal. She said that she wrote the email because she understood that he needed to report to higher-ups in China. The next day, her email was bombarded with spam. Sheng Xue said that she received several harassing phone calls about the book. One time she received a call asking, “what about $1 million USD?” When asked for what, the caller said, “to buy the copyright of your book so it can never be published”. When she refused, the caller became very upset, cursed at her, and hung up.
Part III. Legal Frameworks and Available Mechanisms
There is very little, if any, research on host governments’ obligations to combat transnational repression and foreign interference. Marcus Michaelsen and Johannes Thumfart point out that as the human rights approach primarily focuses on the relationship between authoritarian states and their subjects or victims abroad, it obscures the role and interests of host states.
However, it is evident that Canada is legally obligated to protect people within its borders against certain human rights violations. As a result, failing to sufficiently respond to incidents of transnational repression and foreign interference could put Canada in violation of its international legal obligations. Failing to sufficiently respond could also put Canada in violation of its domestic laws.
The following sections cover the relevant legal frameworks and available mechanisms, including Canada’s responses so far to combat incidents of transnational repression and foreign interference. We ultimately conclude that the Canadian government is not responding sufficiently to these incidents, setting the stage in Part IV for a series of recommendations.
International Legal Framework
Before discussing the relevant international laws, it is important to understand how Canada itself views international law. In essence, Canada is both a monist and dualist country, meaning that different rules apply regarding the implementation of international law into the domestic framework, depending on the source of the law.
According to Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, there are four sources of international law:
international conventions, whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states;
international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law;
the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations; and
subject to the provisions of Article 59, judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.
- For the first source, international conventions, also known as international treaty law, Canada follows the dualist approach. This means that treaties to which Canada is a party must be implemented by legislative or executive act to become part of Canadian law. They do not automatically apply. In other words, although Canada’s ratification of an international treaty creates international legal obligations for Canada, it must be incorporated into domestic legislation for those obligations “to be given the force of law domestically”.
For the second source, international custom, also known as customary international law, Canada follows the monist approach. This means that legal rules that have achieved the status of customary international law are considered Canadian law without any additional legislative or executive action. In R v Hape, the Supreme Court of Canada accepted that Canadian “courts may adopt rules of customary international law as common law rules in order to base their decisions upon them, provided there is no valid legislation that clearly conflicts with the customary rule”.
However, customary international law establishing international crimes in Canada follow the dualist approach. Thus, international crimes must be implemented by domestic statute. Customary international criminal law must either be found in Canadian law or have Canadian law explicitly refer to the customary international criminal law as being supplementary to reflect these concepts into Canadian law.
Some principles are found in both international treaty law and customary international law. The principle of non-refoulement, for example, is both codified in international treaty law and has reached the status of customary international law.
According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to which Canada is a party, states are obligated to recognize the supremacy of international treaty law and customary international law. It prohibits Canada from invoking domestic law to justify failing to abide by a treaty. This obligation also exists under customary international law, applying to both treaties and customary international law. As such, under both international convention and international custom, Canada is legally obligated to implement any legislative changes necessary to comply with the treaties to which it is party, and customary international law.
Canada has ratified or acceded to most international human rights treaties, and taken steps to enact them through domestic law. The human rights obligations arising from these treaties may therefore apply to all levels of government in Canada.
There is no international treaty on transnational repression. Nor does any treaty even explicitly mention transnational repression. However, there are some treaties that may cover certain acts of transnational repression, and thus may provide remedies to victims. They may also impose obligations on Canada to protect victims or provide them with avenues for recourse.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, after 48 countries, including Canada, voted to adopt it. It established the first list of fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Since, Canada has ratified numerous UN human rights treaties, and submits reports on their implementation.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
“International human rights law lays down obligations which States are bound to respect. By becoming parties to international treaties, States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect, and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights.” [emphasis added]
The human rights treaties most relevant to transnational repression, from the Canadian perspective, are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) and the Refugee Convention. Canada is a party to both the ICCPR and the Refugee Convention. Russia, China, and Iran are all also states parties or signatories to the ICCPR and the Refugee Convention.
There are several rights in the ICCPR that impose obligations on the Canadian government relevant to transnational repression. Most of these rights are reflected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These rights include the right to life; the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to liberty and security of the person; the right to hold opinions without interference and freedom of expression; the right to peaceful assembly; and freedom of association with others. Particularly relevant to transnational repression in Canada are Articles 17, 25, and 27 of the ICCPR.
Article 17 (1) of the ICCPR states that “[n]o one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation”. Article 17 (2) states that “[e]veryone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” Article 25 of the ICCPR provides that “[e]very citizen shall have the right and the opportunity … [t]o take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives [and t]o have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.” Finally, Article 27 states that “[i]n those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.”
Article 2 of the ICCPR provides that state party obligations under the ICCPR apply to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction. Article 2 also provides that each state party to the ICCPR “undertakes to take the necessary steps, in accordance with its constitutional processes and with the provisions of the present Covenant, to adopt such laws or other measures as may be necessary to give effect to the rights recognized in the present Covenant”.
The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR-OP1″) was ratified by Canada in 1976. Under Article 1 of the ICCPR-OP1, state parties allow the Human Rights Committee to consider a complaint by an individual that the state party has violated their rights under the ICCPR. Individuals can only make a complaint to the Human Rights Committee after all domestic remedies have first been exhausted.
The Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (“Refugee Protocol”) are also relevant. These treaties outline the key rights and international standards of protection for refugees. The Refugee Convention outlines the obligations of host states toward refugees, and minimum standards for their treatment.
Canada, as a signatory to the Refugee Convention, is obligated to protect refugees on its territory. Under the Convention, refugees have, inter alia, the right to freedom of religion, the right of association, the right to access the legal system, the right to education and employment, the right to public relief and assistance, and the right to freedom of movement.
Initially, the Refugee Convention only applied to those displaced as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951. The Refugee Protocol removed both the temporal and geographical restrictions, and thus the Refugee Convention now applies universally. Canada acceded to both the Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol in 1969.
Beyond the ICCPR and the Refugee Convention, additional human rights treaties may be applicable from the perspective of the authoritarian regimes engaged in transnational repression, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (“CAT”), the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (“ICMW”), and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (“CPED”).
The applicability of each of these treaties would depend on the facts of the incident of transnational repression. For instance, China, Russia, and Iran are all states parties to the ICERD, and the ICERD defines “racial discrimination” broadly, to include discrimination on grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin. It is arguable that, especially relating to China and Russia, much of their repression beyond their borders discriminates on the basis of “national or ethnic origin”. For example, China targets Uyghurs across the globe, including in Canada, and the Uyghurs are a distinct ethnic group. Russia targets Ukrainians, people distinguishable by national origin. As a result, these authoritarian regimes may be in breach of their international legal obligations under the ICERD, in the context of their acts of transnational repression.
China, Russia, and Iran are also all states parties to the ICESCR, which protects economic, social and cultural rights. The ICESCR includes reference to many such rights, including the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (Article 12), and the right to take part in cultural life (Article 15). As detailed above, transnational repression impacts these rights, by instilling fear and sowing distrust in diaspora communities, and preventing members from actively engaging in various activities and communications. As a result, these authoritarian regimes engaged in transnational repression that are states parties to the ICESCR may be in breach of their international legal obligations under this Covenant.
China and Russia are also states parties to the CAT. To the extent that Chinese or Russian government actions involve involuntary returns, this would likely constitute a breach of their international legal obligations under the CAT. For instance, if Uyghurs are forcibly returned to China, they would very likely face arbitrary detention and torture upon their return. This may also apply to any involuntary return by Russia. Iran is not a state party to the CAT, but the prohibition against torture is a feature of customary international law (and a jus cogens norm), which would make it binding on Iran as well.
The ICMW and the CPED might also be breached by certain incidents of transnational repression. Although the ICMW would apply only to migrant workers – and not to refugees – it guarantees certain rights for this population, including the right of migrant workers and members of their families to have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and to be free from arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, correspondence or other communications, or to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation. The CPED applies to prohibit enforced disappearance, which it defines as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty” by government agents or those acting with “authorization, support or acquiescence” of a government. None of China, Russia, or Iran are states parties to either of these treaties, although one might make an argument that at least some of the provisions of these treaties may constitute customary international law, and would be binding on all states.
Breach of Sovereignty
Under international law, a state’s authority applies within its territory and to its nationals. Operating within the territory of another state without permission breaches international norms of sovereign independence and territorial integrity. As such, transnational repression can be considered a violation of a state’s sovereignty.
Transnational repression involves government action on another state’s territory, which is tightly restricted under international law. The International Court of Justice has held that a state cannot exercise its jurisdiction outside its territory unless an international treaty or customary law allows it to do so.
Further, in the context of digital transnational repression, incidents can violate state sovereignty in three main ways: by constituting extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction; by distorting public debate and interfering with national self-determination; and by impeding the host state’s adherence to fundamental norms of international law.
Regarding non-digital modes of enforcement, the prohibition of extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction is non-controversial. Michaelson and Thumfart then explain that digital modes of enforcement should be treated equally to physical enforcement and amount to extraterritorial enforcement jurisdiction prohibited by international law if committed without the agreement of the host state. For example, in criminal law, obtaining evidence from servers abroad is considered a physical intrusion into a different jurisdiction, and usually require agreements such as a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
The second way that digital transnational repression violates state sovereignty is by interfering with national self-determination, or with a state’s domaine réservé, which “describes the areas of State activity that are internal or domestic affairs of a State and are therefore within its domestic jurisdiction or competence”. Transnational repression interferes in the self-determination of the host states in this way by preventing individuals from participating in political life, and either silencing or distorting their voices. The repression of individuals can thus affect foreign policy and minimize criticism of authoritarian regimes abroad.
The prohibition of cyber intervention, as outlined in the Tallinn Manual, is based on both the interference with another state’s domaine réservé and the coerciveness of the interference. It states that cyber intervention refers to “acts of interference with a sovereign prerogative of another State that have coercive effect”, or that are designed to influence outcomes in matters reserved to a target state. Additionally, the coercive act must have the potential for compelling the target state to engage in an action that it would otherwise not take, or to refrain from taking an action that it would otherwise take.
Michaelson and Thumfart assert that even transnational repression incidents against individuals could be coercive if they are undertaken “with the intention to alter the host state’s political agency, rather than the political agency of the individual dissident”.
Finally, Michaelsen and Thumfart argue that transnational repression violates sovereignty by preventing states from meeting their international obligations.
Transnational repression interferes with several basic rights, including the right to privacy, free speech, and to seek and enjoy political asylum. As described above, states are obligated, under both domestic and international law, to uphold certain fundamental rights. Due to the importance of these fundamental rights, “any form of transnational repression against political emigrants, including in its digital forms, must be regarded as an interference with the political will and the sources of legitimacy of a State, and hence, a violation of its sovereignty”. Acts of transnational repression “undermine the credibility of the host state as the holder of effective control of the monopoly on enforcement jurisdiction and the guarantee of fundamental rights”. They challenge the host state’s authority, seeking to undermine trust in public institutions and instill societal division. This is a particular challenge in Canada, a country that takes in hundreds of thousands of immigrants and refugees yearly, in building trust within diaspora communities and allowing them to fully integrate into Canadian society.
Michaelson and Thumfart provide an example regarding Eritrean refugees in Canada.
The Eritrean regime is one of the most repressive in the world. Under the dictatorship of President Isaias Afewerki, Eritreans are subjected to widespread forced labour; restrictions on various freedoms including freedom of religion and expression; and prolonged, unlawful detentions. The country has no legislature, no independence of the judiciary, no independent civil society, and no elections. Eritrea has also sided with Russia in its acts of aggression against Ukraine.
Canada imposed sanctions related to Eritrea under the United Nations Act, which entered into force in 2010. Sanctions included prohibitions on “sale, supply or transfer of arms and related material to Eritrea”, and asset freezes and travel bans. In addition, Eritrean forces have been implicated as cooperating with Ethiopian forces in the commission of crimes against Tigrayans in the context of the recent Tigrayan conflict. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has concluded that a number of these crimes may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Eritrean government has for years imposed a 2% income tax on Eritreans living abroad, also known as the “diaspora tax”, using threats to family members still living in Eritrea to ensure the tax is paid. In 2013, Canada banned the “diaspora tax” and has prohibited the solicitation of funds for the Eritrean military. Despite this, the collection of the tax continues although a “greater emphasis has been placed on voluntary contributions through concerts and cultural events organized by PFDJ.”
Beyond constituting repression of the Eritrean communities in Canada, and threats to family members at home, the monies collected may be used to fund atrocity crimes abroad, both in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Recently, a group of parliamentarians in the UK called for an investigation into the Eritrean diaspora tax as they were concerned that the revenue has been used to fund Eritrea’s war effort in Tigray. Despite Canada’s prohibition of the “diaspora tax” as illegal, Eritrean refugees have reported that they were pushed to break Canadian law as they were forced to donate money for military activities in Eritrea by embassy staff. By contravening efforts of the Canadian government to protect refugees and integrate them into Canada, Eritrea and other authoritarian regimes breach Canadian sovereignty by engaging in this type of “coerced allegiance to the … origin country[,] … contrary to the law of the host state”, which further lowers “the host societies’ capacity to integrate … migrants”.
International Legal Mechanisms
There are no specific international mechanisms to deal with transnational repression. There is no specialized treaty relating to transnational repression, nor is there a specific United Nations special procedure on transnational repression. However, there are a number of international legal mechanisms that may be leveraged. These include the International Court of Justice, United Nations human rights bodies, and perhaps the International Criminal Court, in certain instances.
International Court of Justice
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and is located in The Hague, The Netherlands. It was established by the United Nations Charter in 1945 and began working in 1946. Its role is to settle international legal disputes between states. Generally, the ICJ cannot make a binding ruling unless both states to the dispute agree that the ICJ shall settle the dispute. However, states do not always have to provide consent on a case-by-case basis; states may consent to have disputes adjudicated by the ICJ in advance, for example by accepting the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, or by signing onto a relevant treaty that provides that disputes concerning its provisions shall be settled by the ICJ.
Regarding compulsory jurisdiction, neither China nor Russia have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction. Iran recently accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction, but only in relation to disputes regarding “the jurisdictional immunities of the State and State property” and “immunity from measures of constraint against State or State property”. As a result, none of China, Russia, or Iran could be brought before the ICJ over incidents of their transnational repression using compulsory jurisdiction. Pakistan has made a declaration recognizing the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction, but has included a number of specific exclusions, including “all matters related to the national security of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. No other authoritarian regime discussed in this report has made a declaration recognizing the Court’s compulsory jurisdiction.
A more likely route to the ICJ is through one of the relevant human rights treaties discussed above. As noted, various human rights treaties may be breached by authoritarian regimes engaged in transnational repression, including the ICCPR, the ICERD, the ICESCR, the CAT, the ICMW, and the CPED. Some of these treaties contain ICJ dispute resolution clauses.
The ICERD, the CAT, the ICMW, and the CPED all contain provisions that provide that disputes shall be submitted to the ICJ. Therefore, by ratifying those treaties, states parties essentially consent in advance to the ICJ’s jurisdiction over disputes arising.
Article 22 of the ICERD provides that “[a]ny dispute between two or more States Parties with respect to the interpretation or application of this Convention, which is not settled by negotiation … shall, at the request of any of the parties to the dispute, be referred to the International Court of Justice…”.
Article 30, paragraph 1 of the CAT similarly provides that:
“Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention which cannot be settled through negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months from the date of the request for arbitration the Parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those Parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by request in conformity with the Statute of the Court.”
Article 92, paragraph 1 of the ICMW, as well as Article 42, paragraph 1 of the CPED, are almost word-for-word the same as the above.
The ICJ recently reaffirmed in its order on provisional measures in the case of Gambia v. Myanmar (relying on Belgium v. Senegal) that a state need not be “specially affected” to bring a case against another state party for breach of the Genocide Convention. The court concluded “that any State party … and not only a specially affected State, may invoke the responsibility of another State party”. This should be applicable to states parties bringing disputes to the ICJ under other human rights treaties.
Therefore, a state party such as Canada that may not have been “specially affected”, should not be barred from bringing a case to the ICJ for this reason. If the state is a party to the relevant treaty, they should be able to bring the case before the ICJ.
China, Russia, and Iran are all states parties to the ICERD, as is Canada. China and Russia are states parties to the CAT, as is Canada. Iran is not a state party to the CAT, and none of China, Russia, Iran, or Canada are states parties to the ICMW or the CPED.
China has made reservations under each treaty declaring that they are not bound by Article 22 of the ICERD, or Article 30 of the CAT, respectively.
Under international law, a state may sign and ratify a treaty, but make certain reservations regarding articles to which it does not consent to be bound. As described by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “[a] reservation is a statement … made by a State by which it purports to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of a treaty in their application to that State. A reservation may enable a State to participate in a multilateral treaty in which it would otherwise be unable or unwilling to do so.” However, “[r]eservations cannot be incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty”. Therefore, a state party may bring a dispute against the Chinese government for its violations of the ICERD and/or the CAT and ask the ICJ to conclude that the Chinese government’s reservation(s) should be considered invalid because they are incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty.
The ICJ examined this question in the context of the Genocide Convention in the case of Rwanda’s reservation. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) contended “that Rwanda’s reservation was invalid because it sought to prevent the Court from safeguarding peremptory norms”. Although the Court in that case disagreed with the DRC and held that the reservation was not incompatible with the object and purpose of the Genocide Convention, Judge Koroma provided a strong dissenting opinion. Judge Koroma held that Rwanda’s Article IX reservation was contrary to the object and purpose of the Genocide Convention, which is “the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, and this encompasses holding a State responsible whenever it is found to be in breach of its obligations under the Convention”.
There is no concept of stare decisis in international law (i.e., relying on precedent set by previous cases or decisions). The Statute of the International Court of Justice, at Article 59, explicitly provides that a “decision of the Court has no binding force except between the parties and in respect of that particular case.” This means that if asked again, and especially in a different situation and in regard to a different treaty, the ICJ would be free to decide differently. The ICJ would be free to decide that China’s reservations under this and other treaties are invalid.
This means that Canada may be able initiate a case against China at the ICJ under the ICERD and/or CAT for certain instances of their transnational repression, and request that the ICJ find China’s reservation(s) invalid so that they can examine the case. Canada may also initiate cases against Russia at the ICJ under the ICERD and/or the CAT. Although Iran is also a state party to the ICERD, there is less of an indication that Iran’s transnational repression fits under that treaty, as it does not appear based on race or ethnic or national origin.
A final option is bringing a case against China and/or Russia under the UN Genocide Convention, which also contains an ICJ dispute resolution provision.
Incidents of transnational repression by China would not, in isolation, constitute genocide. However, the Chinese government has been found, by multiple, credible bodies, to be responsible for committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.
For instance, as early as October 2020, and following multiple hearings on the subject, the Canadian Subcommittee on International Human Rights was “persuaded that the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention”. The Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights concluded, based on the evidence, that the Chinese government is committing genocide under all five underlying acts enumerated in Article II of the Genocide Convention. Numerous parliaments and governments have recognized the genocide, including in Canada, the US, Ireland, Taiwan, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Belgium, and the European parliament. China’s use of transnational repression must be seen in this context.
There is also evidence that Russia is in breach of the UN Genocide in the context of Ukraine. Russia’s use of transnational repression should also be seen in this context.
Both China and Russia are states parties to the Genocide Convention. Article IX of the Genocide Convention provides that,
“Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.”
China has made a reservation, declaring that it is not bound by Article IX. However, for the same reasons as above, a state party to the Genocide Convention may still initiate a case at the ICJ, and ask the Court to find that China’s reservation is invalid for being incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty. Russia has not made a reservation.
A final option is to seek an advisory opinion from the ICJ. The ICJ is entitled to provide advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and agencies. An advisory opinion is not binding, but it does often carry persuasive weight. For example, following the ICJ’s 2004 advisory opinion, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory, referred to it by the UN General Assembly, Israeli courts overseeing a wall’s construction directed Israel’s government to adjust its direction due to constitutionality concerns. Although Israel did not accept the ICJ’s opinion, it still changed course. Seeking an advisory opinion from the ICJ on Chinese, Russian, and/or Iranian culpability for incidents of transnational repression may push these regimes to change course. Of course, the major hurdle to seeking an advisory opinion would be to get the necessary votes in the UN General Assembly or other authorized UN organ or agency. This may prove difficult with the influence held by particularly China and Russia at the United Nations.
United Nations Human Rights Bodies
Violations of internationally recognized human rights can be brought to the various UN human rights bodies. These include the human rights treaty bodies; the special procedures, including special rapporteurs and working groups; and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Human rights treaty bodies are tasked with monitoring states parties’ compliance with international human rights treaties. Each human rights treaty is monitored by its own human rights treaty body. For example, the Committee against Torture monitors states parties’ implementation and compliance with the Convention Against Torture; the Human Rights Committee monitors states parties’ implementation and compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and the Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors states parties’ implementation and compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Human rights treaty bodies may investigate Chinese, Russian, and/or Iranian compliance with treaties to which they have acceded, and publish periodic reports.
Treaty bodies are generally empowered to engage in country reviews and write periodic reports. However, for the treaty bodies monitoring the CAT, the CPED, and the ICMW to be able to receive and consider complaints about a particular state party, the state party would have had to make a specific declaration recognizing the competence of the treaty body to receive and consider complaints. Regarding the CAT, China has not done so, but Russia has. Regarding the CPED and the ICMW, as noted, none of China, Russia, or Iran are even states parties. Iran is not a state party to the CAT. As a result, complaints may be lodged against Russia for any violations of the CAT, but that is just about the only remedy available pursuant to these human rights treaty bodies.
For the treaty bodies monitoring the ICCPR, the ICESCR, and the ICERD, a state party would have had to ratify the relevant Optional Protocol in order for that body to receive and consider individual complaints. Between China, Russia, and Iran, only Russia has done so and only with respect to the ICCPR and the ICERD.
Inter-state complaints to the treaty body monitoring the ICERD may be launched so long as the state party has not made a reservation pursuant to Articles 11-13 of the ICERD. None of China, Russia, or Iran have done so. As a result, while individual communications are limited to complaints about Russia, the inter-state communications procedure under the ICERD may be leveraged with respect to China, Russia, and Iran.
Inter-state complaints to the treaty body monitoring the ICCPR may be launched only if a specific declaration, recognizing the competence of the Committee, is made by the state party. Neither China nor Iran has done this; Russia has.
The treaty body monitoring compliance with the ICESCR will only consider inter-state complaints if the state parties have ratified the relevant Optional Protocol. As noted, none of China, Russia, or Iran have ratified this Optional Protocol.
In sum, the human rights treaty bodies may be leveraged in several ways. Individuals and/or states may lodge a complaint against Russia for violations of the CAT, the ICCPR, and/or the ICERD. Further, inter-state complaints may be made against China and/or Iran for violations of the ICERD. This is particularly significant for China, considering the depth of evidence that China is engaged in transnational repression of Uyghurs and the broad definition of “racial discrimination” in the ICERD, as discussed above.
Besides leveraging the human rights treaty bodies, complaints of human rights breaches may also be lodged with the special procedures of the Human Rights Council. The special procedures are international human rights experts with mandates to advise and report on human rights from either a thematic or a country-specific perspective. They can act on individual cases of reported violations, conduct annual studies, undertake country visits, and engage in advocacy. Any individual or group can submit information to special procedures.
Special procedures are either special rapporteurs or working groups. Although there is no specific special procedure on transnational repression, several special procedures have mandates that may be relevant, including:
the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention;
the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises;
the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights;
the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances;
the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions;
the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association;
the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health;
- the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders;
the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples;
- the Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order;
- the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy;
- the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief;
- the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and its consequences;
- the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; and
- the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- All these special procedures can be engaged by individuals, groups, or concerned states. One that may be particularly important to engage is the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. The Chinese government justifies its oppression of the Uyghurs by claiming that, among other things, it is countering terrorism. Russia utilizes this justification as well in the context of its crimes against Ukrainians. Engagement by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, and particularly country visits to the relevant regions by that Special Rapporteur, would be valuable.
Complaints of human rights violations may also be lodged with the UN Human Rights Council. Any individual, group, or non-governmental organization can submit a complaint to the Council, against any state member of the United Nations. There are seven criteria for admissibility:
The complaint must be in writing, in one of the six UN official languages (English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, or Spanish);
It must contain a description of the relevant facts, including the names of the alleged victims, dates, and location, and contain as much detail as possible without exceeding 15 pages;
It must not be manifestly politically motivated;
It must not be exclusively based on reports disseminated by mass media;
It is not already being dealt with by a special procedure, a treaty body, or other UN or similar regional complaints procedure in the field of human rights;
- Domestic remedies must have been exhausted, unless it appears that such remedies would be ineffective or unreasonably prolonged;
It must not use language that is abusive or insulting.
- In terms of remedies, the Council can pass a condemnatory resolution or establish a commission of inquiry. In addition, any country can deliver an oral statement to the Council, whether that country is a member or not.
- The difficulty is that the Human Rights Council may only be an option in theory. China’s position may, in effect, preclude action. The UN Human Rights Council has long been populated by some of the world’s worst human rights violators, including China, Eritrea, Sudan, Cuba, and Pakistan. This reality has, unfortunately, served to undermine the credibility of the Human Rights Council and draw the ire of many civil society leaders. However, it is noteworthy that the UN General Assembly recently voted to suspend Russia from the Council in response to its invasion of Ukraine. This may indicate that the Council may be willing to take action vis-à-vis Russia’s transnational repression, and perhaps Iran’s. Further, if China were to be similarly suspended from the Human Rights Council, lodging a human rights violation complaint against China’s transnational repression may be an option not just in theory but in practice.
International Criminal Court
International criminal law is a distinct field that is similarly capable of holding states to account via the prosecution of their high-ranking officials. International criminal law prohibits crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and in some instances, the crime of aggression. Although international criminal law is an expansive field that has seen several international tribunals and other attempts to enforce the law, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands, has the broadest jurisdiction and is most likely to be relevant in these circumstances. The ICC is governed by the Rome Statute and is responsible for prosecuting international criminals.
The ICC has specific jurisdictional restraints: It can only investigate crimes that occur in the territory of a state party, or crimes committed by state party nationals. These restraints are in effect unless the court has received a specific declaration by a non-state party accepting jurisdiction or a mandate from the UN Security Council to investigate a specific situation. Then, it can investigate and prosecute the above-mentioned international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and in some instances, the crime of aggression.
None of China, Russia, or Iran are states parties to the Rome Statute. However, Canada is a state party to the Rome Statute. To the extent that incidents of transnational repression are occurring in Canada (or in the territories of other states that are parties to the Rome Statute), the ICC may have territorial jurisdiction to investigate.
The major hurdle would be construing transnational repression as falling within one of the international crimes contained in the Rome Statute. Incidents of transnational repression would not be war crimes, and would unlikely rise to the level of crimes against humanity. However, certain crimes committed in Canada may arguably be investigable in the context of ongoing genocides.
It is well-established that the Chinese government is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. This has been the conclusion drawn by multiple, credible bodies. For example, the Canadian Subcommittee on International Human Rights in October 2020 concluded that “the actions of the Chinese Communist Party constitute genocide as laid out in the Genocide Convention”. The Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights similarly concluded that the Chinese government is committing genocide under all five underlying acts enumerated in Article II of the Genocide Convention. Numerous parliaments and governments have recognized that China is committing genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, including Canada. China’s use of transnational repression must be seen in this context.
The Chinese government aims to destroy Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, and in pursuit of this aim, pursues them across borders. In an August 2019 report, the Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) documented that the Chinese Communist Party “is implementing a systematic, ambitious, multi-year, well-resourced, relentless and cruel policy to inflict pain and suffering on Uyghurs abroad”. Part II of this report has already detailed the scale of this repression, including the Chinese government’s unprecedented efforts to have Uyghurs outside of China forcibly returned to China, where they would almost certainly face arbitrary detention and torture in Chinese custody. These activities abroad are part and parcel of the genocide happening in China. An argument may be made that the transnational repression occurring in Canada is part of the genocide, and as such, may be properly investigated by the Court.
The same argument may be made for Russia’s targeting of Ukrainians in Canada. Evidence is mounting that Russia is committing genocide against Ukrainians, and the ICC has already opened an investigation into atrocity crimes, including genocide, committed by Russia in Ukraine. To the extent that Russia is engaged in incidents of transnational repression in Canada connected with the genocide abroad, such incidents may be investigable by the ICC as part of its probe into Putin’s genocide.
Domestic Legal Framework and Mechanisms
There is no specific domestic legislation in Canada that effectively tackles foreign interference and transnational repression. There are several domestic laws that may encompass certain incidents, spanning four categories: human rights law, civil law, criminal law, and immigration law. More specific, but still insufficient in their current forms, are the CSIS Act, the Security of Information Act, the Lobbying Act, and the Canada Elections Act. There are also various government agencies and other mechanisms tasked with combatting foreign interference. These domestic laws and mechanisms are discussed in turn.
Human Rights Law
Each province and territory has its own human rights legislation and mechanisms. For example, in Ontario, the human rights system is made up of three agencies: the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which focuses on legal action and policy development; the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, which provides legal help to individuals who have experienced discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Code (“OHRC”); and the Human Rights Tribunal, where human rights applications are filed and decided.
The OHRC, which was enacted in 1962, prohibits actions that discriminate against people based on a protected ground in a protected social area.
The OHRC defines harassment as “a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome”, and includes offensive comments or actions related to the OHRC grounds. The protected grounds include citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, and creed. The five protected social areas are accommodation (housing); contracts; employment; goods, services and facilities; and membership in unions, trade or professional associations.
The OHRC may apply to very specific, individual cases of transnational repression. For example, it could apply to Hannah’s case, whose landlord kicked her out of her Toronto home after discovering that she was a Falun Gong practitioner. Another type of transnational repression that might violate the OHRC are cases of reprisal. Individuals that face reprisal (punishment or retaliation), or threats of reprisal, because they claimed their rights, refused to discriminate against someone else, or participated in a human rights proceeding may bring a claim before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. This could apply, for example, to individuals who have received threats for not cutting off professional contacts due to their ethnicity, like Uyghurs or Tibetans.
One example is that of Daiming Huang, a Chinese Canadian Falun Gong practitioner who brought a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal after having her membership in the Ottawa Chinese Seniors Association (“OCSA”) revoked. Ms. Huang claimed that she faced discriminatory remarks from OCSA leadership and was forced to withdraw her membership, excluding her from their services, due to her belief in Falun Gong. She claimed that her membership was revoked after the OCSA received propaganda from the Chinese government asserting that Falun Gong was an evil cult. The Tribunal heard from an OCSA member who stated that he overheard an official from the Chinese consulate tell the Association that they must exclude Falun Gong practitioners.
While her membership was revoked in late 2001, the Tribunal case was not resolved until 2011. The Tribunal ruled in Ms. Huang’s favour, finding that the OSCA had violated the Ontario Human Rights Code, but did not find that the discrimination was directed by the Chinese embassy. The judge disregarded the testimony concerning the Consul General’s statement as it did “not stand up to examination in terms of reasonableness or consistency with the other evidence and the circumstances”. Ms. Huang was awarded $15,000, but Grace told us that by this time, the OSCA had dissolved, and thus she did not receive any compensation.
There is no analogous federal human rights code in Canada. The rights and freedoms believed to be necessary for a free and democratic society are enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”). Incidents of transnational repression may prevent individuals from exercising their rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Charter. However, the Charter applies only to governments in Canada; it does not apply to actions by organizations, businesses, or people. In certain narrow instances, victims of transnational repression may be able to successfully argue that their Charter rights were violated where, for example, law enforcement officials failed to act. The Charter imposes a mix of positive and negative obligations on governments, and to the extent that the Charter imposes a positive obligation, it may apply to government inaction.
The Charter may also come into play where the Canadian government implements policy or legislation to prevent acts of transnational repression, and that policy or legislation (inadvertently or not) infringes upon Canadians’ Charter rights. To guard against this, the Canadian government should rely on human rights organizations to assist in the drafting and implementation of any policy or legislation designed to combat transnational repression. The government should also work with diaspora organizations at every step.
To our knowledge, neither civil nor criminal law (discussed below) has been used in the context of individual acts of transnational repression in Canada. This is not surprising; victims contemplating civil suits may face several obstacles in seeking justice.
In Canada’s common law system, a civil tort consists of a wrongful act or injury that leads to physical, emotional, or financial damage to a person, and where another person can be held legally responsible. To receive compensation for an intentional tort claim in court, the victim must prove that the defendant intended to cause them harm, and that their injuries directly caused them harm.
There are torts that could potentially be used by victims of transnational repression to seek redress in court. However, there are several issues that may arise in this context.
The first issue stems from identifying perpetrators. It may be difficult to attribute acts to a clear perpetrator to hold responsible. Even where individual perpetrators are identified, they may try to claim diplomatic immunity. Diplomatic immunity generally protects diplomats and embassy personnel from criminal and/or civil proceedings, although this may not be so when an individual does not act in their official capacity. For example, in February 2004, the Deputy Consul General of China in Toronto, Pan Xinchun, was ordered to pay damages to Falun Gong practitioner Joel Chipkar after defaming him in a letter published in the Toronto Star by saying he was a member of a “sinister cult” designed to “instigate hatred”. According to its post-ruling statement, China had made several requests to Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to intervene. The Chinese government also released a statement saying that Mr. Pan was “acting on the instructions of PRC to respond to an attack”, and that he “was acting in the exercise of consular functions and is thus immune from Canadian courts’ jurisdiction”. The judge found that as Mr. Pan was not acting in an official capacity at the time, diplomatic immunity did not protect him in this case.
If one tries to launch a civil suit against a state organ rather than an individual perpetrator, Canada’s State Immunity Act may preclude the action. Canada’s State Immunity Act provides that foreign states are generally immune from the jurisdiction of domestic courts, unless the situation fits one of the specific, limited exceptions articulated in the Act. The majority in Kazemi Estate v. Islamic Republic of Iran held that Canada’s State Immunity Act may also preclude suits against individual perpetrators, to that extent that they are public officials acting in their official capacity. However, a strong dissenting opinion by Justice Abella in that case held that the State Immunity Act does not apply to the individual perpetrators and that the proceedings against those lower-level officials who committed torture is not barred by immunity ratione materiae, as “[t]orture cannot … be an official state act for the purposes of immunity ratione materiae”.
In terms of the potential availability of civil lawsuits for acts of transnational repression, section 6 of the State Immunity Act may apply to restrict the immunity of a foreign state and/or state officials. Section 6 provides that “a foreign state is not immune from the jurisdiction of a court in any proceedings that relate to (a) any death or personal or bodily injury, or (b) any damage to or loss of property that occurs in Canada.”
The case law is clear that Section 6 only applies when the acts causing injury or damage occurred domestically. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that this exception to state immunity “does not apply where the impugned events, or the tort causing the personal injury or death, did not take place in Canada.” However, to the extent that acts of transnational repression occur in Canada and cause death or personal or bodily injury, or any damage to or loss of property – it is possible that foreign states and/or state actors may be susceptible to civil suit.
The Supreme Court of Canada held in Schreiber v. Canada (Attorney General) that the exception to state immunity contained in Section 6 (a) “applies to all torts committed by a foreign state which cause death or personal injury”. The Court in that case further held that this exception “is applicable to both [acts of government] and [acts of a commercial nature]”, as to suggest otherwise would “deprive the victims of the worst breaches of basic rights of any possibility of redress in national courts”. It stated:
“Given the recent trends in the development of international humanitarian law enlarging this possibility in cases of international crime…such a result would jeopardize at least in Canada a potentially important progress in the protection of the rights of the person.”
The scope of personal injury covered by Section 6 (a) is not solely physical. In Walker v. Bank of New York Inc, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that the scope of personal injury covered can include mental distress, emotional upset and the restriction of liberty. In later case law, the Ontario Court of Appeal in United States of America v. Friedland clarified that Section 6 (a) extends to mental distress and emotional upset “only in so far as such harm arises from or is linked to a physical injury”. The Court also clarified in that case that Section (b) “refers to physical harm to or loss or destruction of property” and “does not extend to pure economic loss.
The Supreme Court of Canada in Schreiber v. Canada (Attorney General) agreed with the respondent in Friedland “that the scope of the exception in s. 6(a) is limited to instances where mental distress and emotional upset were linked to a physical injury.” It noted that “[f]or example, psychological distress may fall within the exception where such distress is manifested physically, such as in the case of nervous shock.” The Supreme Court of Canada further clarified in Kazemi Estate v. Islamic Republic of Iran that this exception does not apply where the injury suffered does not stem from a physical breach of personal integrity; rather, it applies “only when psychological distress manifests itself after a physical injury.”
Of course, any claims for harm in a civil suit must still meet the tort law requirement that the action “proximately caused” the injury, which may be difficult to prove.
Relatedly, and with respect to any civil suit, another issue that may arise is that victims may struggle with producing evidence. Despite the burden of proof being lower than in a criminal case, many torts still have high tests to meet. In the case mentioned above, Mr. Pan did not attend the hearing to offer a defense, and thus the allegations, by default, were accepted as admissions.
Finally, these cases can be emotionally and financially taxing. They often take several years to complete. Victims often must relive the trauma they experienced and may have very little support. Victims may have to review all the harassing messages, every post and every comment about them. It can be incredibly difficult and draining.
On top of the mental toll, cases can become expensive. Even if a plaintiff wins, it is possible that a judgment for damages cannot be enforced where the defendant has no assets or cannot be located. A defendant may return to the perpetrating state to avoid paying damages. In Mr. Chipkar’s case, although he was awarded $1,000 for the defamation and $10,000 to cover his legal fees, attempts to access Mr. Pan’s personal bank account at the Bank of China were unsuccessful. The Court issued a notice to seize his personal assets. Grace told us that soon after, Mr. Pan returned to China. However, most provinces and territories do operate victim compensation funds that may allow individuals to receive some compensation.
Assuming these issues can be overcome, there are a handful of torts in Canadian jurisdictions that may cover certain acts of transnational repression, including defamation, intentional infliction of mental suffering, intimidation, and online harassment. Other torts may also be committed in the context of transnational repression, including assault, battery, vandalism, invasion of privacy, or trespassing.
Victims who have suffered damages as a result of an untrue statement may be able to sue for defamation, such as those who have had their reputations smeared online. The Supreme Court of Canada discussed the necessary elements to find a publication defamatory in the seminal case of Grant v. Torstar Corp., stating:
“ A plaintiff in a defamation action is required to prove three things to obtain judgment and an award of damages: (1) that the impugned words were defamatory, in the sense that they would tend to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person; (2) that the words in fact referred to the plaintiff; and (3) that the words were published, meaning that they were communicated to at least one person other than the plaintiff. If these elements are established on a balance of probabilities, falsity and damage are presumed, though this rule has been subject to strong criticism: see, e.g., R. A. Smolla, “Balancing Freedom of Expression and Protection of Reputation Under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms”, in D. Schneiderman, ed., Freedom of Expression and the Charter (1991), 272, at p. 282. … The plaintiff is not required to show that the defendant intended to do harm, or even that the defendant was careless. The tort is thus one of strict liability.”
The tort of intentional infliction of mental suffering is well recognized in Canadian jurisdictions. It may cover harassing conduct in the context of transnational repression; however, its test is often difficult to meet, and awards are not often granted. The test to prove the tort of intentional infliction of mental suffering, set out in Prinzo v. Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, requires the plaintiff to prove that the conduct of the defendant is (1) flagrant and outrageous, (2) calculated to produce harm, and (3) results in a visible and provable illness. The first element is objective. The court must be satisfied that the conduct was objectively, viewed in all of the circumstances, both flagrant and outrageous. The third element is also objective – whether the conduct resulted in a visible and proven illness. The difficult part of the test to meet is the second element. It is not satisfied by mere evidence of foreseeability or reckless disregard. Rather, it must be proven that the harm is substantially certain to follow. Additionally, the kind of harm suffered must have been intended or known to be substantially certain to follow.
The tort of intimidation was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in Central Canada Potash Co. Ltd. et al. v. Government of Saskatchewan. In that case, the Court described the tort of intimidation as follows:
“A commits a tort if he delivers a threat to B that he will commit an act or use means unlawful as against B, as a result of which B does or refrains from doing some act which he is entitled to do, thereby causing damage either to himself or to C. The tort is one of intention and the plaintiff, whether it be B or C, must be a person whom A intended to injure.”
In 2019, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that the tort of harassment does not currently exist in Ontario. The Court in that case stated that the proposed tort of harassment is similar to the already established tort of intentional infliction of mental suffering. As the test for intentional infliction of mental suffering is less onerous than that proposed for harassment, the Court stated that it provides an easier route to a remedy.
However, there have been some recent cases that suggest online harassment may be an emerging tort in Ontario. In Caplan v. Atas, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice drew on precedent from the US, finding that the tort of online harassment should exist in Ontario. The Court in that case created a three-part test:
The defendant maliciously or recklessly engaged in communications conduct so outrageous in character, duration, and extreme in degree so as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and tolerance;
With the intent to cause fear, anxiety, emotional upset or to impugn the dignity of the plaintiff; and
The plaintiff suffers such harm.
- The judge stated that “academic commentators are almost universal in their noting that, while online harassment and hateful speech is a significant problem, there are few practical remedies available for the victims”. In this case, the Court prohibited the defendant from engaging in any harassing or defamatory behavior online and allowed the plaintiffs to seek removal of the offending posts without the defendant’s consent.
The Ontario Superior Court in 385277 Ontario Ltd. v. Gold, also spoke of the “burgeoning tort of online harassment”. The Honourable Justice Myers stated:
- “ Current law is not always adequate to deal with internet harassment. One problem with existing tort law is that, generally, torts require proof of physical or provable mental injury…
 The point of harassment is to cause mental suffering or to change another’s behaviour by subjecting them to unwelcomed torment. It may but need not lead to ‘visible and provable illness’. It may not create a threat of imminent physical harm …
 Existing torts do not necessarily capture the mischief or harm intended by online harassment meant to intimidate.
 The law has recognized for many years the particular threat that internet harassment poses to a person’s reputation and well-being. In 2004, in Barrick Gold Corp. v. Lopehandia, 2004 CanLII 12938 (ON CA), at para. 34, Blair JA wrote:
…Internet defamation is distinguished from its less pervasive cousins, in terms of its potential to damage the reputation of individuals and corporations, by the features described above, especially its interactive nature, its potential for being taken at face value, and its absolute and immediate worldwide ubiquity and accessibility. The mode and extent of publication is therefore a particularly significant consideration in assessing damages in Internet defamation cases.
 The threat today of one’s life being turned upside down because of something someone else says on the internet that is heard or read by strangers half a world away is real and cannot just be dismissed or ignored like a person with a megaphone on the street.
 In Caplan v. Atas, 2021 ONSC 670 (CanLII) after eloquently making many of the foregoing points, my colleague Corbett J. accepted the following test for a new tort of internet harassment:
The plaintiffs propose, drawn from American case law, the following test for the tort of harassment in internet communications: where the defendant maliciously or recklessly engages in communications conduct so outrageous in character, duration, and extreme in degree, so as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and tolerance, with the intent to cause fear, anxiety, emotional upset or to impugn the dignity of the plaintiff, and the plaintiff suffers such harm. [Notes omitted]
 On the other hand, people who believe that online freedom of expression has no boundaries and that the internet is a free-for-all from which they may deliberately harm their neighbours offer nothing positive to society. Whether people harass others online to gain clicks (and thereby make money), to hurt, or to intimidate, the law must be able to respond with some boundary to protect and preserve countervailing values like peoples’ privacy, their right to go about their days unmolested, their right to health and to protect the health of their loved ones, and the rule of law.
 A society that does not protect its neighbours and its members from deliberately inflicted harm cannot remain a community. There have to be limits to internet harassment and the law has to be able to impose those limits.”
Other cases accepting the possibility of the tort of online harassment have also emerged, including 2110120 Ontario Inc. o/a Cargo County v. Buttar, in which the Court appears to have accepted the possibility of a tort claim as a result of the defendants’ “manipulation of social media to deliberately negatively impact” the plaintiff’s business, and in 40 Days for Life v Dietrich et. al., in which the Court stated that “there are grounds to believe that the claim based on the tort of internet harassment has substantial merit”.
There is no specific foreign interference offence in the Criminal Code of Canada (“Criminal Code”). However, certain acts of transnational repression may, in some cases, amount to existing criminal offence(s).
Clearly, to the extent that an act of transnational repression involves kidnap, abduction, or murder, such acts are prohibited under the Criminal Code. Attempts to engage in these acts are also prohibited. However, as such incidents are less common in Canada, other criminal offences are more likely to be relevant. These include criminal harassment; advocating or promoting genocide; public incitement of hatred; willful promotion of hatred; harassing communications; threats; assault; and mischief. These offences are described, briefly, in turn, although as always, the applicability of any of these offences will depend on the facts of any given case.
Criminal harassment is prohibited under Section 264 of the Criminal Code. It refers to harassing behaviour, including unwanted contact and stalking. It must cause the victim to reasonably fear for their safety, which has been interpreted to include both physical and psychological safety. Usually, the harassing behaviour must occur repeatedly, but a single incident that is particularly threatening may be sufficient. Examples of criminal harassment include repeatedly calling someone over the phone or leaving threatening messages, repeatedly contacting someone online, following someone or their family or friends, or monitoring or tracking someone. In Canada, less than 1% of criminal harassment cases involve physical injury to the victim.
According to the Department of Justice’s website, victims should call 911 if they are in immediate danger. Otherwise, they can call the regular police number to discuss their situation. They say that the “police can suggest ways to stop unwanted contact and improve your safety”, including via victim service workers or crisis and counselling services. They continue that the police will investigate the complaint and collect as much evidence as possible. To assist the police, victims are asked to try to keep information on any relevant details about the perpetrator, including whether they have a gun or criminal record, detailed written records about every contact, and things the perpetrator has sent the victim, including phone messages.
The website states that “[i]f there is enough evidence of an offence, the police will charge the person”. Where there may not be enough evidence, “police may suggest other legal options such as a peace bond, restraining order or protection order”.
Section 318 (1) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to advocate or promote genocide, while Sections 319 (1) and (2) criminalize the public incitement of hatred and the willful promotion of hatred, respectively.
In 2004, two members of the Chinese consulate were accused of distributing anti-Falun Gong literature at a conference at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Witnesses reported this incident to the police, claiming that the dissemination amounted to a hate crime. The Edmonton Police analyzed four distributed publications, claiming that Falun Gong view family as evil, and encourage suicide and the murder of friends and family members. The Edmonton Police recommended prosecution for the willful promotion of hatred. Despite this recommendation, the Attorney General of Alberta refused consent to prosecute. The Attorney General referenced three previous cases on the dissemination of Nazi propaganda to show the dissimilarity between that and the anti-Falun Gong material. In those cases, the Nazi propaganda was directly linked to the mistreatment of Jews and other minorities during the Holocaust, which was only possible due to the deliberate incitement of hatred. The Attorney General found that because the statements against Falun Gong differed, they did not amount to an incitement of hatred.
The complainants challenged the decision not to consent to prosecution, arguing that the Attorney General had failed to recognize the causal role of anti-Falun gong propaganda and its effect on their persecution. Counsel for the Attorney General responded that “[t]here is no evidence of a direct causal link between the two, i.e. that the circulation of the literature is what caused persecution in China”. The Court upheld the decision of the Attorney General, saying that it would not interfere with their exercise of discretion.
However, the persecution of Falun Gong is made possible by propaganda. Grace told us that a police officer told her that the Attorney General had refused consent for political reasons.
Section 372 (3) of the Criminal Code prohibits harassing communications. It provides that “[e]veryone commits an offence who, without lawful excuse and with intent to harass a person, repeatedly communicates, or causes repeated communications to be made, with them by a means of telecommunication”. This provision could apply in certain cases of transnational repression, for example, where individuals are told that their family members are dead in efforts to silence them. Of course, this would only work where a perpetrator is identifiable.
Other relevant criminal offences may include uttering threats (Section 264.1(1)), assault (Section 265(1)), and mischief (Section 430(1)).
As discussed, the applicability of any of these provisions would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Criminal charges may only be applicable where perpetrators can be identified. Further, some individual perpetrators may enjoy diplomatic immunity and would not be able to be criminally charged. As described above, immunity ratione personae applies to protect certain high-ranking officials, including heads of state, from the jurisdiction of any Canadian court, while immunity ratione materiae would protect lower-ranking officials engaged in official state acts. These immunities may present an insurmountable bar to prosecution in many instances.
Further, for any of these offences, the decision to prosecute is at the discretion of the Attorneys General. In R v Power, the Supreme Court held that courts may intervene in this prosecutorial discretion only “where there is conspicuous evidence of improper motives or of bad faith or of an act so wrong that it violates the conscience of the community, such that it would genuinely be unfair and indecent to proceed”.
Victims may be able to launch criminal prosecutions in limited instances. In general, unless explicitly not permitted, private parties can launch criminal prosecutions. However, private prosecutions are rarely used. Launching a private prosecution is quite onerous. The private party must first lay the information before a Justice of the Peace; the information must be made under oath, in writing, and must set out the identity of the accused person, the particulars of the offence(s) alleged, and the relevant sections/legislation. The private party must serve the information on the Attorney General. The court will then hold a pre-enquete hearing, in which a justice will consider the information, to decide whether a criminal prosecution should be commenced. The private party must provide reasonable notice to the Attorney General of the pre-enquete hearing and at the hearing the private party must demonstrate a prima facie case on all essential elements of the offence(s) alleged. If all those steps are satisfied, a criminal prosecution may be initiated. At that time, the Attorney General has the option of taking over the prosecution or withdrawing the charges. If the Attorney General does nothing, the matter will proceed as a private prosecution.
The default in the Criminal Code is that private prosecutions are permitted. However, this varies by offence. If a particular offence specifically includes that it requires the “consent of the Attorney General” (this does not have to be verbatim) – no private prosecution on that offence is permitted without the consent of the Attorney General. Further, if the accused person is not a Canadian citizen, the consent of the Attorney General of Canada is required.
If the Canadian government wants to enhance the ability of victims to seek redress, it should develop clear public policy outlining when consent will or will not be provided. The request that the government establish public criteria is not novel. B’nai Brith Canada has requested the same in the context of private prosecutions for hate speech. As David Matas, Honorary Senior Legal Counsel to B’nai Brith Canada, submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in May 2019:
“What we need is that the consent or denial of consent of the Attorney General be exercised according to principle. In British Columbia, the Crown Counsel Policy Manual provides that in almost all hate offences, the public interest applies in favour of prosecution.
Approvals for alternative measures should be given only if:
1. Identifiable individual victims are consulted and their wishes considered.
2. The offender has no history of related offences or violence.
3. The offender accepts responsibility for the act, and
4. The offence must not have been of such a serious nature as to threaten the safety of the community.
Those are criteria which could be adopted for denial of consent. There needs to be at least something, rather than, as now, a vacuum where consent can be denied arbitrarily, without explanation. … The grant or denial of consent by the Attorney General for hate speech crimes should be subject to clear public criteria. Reasons should be given for the grant or denial of consent and those reasons should explain why the criteria were or were not met.”
IRCC screens immigration applications of those abroad seeking to enter Canada. IRCC officers identify applications that require further investigation, and CBSA officers carry out the investigations, before providing the IRCC with information and recommendations regarding admissibility. There are several reasons a person may be inadmissible to Canada. Many of these provisions may be utilized to find inadmissible those engaged in transnational repression.
For example, section 34 (1) of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”) states that a “permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on security grounds for
engaging in an act of espionage that is against Canada or that is contrary to Canada’s interest;
engaging in or instigating the subversion by force of any government;
(b.1) engaging in an act of subversion against a democratic government, institution or
process as they are understood in Canada;
engaging in terrorism;
being a danger to the security of Canada;
engaging in acts of violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada; or
being a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe engages, has engaged or will engage in acts referred to in paragraph (a), (b), (b.1) or (c).”
- Section 33 clarifies that “[t]he facts that constitute inadmissibility under sections 34 to 37 include facts arising from omissions and, unless otherwise provided, include facts for which there are reasonable grounds to believe that they have occurred, are occurring or may occur”.
- Section 34 (1) (a), (b.1), (d), (e), and (f) may all be applicable to individuals engaged in transnational repression and foreign interference, depending on the facts of the case.
- Further, section 35 (1) of the IRPA states that a “permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of violating human or international rights for
committing an act outside Canada that constitutes an offence referred to in sections 4 to 7 of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act;
being a prescribed senior official in the service of a government that, in the opinion of the Minister, engages or has engaged in terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide, a war crime or a crime against humanity within the meaning of subsections 6(3) and (5) of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act; or
having engaged in conduct that would, in the opinion of the Minister, constitute an offence under section 240.1 of the Criminal Code [trafficking in human organs].”
These sections may also be relevant, depending on the facts of the case.
- Section 35.1 (1) of the IRPA provides that a foreign national who has been subject to sanction under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) or the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) is inadmissible to Canada. This would enable those engaged in transnational repression to be found inadmissible if they were subjected to sanctions under SEMA or the Sergei Magnitsky Law.
- Section 36 of the IRPA covers inadmissibility due to criminality. Section 36 (2) provides that a “foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of criminality for … (d) committing, on entering Canada, an offence under an Act of Parliament prescribed by regulations”. This would enable those engaged in transnational repression to be found inadmissible if they were found to be committing an offence by virtue of their engagement in transnational repression.
Finally, section 40 might apply if the individual engaged in transnational repression was found to have misrepresented on their application to enter Canada. Section 40 (1) states that a “permanent resident or foreign national is inadmissible for misrepresentation (a) for directly or indirectly misrepresenting or withholding material facts relating to a relevant matter that induces or could induce an error in the administration of this Act”.
If an individual is found inadmissible under IRPA for any one of the above reasons, they could lose their status and face removal from Canada.
Diplomatic or consular staff engaged in acts of foreign interference may also be expelled from Canada using the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. This Act requires foreign states to submit the names of their consular staff to the Government of Canada, although there is no requirement of public registration. This Act then provides that any member of a consular or diplomatic staff can be declared persona non grata, which could lead to their removal from Canada. This can be done for any reason, or without giving a reason.
The CSIS Act
The CSIS Act more specifically addresses foreign interference in that it defines “threats to the security of Canada” as including “foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person”.
Beyond this definition, though, the CSIS Act does not appear to substantively address foreign interference. It deals primarily with the establishment, mandate, and duties and functions of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. It is also out-of-date; Rigby and Juneau note that Canada has “not seriously reviewed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act since CSIS was established in 1984”. As such, it has not kept up to date with the progression of digital technologies, and the current legislation limits CSIS’ ability to achieve its mandate.
The Security of Information Act
The Security of Information Act, formerly known as the Official Secrets Act, deals mostly with espionage by foreign states and terrorist organizations. It creates several offences, and enables perpetrators to be charged if they commit, attempt to commit, or conspire to commit, any one of the enumerated offences.
The Security of Information Act creates several offences that effectively prohibit some acts of foreign interference, but many of the offences are limited. Most deal narrowly with espionage in government institutions. For example, section 4 prohibits the wrongful communication of information, but this appears to only relate to code words or other such secret information, or information acquired by virtue of someone’s position in government. Section 5 prohibits the unauthorized use of uniforms, falsification of reports, forgery, personation and false documents. Section 6 prohibits approaching or entering a prohibited place, which is defined in Section 2 as a place relating to military/defence. Sections 9-15 deal with special operational information and persons permanently bound to secrecy. Section 16 prohibits certain communications with foreign states or terrorist groups if the person shares information “that the Government of Canada or … a province is taking measures to safeguard”. Section 17 prohibits communicating special operational information, and Section 18 prohibits persons with security clearance from communicating safeguarded information to a foreign entity or terrorist group.
Section 19 prohibits economic espionage more broadly. Specifically, Section 19 (1) prohibits persons from, “at the direction of, for the benefit of or in association with a foreign economic entity [defined in Section 2 as an entity associated with a foreign state], fraudulently and without colour of right and to the detriment of Canada’s economic interests, international relations or national defence or national security
communicates a trade secret to another person, group or organization; or
obtains, retains, alters or destroys a trade secret.”
It is a defence to this offence that a person “acquired [the information] in the course of the person’s work and is of such a character that its acquisition amounts to no more than an enhancement of that person’s personal knowledge, skill or expertise”. It is unclear, therefore, if Section 19 would effectively prohibit the type of foreign interference occurring in academia, for example, described above.
- Section 20 (1) prohibits any person from, “at the direction of, for the benefit of or in association with a foreign entity or a terrorist group, induc[ing] or attempt[ing] to induce, by threat, accusation, menace or violence, any person to do anything or to cause anything to be done
- that is for the purpose of increasing the capacity of a foreign entity or a terrorist group to harm Canadian interests; or
that is reasonably likely to harm Canadian interests”.
Section 20 (2) holds that “[a] person commits an offence under subsection (1) whether or not the threat, accusation, menace or violence occurred in Canada”.
These sections may cover some acts of transnational repression against individuals. However, the applicability of these sections is limited in several ways, including by the phrase “harm Canadian interests”, which is defined in Section 3(2). Pursuant to Section 3(2), “harm is caused to Canadian interests if a foreign entity or terrorist group does [any one of 14 enumerated acts]”. The enumerated acts are as follows:
- commits, in Canada, an offence against the laws of Canada or a province that is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of two years or more in order to advance a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause or to benefit a foreign entity or terrorist group;
commits, inside or outside Canada, a terrorist activity;
causes or aggravates an urgent and critical situation in Canada that
endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians, or
threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada;
- interferes with a service, facility, system or computer program, whether public or private, or its operation, in a manner that has significant adverse impact on the health, safety, security or economic or financial well-being of the people of Canada or the functioning of any government in Canada;
- endangers, outside Canada, any person by reason of that person’s relationship with Canada or a province or the fact that the person is doing business with or on behalf of the Government of Canada or of a province;
- damages property outside Canada because a person or entity with an interest in the property or occupying the property has a relationship with Canada or a province or is doing business with or on behalf of the Government of Canada or of a province;
- impairs or threatens the military capability of the Canadian Forces, or any part of the Canadian Forces;
- interferes with the design, development or production of any weapon or defence equipment of, or intended for, the Canadian Forces, including any hardware, software or system that is part of or associated with any such weapon or defence equipment;
impairs or threatens the capabilities of the Government of Canada in relation to security and intelligence;
- adversely affects the stability of the Canadian economy, the financial system or any financial market in Canada without reasonable economic or financial justification;
- impairs or threatens the capability of a government in Canada, or of the Bank of Canada, to protect against, or respond to, economic or financial threats or instability;
- impairs or threatens the capability of the Government of Canada to conduct diplomatic or consular relations, or conduct and manage international negotiations;
- contrary to a treaty to which Canada is a party, develops or uses anything that is intended or has the capability to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people by means of
toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors,
- a microbial or other biological agent, or a toxin, including a disease organism,
radiation or radioactivity, or
an explosion; or
- does or omits to do anything that is directed towards or in preparation of the undertaking of an activity mentioned in any of paragraphs (a) to (m).
- It is not clear if this list would be considered exhaustive. In March 2007, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security made several recommendations for changes to the Security of Information Act. One of the Standing Committee’s recommendations was to make clear that the list of 14 enumerated acts prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State under section 3(1) is non exhaustive:
- “…it is not clear, from the wording of the section itself, whether the list of conduct is exhaustive or non-exhaustive. The Subcommittee does not believe that the 14 paragraphs are an exhaustive (closed) list, as it is not possible to envisage every act that would be prejudicial to Canada, and the former Official Secrets Act operated without a similar provision. Instead, we believe that section 3 lists conduct that, for certainty, is deemed to be prejudicial, and that it leaves open the possibility of other conduct that a court might find to be prejudicial.
This interpretation is reinforced in that other sections of the Security of Information Act mention prejudicial conduct that is not already included in section 3. Sections 4(1)(b), 4(2) and 5(1) each name a specific act or acts followed by the words “or in any other manner prejudicial to the safety or interests of Canada.” The first-mentioned conduct (for example, using information for the benefit of any foreign power, communicating information to any foreign power, and gaining admission to a prohibited place) are therefore implied to be prejudicial to Canada, although they are not listed in section 3. The Subcommittee accordingly believes that section 3 of the Act should use the word “includes” or be amended in some other way so that, for clarity, the list of conduct prejudicial to the safety and interest of the State is understood to be non-exhaustive.
The Subcommittee recommends that section 3 of the Security of Information Act be amended, for example through use of the word “includes,” so that the list of what constitutes a purpose prejudicial to the safety or interests of the State is clearly non-exhaustive.”
Without clarity as to whether this list is meant to be exhaustive, it may be difficult to conceptualize certain acts of transnational repression against individuals as fitting into one of these boxes, absent an amendment to Section 2 to designate, as harmful to Canadian interests, the targeting of a person in Canada by virtue of their membership in, or affiliation with, a particular diaspora community.
A final limitation is contained in Section 24, which holds that any prosecution under the Security of Information Act requires the consent of the Attorney General. As detailed above, without transparency as to when such consent would be granted or withheld, access to justice for victims is limited.
The Lobbying Act
Canada’s Lobbying Act is another specific, relevant law that somewhat addresses influence by foreign actors. This Act requires registration of any person, regardless of nationality, who is paid to communicate with federal public office holders. This Act also establishes a Commissioner of Lobbying who is required to develop and has developed a code of conduct for registered lobbyists. The Act requires that the Code and its amendments be considered by a House of Commons committee before they take effect.
The Lobbying Act offers some transparency concerning potential foreign influence, but it is insufficient to address foreign interference in Canada. As detailed in previous sections, foreign agents or those operating on behalf of foreign states sometimes engage in activity in Canada without communicating with federal public office holders.
The Canada Elections Act
The Canada Elections Act was amended in 2018 by the passage of the Elections Modernization Act. This was aimed to combat foreign influence and cyber threats. The Office of the Minister of Democratic Institutions said in a press release that:
“The Elections Modernization Act will help Canadians know where information is coming from, guard against misinformation and interference during an election period. Further, foreign entities will now be prohibited from spending to influence elections.”
Some of the key features included requiring online platforms to maintain a registry of political advertisements. The registry is an attempt to respond to microtargeting, in which individuals receive specifically targeted advertising, “hidden from view from all except the intended audience”. The registry will require advertisements to be publicly viewable, and includes advertisements from political parties, candidates, nomination contestants, registered third parties, potential candidates, and eligible parties. The registry must include the advertisement and the person who authorized it for two years. However, only the largest online platforms must conform to the registry requirement.
As amended, the Canada Elections Act bans foreign individuals, corporations, unions, political parties, and governments from exercising undue influence, meaning knowingly incurring “any expense to directly promote or oppose” a candidate, party or leader or to otherwise commit an offence to influence an elector. It is also an offence to interfere with a computer with the goal of affecting the result of an election, to impersonate a candidate online or to disseminate a communication that misleadingly purports or appears to be from a political party, and to sell advertising space to a foreign entity.
This Act is insufficient to address the problem of attempts at influence by foreign actors operating in Canada, as foreign agents or those operating on behalf of foreign states sometimes engage in activity in Canada without attempting to influence Canadian elections. Further, as detailed below, Canada’s Critical Election Incident Public Protocol reported that both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections were free and fair, despite evidence that foreign interference attempts existed. This calls into question the efficacy of the Canada Elections Act, as amended by the Elections Modernization Act, to accomplish its stated purposes.
Government Agencies and Reporting
There are several federal departments that are tasked with dealing with incidents of transnational repression in Canada, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Global Affairs Canada (GAC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).
CSIS’ mandate is to investigate activities suspected of constituting threats to the security of Canada, report these threats to the Government of Canada, and at times, take measures to reduce these threats in accordance with well-defined legal requirements and Ministerial direction. CSIS’ role is to collect and analyze threat-related information, including threats related to terrorism, espionage, foreign interference, and cyber-tampering affecting critical infrastructure.
Part of GAC’s mandate, as it relates to foreign interference, states that GAC is responsible for developing and implementing foreign policy and fostering the development of international law. GAC engages with international players to advance Canada’s political, legal, and economic interests, including the promotion of a rules-based international order, accountable governance, and human rights. GAC also leads the negotiation of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, the administration of export and import controls, and addresses international security threats. The Rapid Response Mechanism (“RRM”) at GAC monitors and analyzes potential cases of foreign interference, including by reviewing social media content. The RRM “monitors the digital information environment for foreign state-sponsored disinformation” and “supports Canada’s international engagement on foreign state sponsored disinformation”. The RRM works with the SITE Task Force during elections, and shares information with Canada’s G7 allies. In August 2022, a dedicated Eastern Europe unit at the RRM was announced to monitor and detect Russian disinformation.
The RCMP, as Canada’s national police service, works to prevent crime, enforce the law, investigate offences, keep Canadians and their interests safe and secure, and assist Canadians in emergency situations. The RCMP also conducts international policing activities and shares intelligence with domestic and international partners. The RCMP is Canada’s focal point when dealing with INTERPOL. The National Cybercrime Coordination Centre (“NC3”), housed in the RCMP, includes RCMP officers and civilians to “help reduce the threat, impact and victimization of cybercrime in Canada”. The NC3 plans to launch a national cybercrime and fraud reporting system and reach full operating capability in 2024.
The CSE is the national signals intelligence agency for foreign intelligence and the technical authority for cybersecurity and information assurance. Among other things, the CSE is responsible for protecting federal institutions’ electronic information and information structures. The CSE defends critical infrastructure against cyberattacks, and at times engages in offensive operations. It also houses the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre), which was created under Canada’s National Cyber Security Strategy in 2018. Among other things, the Cyber Centre increases awareness of digital crimes and other threats like foreign interference and assists law enforcement in combatting cybercrime. The Cyber Centre provides advice, guidance, services and support on cyber security issues to Canadians, including individuals, businesses, government, and academia. The Cyber Centre protects Canada’s cyber assets and leads the federal government’s response to cyber security events.
Canada has also formed a handful of task forces, committees, and protocols to combat foreign interference, though their impact is questionable. For example, the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol refers to a panel of senior federal public servants whose role is to communicate with Canadians in the event of an incident threatening the integrity of a federal election. The Panel reported that both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections were free and fair. Earlier this year, the Government announced the establishment of a National Counter-Foreign Interference Coordinator within Public Safety Canada. It is too soon to comment on the effectiveness of this newly created position.
It is unclear what impact any of these agencies and mechanisms have had in practice. The RCMP has undertaken only a handful of investigations into incidents of foreign interference. In November 2022, the RCMP charged a former Hydro-Québec employee for allegedly obtaining trade secrets for the Chinese government. He allegedly obtained information to benefit China at “the detriment of Canada’s economic interests” and is facing charges under the Security of Information Act and the Criminal Code of Canada, including obtaining trade secrets, fraud for obtaining trade secrets, and breach of trust by a public officer. In another instance, a retired RCMP officer was charged “with conducting foreign interference on behalf of China”. Specifically, the RCMP assert that this retired officer “used his knowledge and his extensive network of contacts” to assist the Chinese government with Operations Fox Hunt and Sky Net, including by “build[ing] a dossier on a Uyghur activist”. This officer now faces charges under Sections 23 and 22 of the Security of Information Act. The RCMP have also opened an investigation into the so-called Chinese police stations operating on Canadian soil, discussed above.
The CSE may increase awareness of foreign interference. Their 2020 National Cyber Threat Assessment flagged China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as the biggest threats to Canada. In their October 2022 update, the CSE stated that these countries “continue to pose the greatest strategic cyber threat to Canada”. The CSE’s October 2022 report states that hostile countries, including Russia and China, are targeting foreign nationals, diasporas, activists, and journalists in Canada. As the CSE focuses on cyber security, the new report says that “[s]tate-sponsored cyberthreat actors almost certainly” target these groups in Canada, which “likely threatens individuals’ safety and security, in addition to increasing distrust and polarization in Canadian society”.
There is no one governmental agency that is specifically focused on combatting transnational repression. There is also no body that is specifically focused on collecting reports of transnational repression incidents. Victims of transnational repression are told they can report to CSIS through a 1-800 number or through their Reporting National Security Information web form. However, victims are also encouraged to contact the RCMP’s National Security Information Network through a different 1-800 number, or via email. In cases of immediate threats to one’s safety, individuals are told to call 911.
Practically, victims of transnational repression are often shuttled around between the different agencies and left in a state of confusion. For example, Cheuk Kwan, a member of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, told The Guardian that he and others in his community have repeatedly asked the RCMP to assist in instances of harassment and intimidation, “only to be told the issues are best dealt with by local police, or even police back in China”. He said that police often chalk it up to a “family feud or something that didn’t merit investigation”, concluding that “that’s the most insidious part of this, the naivety [of the federal police] – of them not taking it seriously for so long”. Rukiye Turdush brought up a similar point, saying that usually Canadian officials state that if the perpetrators are in China, there is nothing they can do to help.
In 2015 and 2016, Sheng Xue reported various incidents of transnational repression to her local police station in Mississauga. Mississauga police refused to assist and suggested she call the head office in Toronto. She did so, and the Toronto police head office instructed her to call the RCMP. The RCMP told Sheng Xue that the situation seemed to fall under an international affairs issue and instructed her to report it to CSIS. CSIS then told her that this type of matter should be reported to local police. Sheng Xue then called her local police station in Mississauga yet again, and they told her that because the incidents were primarily occurring in Ottawa, she should report it to local Ottawa police. Accompanied by her husband and four friends, she went to a police station in Ottawa. After telling Canadian authorities her story for the seventh time, Ottawa police told her there is not much that they can do without evidence that the individual was planning on killing or physically hurting her. She asked if they could at least speak to the individual. They agreed and called him to the station. They spoke to him for approximately 10 minutes.
Grace told us that she has repeatedly reported cases of harassment to the Ottawa police, CSIS, and GAC, but she is unclear if they have taken any action. She said they often told her there is nothing to be done. She said her organization participates in an annual meeting with GAC to discuss these issues, but as far as she knows, nothing ever comes of it.
Freedom House states that while CSIS and the RCMP maintain ways for “reporting national security information”, these are not specific to transnational repression, and as most reports are deemed not to be national security related, they are not followed up with by law enforcement.
Emma told us that in 2014, her apartment was broken into when she was out attending a Falun Gong parade. Furniture had been moved, items had been stolen, and water had been sprayed on her mattress. Emma said that Falun Gong stickers she had stuck to her door had been torn off. Emma believes her apartment was broken into by individuals associated with the Chinese consulate. When she attended a local police station to report the incident, she was told she should have called 911, who could have sent officers to investigate. The police told her that because she did not call 911 immediately, they could not assist her.
Language barriers also present an issue. Cherie Wong explains that many cannot access the National Security Information Network hotline as “the information is not available in our languages”.
Part IV. Recommendations
Transnational repression poses a serious threat to democracy and the rule of law, in Canada and across the globe. According to CSIS, foreign interference “activities pose strategic, long-term threats to Canada’s interests, jeopardize our future prosperity, and have a corrosive effect on our democratic processes and institutions”.
Experts agree that Canada’s laws are outdated, and that hostile actors, including China, Russia, and Iran, are exploiting them. While our allies are strengthening their counter-interference laws, so far Canada has failed to do so. Canada last reviewed its national security policy in 2004. The CSIS Act has not been seriously reviewed or updated since CSIS’ inception in 1984. The Security of Information Act has not been substantially updated in decades. Canada has “not produced a strategic threat assessment for the Canadian public in years”, and nor has it “set out an international strategy since 2005”. There has been no recent assessment of Canada’s national security tools or agencies.
Authoritarian regimes will continue to readily exploit and aggressively engage in transnational repression so long as Canada fails to implement concrete countermeasures. To that end, following our review of various incidents, international and domestic law, and available mechanisms, we propose thirty-seven (37) recommendations for the Government of Canada to combat foreign interference and transnational repression.
Create a Dedicated Agency
To lay the groundwork, Canada should create a centrally coordinated government agency or focal point organization to address transnational repression. The federal government could mandate the creation of a new agency, department, or centre solely focusing on understanding, responding to, and preventing acts of transnational repression. It could be housed within an existing department or agency. The threat of transnational repression is so vast and widespread that it will require an entire dedicated team to address it.
- While the designated agency should not subsume the role of all other agencies working on transnational repression, it should serve as a central coordinating organization, have access to all information available, and facilitate cooperation between agencies to ensure fulsome responses. Currently, there are several separate teams within different federal departments and agencies with slightly different mandates, all investigating and responding to specific types of threats. Their ability to work together and cooperate is frustrated by the lack of open lines and specific mechanisms to communicate on these issues. A central focal point could partner with and oversee all the teams already working on transnational repression, facilitate open lines of communication, and allow for a more collective response.
The 2023 Budget includes the creation of a National Counter-Foreign Interference Office within Public Safety. While it remains unclear exactly what this Office will do, it could take on the type of role described above.
Create a Commissioner of Foreign Influence
Canada could also create a commissioner of foreign influence, akin to the Commissioner of Lobbying. A commissioner of foreign influence could develop a code of conduct with specific reference to what is expected for diplomatic and consular personnel. It could also include a prohibition against spying on opposition in Canada to the home government or paying others to do so.
The foreign influence commissioner should be able to receive both publicly and privately complaints of violations of the code of conduct committed by any person or entity, including violations by foreign embassies and consulates.
- Like the Lobbying Commissioner, a foreign influence commissioner should be obliged to report annually to Parliament and have the power to report at any time on matters of such urgency or importance that they should not await annual reporting. The reports should set out the extent of compliance with the Code, including complaints and their recommended disposition.
A foreign influence commissioner could also be obligated to provide updates to relevant authorities on specific cases of transnational repression and foreign interference, including those involving Canadians detained in foreign states, such as Huseyin Celil.
Create a Dedicated Hotline or Reporting Mechanism
A dedicated agency could also encapsulate a dedicated hotline or reporting mechanism for victims of transnational repression. The information for this hotline should be widely disseminated with the assistance of community organizations, so that individuals most at risk of transnational repression are well-aware of it. This could ensure that victims of transnational repression know who to contact for assistance and limit the confusion they currently face. Ensuring the hotline has appropriate language capabilities will be important.
- Many victims we spoke with were unclear on what type of incidents warranted being reported to the authorities and where they should report these incidents. Many victims also said that as the government had not responded to their reports in the past, they no longer bothered disclosing incidents. A singular reporting mechanism could clarify where victims should report and ensure that one organization has all the relevant information on all cases of transnational repression, making responses easier and more consistent.
A dedicated hotline or reporting mechanism could also be led by a civil society organization at arms-length from the government.
Mehmet Tohti said that a singular reporting mechanism could be helpful, but only if legislation is passed to empower them to take action. He said that “symbolically establishing one center won’t help”, but rather “what we need is a legal mechanism to empower our security and policing departments to execute their function” and respond to the reports this mechanism receives.
Define Transnational Repression and Foreign Interference
The terms used interchangeably in this paper – transnational repression, foreign interference, transnational authoritarianism, and foreign influence – require clear and official definitions in Canadian law. Currently, there are no clear and consistent definitions for these terms. Definitions for these terms should be implemented and used across all government agencies uniformly.
Not having clear definitions impedes the ability to track and respond to transnational repression. While current definitions used by various government agencies are a good foundation, clear and specific legal definitions should be passed after the government has concluded its comprehensive investigation. The definition could also outline which acts could be criminalized.
- In addition to civil liberty organizations, victims should also be consulted to ensure the definition encompasses all relevant activities occurring in Canada.
Review and Update the CSIS Act
As described above, Canada has “not seriously reviewed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act since CSIS was established in 1984”. As such, it has not kept up to date with the progression of digital technologies, and the current legislation limits CSIS’ ability to achieve its mandate.
The CSIS Act does not provide a clear definition of transnational repression, and thus neither includes “measures to prevent and penalize it”. In a 2021 speech, CSIS Director David Vigneault said that the agency’s mandate and enabling legislation hinders how they can spread warnings, explaining that the CSIS Act “enables advice to government but limits our ability to provide relevant advice to key partners”.
- The CSIS Act should be reviewed and updated to specifically arm CSIS with the guidelines and tools to adequately police and respond to threats of transnational repression.
The Business Council of Canada recently recommended that Canada update and review the CSIS Act as well. Specifically, the Council recommended that Canada “comprehensively review and amend the [CSIS Act] to align the agency’s legislative mandate and powers with expanding expectations for it to identify, analyze, and disrupt threats to Canada’s economic security”. They recommended that the Act be amended, among other things, to enable CSIS to share information with non-governmental stakeholders, where such disclosure would be “in the public interest” and subjected to “all necessary safeguards and oversight”.
Review and Update the Security of Information Act
As detailed above, the Security of Information Act is insufficient in combatting all types of foreign interference and does not sufficiently provide avenues for justice for victims. This is unsurprising, as the Security of Information Act has not been substantially changed or updated since at least 2002.
This Act should be reviewed and updated. In fact, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians in both its 2021 and 2022 Annual Reports recommended that the adequacy of existing legislation that deals with foreign interference, including the Security of Information Act and the CSIS Act, be assessed and proposals for changes be made if required.
- The applicability of sections 19 and 20, in particular, should be closely reviewed. As detailed above, although Section 19 prohibits economic espionage, it is a defence to this offence that a person “acquired [the information] in the course of the person’s work and is of such a character that its acquisition amounts to no more than an enhancement of that person’s personal knowledge, skill or expertise”. It is unclear, therefore, if Section 19 would effectively prohibit the type of foreign interference occurring in academia and other relevant sectors.
Section 20 prohibits any person from, “at the direction of, for the benefit of or in association with a foreign entity or a terrorist group”, inducing or attempting to induce a person to do something “by threat, accusation, menace or violence”, but this may not be sufficient to prohibit acts of transnational repression against individuals absent an amendment to Section 2 to designate, as harmful to Canadian interests, the targeting of a person in Canada by virtue of their membership in, or affiliation with, a particular diaspora community.
Review and Update the Lobbying Act
Canada’s Lobbying Act somewhat addresses influence by foreign actors. It is necessarily limited, as it is focused on communications with federal public office holders, and foreign agents or those operating on behalf of foreign states sometimes engage in activity in Canada without communicating with federal public office holders.
Nonetheless, the Lobbying Act can and should be reviewed and updated to close any legislative loopholes. For instance, currently, this Act requires registration of any person who is paid to communicate with federal public office holders. It may be desirable to expand the registration requirement to any person who is an unpaid volunteer but acting on behalf of a foreign state.
Review and Update the Canada Elections Act
- The Canada Elections Act needs to be continuously updated as new threats and technologies are employed to subvert democracy. According to Dennis Molinaro, a former senior CSIS analyst and expert on foreign interference, China’s election interference and targeting of MPs and diaspora communities is “serious and alarming”, and this level of foreign interference “says … that foreign adversaries understand the legislative loopholes that exist in Canada and are taking full advantage of them”.
- University of Ottawa Law Professor Michael Pal states that while the provisions in the Elections Modernization Act regarding foreign interference are a good start, it is unclear how enforceable the provisions truly are. He explains that while the prohibition on platforms from accepting foreign money for election advertisements may do well as “the main conduits for advertising are few in number and easily identifiable”, the other offences against impersonation and hacking are likely less successful at deterring foreign interference as foreign entities, “especially those sponsored by a hostile state”, are unlikely to be brought before Canadian courts. Rather, these offences “will mainly be deterrents against malicious activity by domestic actors”. Pal concluded that “[e]lection legislation must be continuously updated to adapt to new ways of conducting politics”.
One way to further protect our elections could be by criminalizing “deliberate deception”. In June 2022, Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault sent a report to the House of Commons, proposing recommendations to combat disinformation and hate speech against targeted groups, and preventing foreign funding and interference. He recommended criminalizing “deliberate deception”, or providing misleading statements about the voting process and results, “for the purpose of undermining trust in the process or the result”. This could include activities like telling voters the wrong location or date to cast ballots. Perrault also suggested banning untraceable political donations and requiring federal political parties to keep a record of all contributions received via cryptocurrency.
Further, the exception to the exception in the Canada Elections Act for foreign broadcasting is anachronistic. What is legitimately a matter of contemporary concern is automated spam generated by foreign actors who do not disclose their identities. To combat this, there should be a requirement of digital disclosure of the source of mass electronic opinion campaigns.
Create a Civil Cause of Action Specific to Transnational Repression
As outlined above, there are a handful of torts in Canadian jurisdictions that may cover certain acts of transnational repression, including defamation, intentional infliction of mental suffering, intimidation, and online harassment. Other torts may also be committed in the context of transnational repression, including assault, battery, vandalism, invasion of privacy, or trespassing. However, there is no specific civil cause of action for transnational repression. Government could pass legislation that creates a civil cause of action specific to transnational repression.
Diplomatic immunity and/or state immunity may still preclude certain actions, as explained in detail above.
Criminalize Refugee Espionage
- While there are several criminal offences that may be engaged by acts of transnational repression, there are no Criminal Code offences specific to transnational repression. This is a serious limitation of our legal frameworks for dealing with foreign interference. According to Dan Stanton, a former CSIS officer, “We simply don’t have a prosecutorial end game to deal with foreign interference”. Canada is also demonstrably behind in this area. For instance, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland have explicitly criminalized “refugee espionage”. Canada should do the same.
- “Refugee espionage” refers to incidents where foreign authorities carry out intelligence activities against diaspora communities, refugees, political dissidents and regime critics who have sought safety abroad. This type of espionage violates the basic rights and freedoms of the individuals targeted, as well as Canada’s sovereignty.
Some countries have taken steps to criminalize refugee espionage. Sweden, Norway, and Switzerland have explicitly criminalized refugee espionage, or acts of obtaining and/or providing information detrimentally about another individual in order to benefit a foreign state. In Austria, France, and Germany, refugee espionage may be included within general espionage provisions depending on statutory interpretation. In the US, the Department of Justice has prosecuted individuals accused of engaging in the transnational repression acts of spying on individuals and communities.
The Swedish Security Services states that:
“‘Refugee espionage’, i.e. unlawful intelligence activities against an individual, refers to intelligence activities targeting dissidents and minority groups from other countries in Sweden. Typically carried out by authoritarian and non-democratic states, such activities make people fear not only for their own security, or life and health, but also that of relatives in their former home countries and in Sweden. This also undermines the democratic process, as people given refuge in Sweden may be afraid to exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms. Others who express their support for these dissidents may also be subject to monitoring by foreign intelligence services.”
Canada should pass new legislation defining this type of transnational repression activity as a criminal offence.
Criminalize Online Harassment and Digital Violence
Another way to protect individual victims of transnational repression could be by criminalizing online harassment or digital violence. Canada’s legal regime to protect victims, and that of many other countries, has not kept up with the continuous innovation of digital technologies.
- One model that Canada could follow was implemented in Belgium, where the federal government recently reformed its criminal code provisions on harassment to include online harassment. This means that online offences, including things like harassment, sending unwanted explicit photos, or doxing, will have the same penalties as offline harassment. Canada should implement a similar scheme to protect those who receive harassing or threatening messages, have their private information, including contact information and locations posted, and have their reputations smeared, including through the release or doctoring of private photos.
The United Nations Population Fund (“UNFPA”) has also supported a novel approach to what it calls “digital violence” or “technology facilitated gender-based violence”. It includes cyberbullying, doxing, hate speech, and the non-consensual use of images of videos, including deepfakes. They state that for example, having one’s “image taken, manipulated and shared without permission is a violation of privacy, dignity, autonomy and can be a devastating experience. The feelings of fear, anxiety, loss of self-esteem and sense of powerlessness are real and enduring”.
The UNFPA further states that these activities, including the “non-consensual use, misuse or abuse of people’s images should be criminalized”, and social media and other technology companies should be obligated to put in effective systems to prevent and report incidents. The UNFPA has begun a “bodyright” campaign to encourage states to regard incidents involving individual’s images as an infringement of copyright, which could lead to the “swift removal of content and legal penalties”. This new way of conceptualizing rights is an example of a novel solution Canada could implement to help counter transnational repression.
Develop Clear Public Policy Guiding Attorney General Consent
As detailed above, prosecution under many of the existing offences relevant to transnational repression require the Attorney General’s consent to proceed. For example, Section 24 of the Security of Information Act provides that any prosecution under the Act requires the consent of the Attorney General. As previously detailed, without transparency as to when such consent would be granted or withheld, access to justice for victims is limited. This constrains the ability of victims to pursue private prosecutions. If the Canadian government wants to enhance the ability of victims to seek redress, it should develop clear public policy outlining when the Attorney General’s consent will or will not be provided.
- The request that the government establish public criteria is not novel. As David Matas submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights:
“What we need is that the consent or denial of consent of the Attorney General be exercised according to principle. In British Columbia, the Crown Counsel Policy Manual provides that in almost all hate offences, the public interest applies in favour of prosecution.
Approvals for alternative measures should be given only if:
1. Identifiable individual victims are consulted and their wishes considered.
2. The offender has no history of related offences or violence.
3. The offender accepts responsibility for the act, and
4. The offence must not have been of such a serious nature as to threaten the safety of the community.
Those are criteria which could be adopted for denial of consent. There needs to be at least something, rather than, as now, a vacuum where consent can be denied arbitrarily, without explanation.
The grant or denial of consent by the Attorney General for hate speech crimes should be subject to clear public criteria. Reasons should be given for the grant or denial of consent and those reasons should explain why the criteria were or were not met.”
As described in detail above, various provisions of the IRPA may apply to bar from entry those individuals engaged in acts of transnational repression. For example, an individual may be held inadmissible for engaging in act of espionage; engaging in an act of subversion against a democratic government, institution or process; being a danger to the security of Canada; engaging in acts of violence; or being a member of an organization that engages in any of the above. An individual may also be held inadmissible if they misrepresented on their application to enter Canada.
If an individual is found inadmissible under IRPA for any reason, they could lose their status and face removal from Canada.
- Diplomatic or consular staff engaged in acts of foreign interference may also be expelled from Canada using the Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act. This Act provides that any member of a consular or diplomatic staff can be declared persona non grata, for any reason, or without giving a reason.
These provisions may be utilized to bar or remove individuals engaged in transnational repression, where appropriate.
Implement a Foreign Agents Registry
In early March 2023, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announced that he is launching consultations on setting up a foreign influence transparency registry. The upcoming registry is supposed to “ensure transparency and accountability from people who advocate on behalf of a foreign government and ensure communities who are often targeted by attempts at foreign interference are protected”.
- This follows previous attempts to establish a foreign agent registry in Canada. Former Conservative Member of Parliament Kenny Chiu had introduced Bill C-282, An Act to establish the Foreign Influence Registry, on April 13, 2021. It never reached second reading. More recently, Senator Leo Housakos introduced S-237, An Act to establish the Foreign Influence Registry and to amend the Criminal Code, which was debated at second reading on May 16, 2023, in the Senate.
The government should ensure that it follows through in the development and implementation of a Foreign Agents Registry, which would align us with our allies. Both the US and Australia have implemented similar registries, and Canada’s should be modelled in a similar way, both in terms of the acts it criminalizes and the penalties it may impose. The UK also plans to introduce similar legislation.
The US enacted the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 1938. It requires “certain agents of foreign principals who are engaged in political activities or other activities specified under the statute to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities”. These disclosures allow the government and citizens to evaluate the activities “of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents”. The government’s FARA unit is housed in the Department of Justice. FARA violations may lead to criminal charges and/or immigration proceedings, and also has a civil enforcement provision allowing the Attorney General to seek an injunction requiring registration under FARA.
Australia’s Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, passed in 2018, introduces “registration obligations for persons and entities who have certain arrangements with, or undertake certain activities on behalf of, foreign principals”. Those who engage in influencing activities, such as political lobbying, are required to disclose certain details when acting on behalf of a foreign government related entity, and this information appears on a public registry. Australia also passed the Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Act 2020, under which agreements of state and local government bodies with foreign governments are publicly registered. The federal government has the power to terminate any agreements that are inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy.
In the UK, a foreign agents registry is in the final stages of adoption as part of a broad national security bill. It will include a maximum 2-year prison sentence for failing to register political-influence activities on behalf of a foreign power or foreign-controlled entity.
Review Canada’s Terrorist Lists
Marcus Kolga and Kaveh Shahrooz, both senior fellows at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, argue that both Russia and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (“IRGC”) should be listed as terrorist entities in Canada. They argue that “[t]errorism is inseparable from the IRGC; it is in its DNA”, and that Russia’s indiscriminate attacks in Ukraine are “acts designed to terrorize Ukrainians and the world into submission”, and that “such acts clearly rise to the level of terrorism”.
- Regarding Russia, the calls to declare the country a terrorist state have been growing over the last year, following their invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. For example, in November 2022, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution – which the Canadian delegation voted in favour of – “to state clearly that the Russian state under the current regime is a terrorist one”.
A state may be listed as a state supporter of terrorism in Canada under the State Immunity Act if the state in question “supported or supports terrorism”, which is defined as “commit[ting], for the benefit of or otherwise in relation to a listed [terrorist] entity] … an act or omission that is, or had it been committed in Canada would be, punishable under [the terrorism offences contained in Part II.1 of the Criminal Code]”. In other words, a state may be listed as a state supporter of terrorism in Canada if the state supports the terrorism of a listed terrorist entity.
Canada has designated the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM) as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code. To the extent that Russia supports the RIM’s terrorism, this may enable the listing of Russia as a state supporter of terrorism. However, designating a state as a state supporter of terrorism is largely a political decision. To date, only two countries are on this list: Iran and Syria.
To be listed as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code, in turn, the entity must have “knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity” or must have “knowingly acted on behalf of, at the direction of, or in association with an [existing listed] entity”. An entity is defined as “a person, group, trust, partnership or fund or an unincorporated association or organization”. It is unclear if a foreign state could on its own be listed as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code, as it is unclear if a foreign state could be considered an “entity” under this definition. It is notable, however, that the Taliban remains a listed terrorist entity in Canada: this might suggest that a foreign government could be listed (or at least remain listed) under the Criminal Code so long as they are not recognized by Canada as a legitimate government.
Both the terrorist entity list under the Criminal Code and the state supporters of terrorism list under the State Immunity Act should be reviewed and updated. There are plenty of terrorist groups and supporters of terrorism that remain unlisted. For example, on January 30, 2023, MP Heather McPherson introduced a motion in the House of Commons, which received unanimous support, to list the Wagner Group as a terrorist entity. The Wagner Group is a private Russian military company that has taken terrorist action in several foreign states, including Ukraine, Syria, and the Central African Republic. In April 2023, the Council of the European Union added the Wagner Group “to the list of those subject to EU restrictive measures for actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine”, for participating in the war and “spearhead[ing] the attacks against the Ukrainian towns of Soledar and Bakhmut”. The Wagner Group is now subject to asset freezes, and EU citizens and companies are prohibited from making funds available to them.
To the extent that states that support terrorism cannot be listed under the State Immunity Act for political reasons, it may be worth reviewing the Criminal Code and amending it, if necessary, to permit states to be listed as terrorist entities under that framework.
Kolga and Shahrooz explain that these terrorist designations are important for, among other things, facilitating justice for victims of these regimes. Indeed, designating a state as a state supporter of terrorism and/or adding entities to the terrorist list under the Criminal Code may allow terror victims to pursue civil lawsuits and seek financial compensation in Canadian courts under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.
Some have argued against listing Russia as a state supporter of terrorism, one argument being that it could ruin diplomatic relations with Russia. This argument requires careful consideration by the federal government: would the value of adding Russia to this list outweigh the damage to Canada’s bilateral relations with Russia?
The IRGC is made up of several branches. One branch, the Quds Force, is listed as a terrorist entity in Canada under the Criminal Code. However, many have been campaigning for the IRGC in its entirety to be listed as well. The IRGC has been implicated in several human rights abuses and terrorist acts, including the mass murder of Iranian protestors following the murder of Mahsa Amini, including children, and of course, the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752. Kolga and Shahrooz point out that the US has already designated the IRGC a terrorist entity, so Canada’s designation would not be novel. In a December 2022 open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre, eight Iranian Canadian lawyers urged the Government to designate the IRGC as a terrorist entity. They explain that listing the IRGC would allow “law enforcement to zero in on the nexus between terrorism and business in Canada; provid[e] a means to disrupt the financial support network of terrorist activity; and, facilitat[e] the prosecution of those corrupt members of this horrific regime” in Canada. They write that not listing the IRGC in its entirety will allow those engaged in human rights violations to continue to enter Canada, and allow those already in the country to stay without consequence.
The letter explains that some believe Canada is not listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity as it could capture individuals who were forced to join the IRGC due to mandatory military service, but asks whether the government is “incapable of tailoring the law through legislative means… to exempt from prosecution those who had no choice but to perform their mandatory conscription time”.
Javad Soleimani told us the same thing: that the government says its primary concern is that innocent people could be caught by the law, but that this could easily be resolved by carving out an exemption for those who were subject to mandatory military service. Javad told us that he was also told by government officials that listing the IRGC is not that simple. He was told the situation is more complicated as it would lead to the significant closure of businesses and bank accounts and would leave some individuals unemployed. Javad says this shows that in reality, “it is about money”, and just goes to show how powerful the IRGC is here in Canada. Canada must not succumb to these special interests.
Monitor and Track Incidents of Transnational Repression
Freedom House suggests that governments create a “specific mechanism to track domestic incidents of transnational repression and identify the perpetrator governments.” According to Yana Gorokhovskaia, “[t]racking transnational repression is crucial to stopping it”.
Having a singular reporting mechanism, as described above, could allow the government to monitor and track incidents, and could lead to the development of comprehensive watchlists for both victims and perpetrators, which could streamline the process of protecting individuals. Emerging trends could be analyzed to help determine potential at-risk targets, who could be warned and further protected by authorities.
- Activities that count as transnational repression should be specifically documented and analyzed. This would make discovering and investigating mass incidents of transnational repression easier and allow for systematic responses. This type of accountability and oversight could limit the malign activities of repressive regimes.
A watchlist of perpetrators could include individuals, organizations and states. It should include individuals identified as spies or foreign agents, as well as front organizations and fake NGOs used to attack and monitor individuals on Canadian soil. The list should describe the methods they use to perpetrate transnational repression. Perpetrators may be deterred by knowing that they have been placed on a specific watch list, especially if the list is made public and they are named and shamed. This list could assist the government in diplomatic discussions with perpetrating states.
Form Explicit Partnerships Between Government Agencies
The federal government should establish a permanent mechanism to share information, and coordinate policies and operations between different levels of government. This can be headed by the proposed National Counter-Foreign Interference Office.
According to CSIS, Canada’s security and intelligence agencies, including CSIS, CSE, RCMP, GAC, and other government partners share information and work together to keep Canadians safe. However, this is not always the case, and much information is not shared between agencies and departments. Greater information sharing capacities are crucial to ensure that all agencies are working with the same information both regarding national security threats and individual incidents of repression.
- Each agency should be acutely aware of each other’s role in combatting transnational repression, and the National Counter-Foreign Interference Office could be used to fill in the gaps. Rigby and Juneau found that, for example, many departments still have a poor understanding of CSE’s mandate and capabilities.
Freedom House also suggests that governments of countries that host exiles and targeted diasporas, such as Canada, review its counterintelligence and law enforcement information-sharing practices, and ensure that they can effectively disseminate information regarding “threats stemming from transnational repression”.
Information must also be disseminated among other officials and the Canadian public. Individuals must be aware of the threats of transnational repression to help combat them. The National Counter-Foreign Interference Office should brief all legislators and senior government officials on their work, the work of other agencies, and the threats faced by Canadians.
Provide Physical Protection Services to Victims
Many victims of transnational repression expressed distrust of Canadian authorities. The distrust partly stems from law enforcement’s failures to take action to protect them or prevent these incidents from occurring in the future. The Canadian government and law enforcement agencies must do a better job of working with victim communities and building trust with them.
- One important element is physical protection. Victims of transnational repression may require physical protection and support. Yet, many victims are told that if they are concerned about their safety, they should hire private protection. This is not an appropriate response and will only serve to engender distrust and resentment. Freedom House states that authorities should review the processes for issuing warnings and assigning police protection in response to threats of transnational repression.
Others were told to stop their activism, which is another inappropriate response. Sheng Xue explained that “if you stop, you have to stop everything”, meaning one would have to withdraw from every activity, and that “it means you are not the person [you were] anymore”. She also said that “if I stopped doing what I am doing, [it would] only give them the courage and the reason they will do this to many more people”. She elaborated that many do not understand that “this is a whole system that we are facing”. It is not a personal conflict where one can just remove themselves or leave the situation to avoid it. While many have given up their activism due to transnational repression, she said that you cannot “half give-up” or “half hide” – you would have to completely stop everything.
Javad Soleimani shared that “Canadian officials asked me to be silent”. He said officials told him that they were concerned about him, that he should not trust others easily, and that he should maintain a low profile to avoid provoking the Iranian regime. He said that if officials have concerns about his safety, they should protect him instead. “Asking me to stop does not protect me”, he said.
Provide Psychological Support Services to Victims
The right to psychological and other support for victims of crime is protected under law. In Ontario, the Victim’s Bill of Rights provides for a “victim assistance justice fund account”, which is meant to assist victims. This includes both providing direct assistance and giving grants to community agencies working to support victims. There is also a Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, but it does not guarantee specific support like the Ontario legislation does. Victims’ rights should be expanded to include the right to mental health support.
- Victims of transnational repression, even where a crime cannot be proven, should be offered psychological and mental health supports by those who have been trained on issues of transnational repression. One victim told us that due to her activism, she has been cut off from her community supports and feels very alone. She met with a psychologist to help deal with all the threats and harassment she was receiving, who refused to help her or continue meeting with her as her situation was “too political”.
Associate Professor Stephanie Carvin explains that one of the most successful tactics of transnational repression is making “people feel very alone”, which makes them even more vulnerable. As the threats come from abroad, there is “very little enforcement that can be done”.
Facing the wrath of repressive regimes can be traumatizing, and the needs of victims should be centered when responding to transnational repression. Lack of assistance to help individuals deal with and recover from that trauma may have severe consequences. It may affect victims’ social participation and ability to integrate into society. There should be mechanisms available for victims to receive psychological assistance. Mental health professionals working with these individuals should be specifically trained on what this harm is and how it works. Additionally, this assistance should be offered in a variety of languages, as some victims may not speak English with enough fluency to describe their trauma with nuance, and/or to feel comfortable.
Create a Specialized Victims of Transnational Repression Fund
Another important aspect of victim support is financial. Many victims come from disadvantaged backgrounds, having fled to Canada for their safety, often as refugees or asylum seekers. Many individuals we spoke to said that they could not afford to seek out professional help like therapy, or that replacing a cell phone was a difficult cost to shoulder. Accordingly, the government should create a fund that can be used to assist victims of transnational repression for things like emergency housing, personal security, new phones or laptops, and physical and mental health treatment. The fund should be operated by trusted community leaders who decide when it is to be used and should have very little bureaucratic processes to ensure the funding can be accessed immediately during emergencies.
- Financial support should also be extended to supporting legal initiatives that victims may undertake. As described above, initiating legal cases, where this is an available option, can become expensive. Even if a plaintiff wins, it is possible that a judgment for damages cannot be enforced.
Most provinces and territories do operate victim compensation funds that may allow some victims of transnational repression to receive some compensation, but a specialized federal fund is warranted for several reasons.
First, existing provincial-level compensation schemes have restrictions on applicability that vary by province. Northwest Territories and Yukon offer only short-term, emergency financial relief, and Nunavut offers only travel support. The provincial schemes tend to offer more in terms of compensation, but their coverage and eligibility requirements vary widely. Newfoundland does not have any provincial compensation scheme, having repealed it in 1992. All provincial-level compensation schemes in Canada – except the scheme in Quebec – require that the crime(s) occurred in the province.
Further, the provincial schemes’ guidelines may not be language-accessible for many victims of transnational repression in Canada. Many of the provinces only provide the relevant information in English. Wemmers found that there is program information is not available “in one of Canada’s many indigenous languages or minority languages … on any of the provincial websites”.
There is one federal compensation scheme for victims in existence – the Canadians Victimized Abroad Fund (CVAF) – but this would not apply to compensate for transnational repression occurring in Canada. The CVAF is only available to Canadian citizens who have been victims of specified serious violent crimes abroad, and where no other source of financial assistance is available to them. Further, the CVAF may only help to cover (1) travel expenses to return to the State where the crime occurred in order to participate at the preliminary hearing and/or the trial or equivalent process; (2) travel expenses for a support person to be with a Canadian victimized abroad, during the immediate aftermath of the crime; (3) expenses for a Canadian victim of crime to return to Canada; (4) hospital and medical expenses due to being victimized; (5) expenses to replace stolen official documents; (6) upon return to Canada, financial assistance for professional counselling; (7) funeral expenses if the crime resulted in the death of the victim; and (8) out-of-pocket expenses due to being a victim of a violent crime.
The CVAF also contains several eligibility restrictions. The victim or applicant “must be a Canadian citizen at the time of the criminal victimization in another country”. There are also residency requirements, such that Canadian citizens who were residing abroad at the time of the criminal victimization are ineligible unless they were enrolled full-time or part-time in an educational institution or program, had a valid temporary work permit, or maintained a residence in Canada and intended to return to Canada to reside within 6 months of the criminal victimization.
Build Community Resilience
In addition to providing services to targeted individuals, support should be provided to build greater resilience within communities, reducing the vulnerability of potential targets. Measures must be taken to limit authoritarian regimes’ capacity to target and attack individuals.
- There are many ways that the Canadian government could invest in resources and infrastructures to improve the resilience of diaspora communities. On top of providing funding to communities to deal with incidents of transnational repression, communities should be given resources to build social connection. Many are completely disconnected from their families and communities back home. Mehmet Tohti said that “it affects your health; it affects everything in your daily life”. He said that to be an activist against a regime like China, “you are going to sacrifice everything”. He continued that “the price we pay is enormous. It is beyond imagination”.
Strong community ties can help ease some of the stress and isolation these individuals feel. Organizations should receive funding to host community and cultural events. Communities should be supported to preserve their languages and cultures and develop organizations and institutions to do so. Mechanisms should be implemented that encourage social and political engagement.
Freedom House also recommends funding “civil society organizations that monitor incidents of transnational repression or that provide resources to targeted individuals and groups” to help combat transnational repression.
In the US, there is a mechanism to provide funding to human rights defenders to conduct research and document human rights abuse experiences. Documenting these incidents helps lawmakers shape policy. In Canada, there is no such mechanism. Instead, we push this type of work onto individual communities, asking them to dispense their time and resources to do so. Their work is not compensated, and so cannot be worked on full-time. Spending their free time documenting these incidents prevents victims from engaging in other activities crucial to a well-balanced life. Victim communities are untapped resources for information and solutions. The government must work with them to implement real change.
Another component of building resilience is community education. Educational materials for targeted victim communities in Canada should be prepared, published and distributed, to raise awareness on the nature of transnational repression, its characteristics, and relevant Canadian and international laws. Such materials could serve to build community resilience by communicating to community members the unlawful and unaccepted nature of such behaviour in simple, clear and concise language. These materials should be provided in multiple languages, contain examples of incidents of transnational repression, and provide guidance on what individuals can do in response.
Victims, communities and those at-risk should also be taught about their legal rights, including for seeking protection, justice, and reparations. Victims and communities identified as at-risk should also be briefed on supports available and cyber security. Any education offered should be provided in multiple languages.
Train Law Enforcement Officers
All law enforcement officers should be trained on responding to incidents of transnational repression. Safeguard Defenders suggests that host states ensure that all local law enforcement officers are aware of the particular threats that these communities face.
Where police must physically respond to incidents, clear standards should be established to ensure that police responses are legally justified. There should be specific training to ensure that law enforcement does not breach the Charter rights of either victims or alleged perpetrators. It is possible for law enforcement officers to unwittingly become involved in further human rights abuses against targeted individuals.
- Deliberate, serious, or repeated breaches of these rights should be met with disciplinary consequences. In addition, government and police responses to incidents of transnational repression should be subject to independent civilian oversight. This type of oversight may strengthen public confidence in Canadian law enforcement officials.
More funding to police services and the establishment of new criminal legislation may unwittingly result in the criminalization of immigrants and refugees, and the targeting of diaspora communities. Civil society organizations and refugee organizations must be consulted to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to avoid targeting and further harming refugees and others vulnerable to transnational repression.
Training should also be provided to RCMP and CBSA officers, and to officials at Canadian diplomatic missions, on the nature and scope of transnational repression and foreign interference.
Train Campus Security Officers
All campus security officers should similarly be trained on responding to incidents of transnational repression on campus. These officers should be made aware of the particular threats that these communities face on campus, and how best to respond.
Implement Additional Safeguards for Asylum Seekers
Canada should implement additional safeguards for asylum seekers. Among other things, Canada should ensure that every single asylum request from a national of a state that is a perpetrator of transnational repression, including China, Russia, and Iran, consider their history of transnational repression. This should also apply in all cases of extraditions and deportations.
- Additionally, Freedom House suggests that governments strengthen their existing refugee resettlement programs and limit the use of “temporary and subsidiary forms of protection for asylum seekers”, instead granting these individuals refugee status. Canada should also include details on transnational repression in National Documentation Packages, which are a compilation of public documents providing information on country conditions and consulted throughout an individual’s refugee application.
- Further, victims of INTERPOL abuse who become endangered abroad should be prioritized in IRCC’s “Global Human Rights Defenders Stream”, and the allocated quota of the two-hundred and fifty (250) for this stream should be doubled in number.
Engage in Increased Multilateralism
No one state can take on the threat posed by Russia, China, Iran, and others. Rather, Canada must work with our allies to coordinate responses and track transnational repression worldwide. Canada should partner with our allies’ government agencies, as well as their civil liberties and expert organizations.
Nate Schenkkan of Freedom House explains that:
“Better defenses against transnational repression are a matter of strengthening and increasing connections, not cutting them. Building networks of support and trust, especially among civil society groups, strengthens the sources of resilience that diasporas rely on to push back against transnational repression.”
- Canada has already developed some multilateral relationships to respond to foreign interference. These relationships could be further developed through both wide-reaching agreements on general issues of transnational repression, as well as on specific, focused issues.
For example, in September 2022, members of a European Parliament committee examining foreign interference began urging the creation of a permanent system to share threat information and practices between democratic countries. Raphael Glucksmann, a French member of the EU Parliament, told The Strategist that Europe is dealing with both Russian and Chinese interference, both of whom pose a threat to democracy and human rights. He concluded that “[o]ur response should be common, and it should be swift, because otherwise we are not winning this battle”. Canada should support this type of information sharing development.
Learn from Our Allies
The Canadian government should study our allies’ responses to transnational repression, both positive and negative, both effective and non-effective, in order to better inform our responses.
- For example, in reference to Australia’s legislative response to foreign influence activities, Daniel Ward, a Senior Fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, argues that Australia went wrong in adopting a “country-agnostic stance”, or treating all foreign influence activities the same way, regardless of the perpetrating state. He explains that “[g]reater stringency is needed where the source is a jurisdiction in which the ruling party’s control permeates the entire society, allowing it to exert power through public and ‘private’ entities alike”, and the laws must “apply to a broad range of conduct and entities”. However, if the same legal net is applied to liberal democracies as to authoritarian regimes, “we wind up regulating a lot of activity that doesn’t have a foreign government as its ultimate puppetmaster”.
In the US, a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Transnational Repression Policy Act in March 2023, which aims “to hold foreign governments and individuals accountable when they stalk, intimidate, or assault people across borders, including in the United States”. The Act would require the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on a government strategy to combat transnational repression, and the State Department to include a section in its Annual Human Rights Report on transnational repression.
Additionally, the Act would create a tip line for victims and witnesses and require the president to submit to Congress a list of individuals that should be sanctioned for engaging in transnational repression. It would also direct the intelligence community to identify and share information and require training for relevant government employees on transnational repression. Human Rights Watch says that this “new legislation, if passed, would be a significant step for the US toward greater protections for dissidents and others targeted in this way”. Canada could also enact wide-reaching legislation, studying what our allies have done to combat transnational repression.
Close Foreign States’ Police Stations in Canada
The at least seven alleged Chinese police stations illegally operating on Canadian soil, first identified by the Madrid-based NGO Safeguard Defenders, should be closed. While China has claimed that they are service centres for overseas nationals, they are not considered official channels. Safeguard Defenders stated that the police stations “eschew official bilateral police and judicial cooperation and violate the international rule of law”.
- The RCMP is investigating the allegations. However, there should be stronger mechanisms in place to respond to this type of interference. For example, soon after discovering a police station in Dublin, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs stated that no Chinese authorities had sought permission to do so, raised the issue with the Chinese authorities, and told them to close all operations at the station. One key point to note, however, is that the station in Ireland “is so far the only country where the police station was explicitly advertised as such”. In Canada, China’s embassy has maintained that the stations are not staffed by police officers but are rather “service stations” staffed by volunteers “not involved in any criminal investigation or relevant activity”.
Conservative lawmaker and foreign affairs critic Michael Chong responded by saying the federal government must “haul in ambassador [Cong Peiwu] for a démarche”, or an official diplomatic reprimand. He said that the government should review all Chinese diplomats in Canada to ensure that they are not involved with the police stations, as well as the immigration status of all those working out of the offices who are involved in “intimidation operations”.
Diplomats conducting illegal activity in Canada can be declared persona non grata and removed. Employees of the service stations conducting illegal activity, who are not diplomats, and thus do not benefit from diplomatic immunity, may be prosecuted under Canadian criminal law.
Publicly Speak Out Against Transnational Repression
The federal government should take every opportunity to publicly speak out against transnational repression, and to publicly call out perpetrators of transnational repression. There may be a variety of ways to do this. For example, Canada could include data on transnational repression in human rights reports. Canada can also raise issues relating to transnational repression at the next UN Human Rights Council session pursuant to standing agenda item 4 (“Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention”).
Javad Soleimani believes that the Iranian regime does still respond to international condemnation. Other repressive states do as well. Calling out the bad behaviour of states, through a variety of mechanisms, may lead to changes.
Update Travel Advisories
- Canada could also issue travel advisories for states that engage in transnational repression, as we do for some other human rights abuses. The federal government recommends that Canadians “avoid all travel” to Russia, and Iran, and exercise a “high degree of caution” in China. While the travel advisory information for each state discusses some of their repressive tactics against foreigners, it does not explicitly mention that any of these states are perpetrators of transnational repression.
Currently, the federal government recommends that Canadians exercise a high degree of caution in China “due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws”. Regarding the Uyghur region, the advisory information states:
- “Local authorities have put in place invasive security measures in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Chinese authorities are increasingly detaining ethnic and Muslim minorities in the region without due process. There are reports of extrajudicial internment and forced labour camps. Family members of Canadian citizens with Chinese citizenship have been detained. You may be at risk of arbitrary detention if you have familial or ethnic ties to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
The situation in the region is tense and accurate information is hard to obtain. Authorities may impose curfews and restrictions on short notice.”
The site also states that “China blocks access to several websites, social media, search engines and online services within its territory”, and that one “shouldn’t expect internet privacy. Your communications may be monitored at any time, and authorities may review the content stored or consulted on your electronic devices”. It also does highlight that foreign journalists “face considerable restrictions in the context of their work”, and may be subject to, among other things, surveillance, public smear campaigns, intimidation and harassment, and arrest.
With respect to Russia, the Canadian government recommends that Canadians avoid all travel to Russia, “due to the impacts of the armed conflict with Ukraine, including partial military mobilization, restrictions on financial transactions and increasingly limited flight options”.
The website states that “Communications related to the current situation are scrutinized by local authorities. You may face heavy consequences if you discuss, share or publish information related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Foreign journalists and other media workers in Russia may also face considerable risks.” The site also states that “[a]uthorities may place foreigners under surveillance. Hotel rooms, telephones, fax machines and e-mail messages may be monitored. Personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched”.
With respect to Iran, the Canadian government recommends that Canadians avoid all travel to Iran “due to the volatile security situation, the regional threat of terrorism and the possibility of arbitrary detention”. The site also states:
“There is no resident Canadian government office in the country. The ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance is extremely limited.
Canadians in Iran may be closely watched by Iranian authorities. Seemingly innocuous behaviours, such as the use of cameras in public places, travel beyond well-established tourist attractions or casual interactions with Iranian friends, may be misinterpreted and may lead to investigation.”
These travel advisories should be updated to explicitly include the risk of transnational repression and mention specific communities at risk. Victims of transnational repression in Canada are also at risk when travelling to unsafe third countries and should be made well-aware of those risks. Updating the travel advisories would also be another way for Canada to communicate that they are aware of transnational repression and take it seriously, both to diaspora communities and the perpetrating states.
Implement Targeted Sanctions
Another option that may be available to the Canadian government is to implement targeted sanctions on individuals and entities engaged in certain acts of transnational repression. The relevant pieces of Canadian legislation are the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) and the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA).
The Sergei Magnitsky Law allows for the implementation of sanctions on foreign nationals who have engaged in significant corruption or gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. Specifically, the following foreign nationals may be subjected to sanctions:
- Foreign nationals responsible for or complicit in extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals in any foreign state who seek (i) to expose illegal activity carried out by foreign public officials, or (ii) to obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms;
Foreign nationals acting as agent of or on behalf of a foreign state in a matter relating to an activity described in point [a] above;
Foreign public officials or associates of such officials responsible for or complicit in ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, acts of significant corruption, including bribery, expropriation of private or public assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or the transfer of the proceeds of corruption to foreign jurisdictions;
- Foreign nationals materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material or technological support for or goods or services in support of an activity described in point [c] above.
- The Sergei Magnitsky Law permits the government to implement property-blocking and immigration sanctions on listed individuals. In addition, the governor in council may prohibit “any person in Canada [and] Canadians outside Canada” from:
Dealing, directly or indirectly, in any property, wherever situated, of the listed foreign national;
- Entering into or facilitating, directly or indirectly, any financial transaction related to a dealing described above;
Providing or acquiring financial or other related services to, for the benefit of, or on the direction or order of the listed foreign national;
Making available any property, wherever situated, to the listed foreign national or to a person acting on behalf of the listed foreign national.
- The Sergei Magnitsky Law also amended the IRPA to designate these foreign nationals inadmissible to Canada on grounds of human or international rights violations.
- Similarly, sanctions may be implemented under Section 4 (1.1) of SEMA if “an international organization of states or association of states … has made a decision or a recommendation [that its members implement sanctions]”; if “a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted in or is likely to result in a serious international crisis”; if “gross and systematic human rights violations have been committed in a foreign state”; or if a foreign official or associate of a foreign official “is responsible for or complicit in … acts of significant corruption”.
- If one of these circumstances applies, the governor in council may order that property situated in Canada be seized, frozen, or sequestrated, if such property belongs to the foreign state, any person in that state, or a national of that state who does not ordinarily reside in Canada. The governor in council may also restrict or prohibit dealing with the foreign state in a variety of ways, including restricting or prohibiting Canadians (or persons in Canada) from dealing in property held by nationals of that foreign state.
SEMA is wider than the Sergei Magnitsky Law in several respects, including in that legal entities may also be sanctioned, whereas the Sergei Magnitsky Law may only be used to list and sanction individuals.
Since the passage of the Budget Implementation Act 2022, property belonging to an individual or entity sanctioned under the Sergei Magnitsky Law and/or SEMA may be repurposed, with proceeds used to compensate victims, if the government applies for an order from the Federal Court of Canada and if the Federal Court of Canada so orders.
The Sergei Magnitsky Law and SEMA may cover some acts of transnational repression. This would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, to discern if the actions of a particular foreign national or entity rise to the level of gross violations of human rights and/or significant corruption. Alternatively, and for clarity, the Sergei Magnitsky Law and/or SEMA may be amended to specifically permit the implementation of targeted sanctions in response to incidents of transnational repression.
Request that INTERPOL Amend Its Rules
Canada should not be cooperating with authoritarian regimes on criminal matters. In particular, Canada should not be cooperating with authoritarian regimes in efforts to remove from Canada someone an authoritarian regime claims has committed a crime.
Even where there is evidence of a wrongful act, the individual accused may be targeted as a form of blame shifting. Because authoritarian regimes are not subject to the rule of law, they either unable or unwilling to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent.
Countries with whom Canada has extradition treaties are presumed to conduct fair trials. There should be no such presumption for other countries. Cooperation in criminal matters with states with whom Canada does not have extradition treaties circumvents the Canadian extradition regime and should not occur.
- Regarding INTERPOL, as detailed above, the Red Notice and Diffusion systems are abused by repressive states to harass and intimidate their targets overseas. The distinction between accusations of commission of ordinary law crimes and accusations that are political is difficult to draw when the accusations are made by repressive regimes, since these regimes often shift blame for their own wrongdoing to powerless scapegoats, accusing them of ordinary law crimes. The accusations are politically motivated, but the allegations are that crimes were committed which are not, in themselves, political.
Red Notices and Diffusions can cause problems to the targets, even if there is no extradition treaty between the source country and the country where the target resides, because of the endless rounds of security screening, secondary examinations and possible bars to entry when the targets travel.
INTERPOL’s Commission for Control can in theory decide that INTERPOL should withdraw a Red Notice on the basis that the accusation made is political in substance. However, decisions of this nature by the Commission are few and far between because of the difficulty of establishing the necessary facts in countries where the legal systems do not operate with full disclosure.
The Red Notice and Diffusion systems need to be changed so that INTERPOL does not accede to requests to send out Red Notices or Diffusions where the requests emanate from states not subject to the rule of law. Repressive states, of course, have real criminals in their midst besides the people in power. However, the absence of the rule of law makes it impossible to tell which accusations are real and which are just political fictions fabricated by those in charge.
While the abuse of INTERPOL is global, it has a particular Canadian impact because of the large number of persons in Canada who are nationals of repressive states. Consequently, Canada should be taking the initiative with INTERPOL to try to end the abuse. Canada should ask INTERPOL to amend its Rules on the Processing of Data to provide that INTERPOL will not send out Red Notices or Diffusions on request from states not subject to the rule of law.
Limit Mutual Legal Assistance with Repressive Regimes under the Convention on Cooperation in International Crimes
Another aspect of limiting mutual legal assistance with authoritarian regimes relates to the LjubljanaThe Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of the Crime of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and Other International Crimes (Convention on Cooperation in International Crimes). This Convention is recent, dating from May 2023. It is now open for signature.
The Convention obligates states parties to assist each other in bringing perpetrators of grave international crimes to justice.
- A note of caution is in order, in light of the Canadian experience with foreign interference. The Convention provides, in Article 30, that mutual legal assistance may be refused if the requested state has substantial grounds for believing that the request has been made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing a person on account of that person’s race, gender, color, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, political opinions or belonging to a particular social group.
Yet, there is a similar provision in INTERPOL and the INTERPOL Red Notice system is commonly abused by tyrannical states to go after their chosen targets. The INTERPOL Constitution provides in Article 3 that “[i]t is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character”. In theory, there is a Commission for Control of INTERPOL’s files which exercises a supervisory function. Yet, as noted, that supervision works, in most cases, in name only.
The problem that INTERPOL faces is that tyrannical regimes are sophisticated enough to know not to accuse their targets of offences which are based on internationally prohibited grounds. They rather accuse their targets of standard criminal offences and generate a facade of evidence through tyrannical means to give an air of reality to the accusations.
Moreover, many of the targets of tyrannical regimes are not chosen because of identity characteristics quoted above. The accused may be targeted simply as outsiders, to shift the blame for criminal behaviour from the powerful to the powerless.
Complicating adherence to this mutual legal assistance Convention is the fact that reservations are limited. The Convention provides (in Article 92) that there can be no reservations to the Convention other than those specifically allowed by the Convention.
The reservation that would make the most sense for Canada is to limit the obligations that Canada owes under the Convention only to those states parties with which Canada has operative extradition treaties. That way Canada cannot be roped into providing legal assistance to tyrannical regimes in going after their chosen targets. Yet, it is not clear that the Convention allows for such a reservation.
Nonetheless, if Canada is to sign the Convention at all, such a reservation is advisable. If it turns out that the reservation is not acceptable to the other states parties, Canada should withdraw from the Convention.
Terminate the Treaty Between Canada and the People’s Republic of China on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters
Canada should not have agreed to the Treaty Between Canada and the People’s Republic of China on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. The treaty has a termination provision on six months’ notice. Canada should terminate the treaty. There should not be similar treaties with other countries not subject to the rule of law.
Encourage the Appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Transnational Repression
Canada should encourage the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Transnational Repression. This could provide a central focal point globally for victims of transnational repression and enable deeper investigation into and combatting of this issue at the UN level.
- This is not a novel proposal. Dr. Dana Moss, who coined the term transnational repression, has also called for a UN special rapporteur on the issue. She says that “we need more international coordination” to face these threats, and that the current response is “very ad hoc”. Further, in their recommendations to the US government, Freedom House has also suggested that the US and its allies call for the creation of a UN special rapporteur, and work with international organizations and bodies to “highlight the threat of transnational repression and establish norms for addressing it”.
- Encourage the Creation of a Specific Treaty on Transnational Repression
For these same reasons, Canada should work with its allies to encourage the creation of an international treaty to combat transnational repression. This could contain provisions obligating states parties to take various actions to combat transnational repression including many of the suggestions contained herein. This could provide definitions for the relevant terms, which as detailed above, is needed.
Implement Human Rights Watch’s 12-point Code of Conduct for Universities and Colleges
In March 2019, Human Rights Watch released a 12-point Code of Conduct for universities and colleges to adopt to respond to threats by the Chinese government, urging institutions to resist the CCP’s efforts to undermine academic freedom abroad. Canadian institutions should implement this Code and apply it to other perpetrators of transnational repression as well.
- The Code states that all institutions of higher education should:
Speak out for academic freedom.
Strengthen academic freedom on campus.
Counter threats to academic freedom.
Record incidents of Chinese government infringement of academic freedom.
Join with other academic institutions to promote research in China.
Offer flexibility for scholars and students working on China.
Reject Confucius Institutes.
Monitor Chinese government-linked organizations.
- Promote academic freedom of students and scholars from China.
Disclose all Chinese government funding.
Ensure academic freedom in exchange programs and on satellite campuses.
Monitor impact of Chinese government interference in academic freedom.
Sanction and/or Ban Surveillance Companies Complicit in Transnational Repression
- The federal government should sanction corporations, particularly surveillance technology companies, that assist foreign states in their perpetration of transnational repression and foreign interference. These companies may be sanctionable under SEMA, as described above, and any assets they have in Canada may be repurposed to compensate victims. Short of implementing sanctions, Canada can and should place restrictions on these companies’ operations in Canada.
- In 2019, the US placed trade restrictions on Hikvision and other Chinese companies, banning them from importing US technology over allegations that they were involved in human rights abuses in the Uyghur region. In 2021, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security placed four foreign companies to its Entity List, blacklisting them for their “malicious cyber activities”.
- In November 2022, the UK banned its authorities from using technology that is produced by companies subject to China’s National Intelligence Law, which requires citizens and organizations to cooperate with China’s intelligence and security services. Months earlier, UK lawmakers had called for a ban on technology by Hikvision and another Chinese surveillance technology firm over allegations they were involved in human rights abuses in the Uyghur region.
Canada should follow suit and sanction and/or ban such companies with ties to repressive states, particularly surveillance technology companies where there is evidence of their involvement in transnational repression.
This is a pressing problem in Canada. As detailed above, several companies with close ties to the CCP have been operating in Canada’s surveillance sector. For example, Hikvision, which has been sanctioned in the US and UK, still operates in Canada. Their video cameras are used across the country, including on government buildings.
1 Dana M. Moss, “Transnational Repression, Diaspora Mobilization, and the Case of The Arab Spring”, Social Problems (2016) 63:4, pp. 480-498 at 481.
3 Noura Al-Jizawi, Siena Anstis, Sophie Barnett, Sharly Chan, Niamh Leonard, Adam Senft, and Ron Deibert, “Psychological and Emotional War: Digital Transnational Repression in Canada”, Citizen Lab Research Report No. 151, University of Toronto, March 2022. [Citizen Lab 2022]
4 Noura Aljizawi and Siena Anstis, “Wrestling the long arm of authoritarianism”, Policy Options, 19 August 2022. [Aljizawi and Anstis]
5 Gerasimos Tsourapas, “Global Autocracies: Strategies of Transnational Repression, Legitimation, and Co-Optation in World Politics”, International Studies Review (2021) 23, pp. 616-644 at 621. [Gerasimos Tsourapas]
6 Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-23). [CSIS Act]
7 Ibid at s. 2.
8 Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “Foreign Interference and You”, Government of Canada, p. 2. [Foreign Interference and You]
9 Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “Foreign Interference Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process”, Government of Canada, July 2021, p. 5. [CSIS: Foreign Interference Threats]
10 Foreign Interference and You, supra note 8.
11 Global Affairs Canada, “Rapid Response Mechanism Canada: Global Affairs Canada”, Government of Canada, 20 September 2022.
12 Vincent Rigby and Thomas Juneau, et al., “A National Security Strategy for the 2020s: Report of the Task Force on National Security”, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa, May 2022. [University of Ottawa Report]
13 CSIS: Foreign Interference Threats, supra note 9.
14 Gerasimos Tsourapas, supra note 5 at p. 618.
15 US Embassy & Consulates in Italy, “Putin’s poisons: 2018 attack on Sergei Skripal”, 11 April 2022.
16 Bradley Jardine, “Great Wall of Steel: China’s Global Campaign to Suppress the Uyghurs”, Wilson Center, 2022, p. xxxii. [Bradley Jardine]
18 Nate Schenkkan and Isabel Linzer, “Out of Sight, Not Out of Reach: The Global Scale and Scope of Transnational Repression”, Freedom House, Washington, DC: February 2021. [Freedom House 2021]
19 Yana Gorokhovskaia and Isabel Linzer, “Defending Democracy in Exile: Policy Responses to Transnational Repression”, Freedom House, Washington, DC: June 2022. [Freedom House 2022]
20 Natalie Hall and Bradley Jardine, ““Your Family Will Suffer”: How China is Hacking, Surveilling, and Intimidating Uyghurs in Liberal Democracies”, Uyghur Human Rights Project and Oxus Society for Central Asian Affairs, 10 November 2021, p. 8. [Hall and Jardine]
21 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. xxxiv-xxxviii.
22 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “CSIS reports outline how China targets Canadian politicians, business leaders”, CBC News, 20 February 2023.
24 Catharine Tunney, “State actors could use blackmail, threats to influence voters, politicians in the next elevation, CSIS warns”, CBC News, 22 July 2021. [Catharine Tunney]
25 Freedom House 2022, supra note 19.
26 Citizen Lab 2022, supra note 3.
27 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, “Intended and Unending: A Report on China’s Transnational Harassment and Intimidation Campaign Against Uyghur-Canadians”, February 2022, p. 28. [Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project]
28 Freedom House 2022, supra note 19.
30 Citizen Lab 2022, supra note 3 at p. 25.
31 NSICOP Annual Report 2020, p. 17, https://www.nsicop-cpsnr.ca/reports/rp-2021-04-12-ar/annual_report_2020_public_en.pdf. [NSICOP Annual Report 2020]
32 Ben Mussett, “Canadian governments have ignored Chinese interference warnings for 30 years, former CSIS agent says”, Toronto Star, 31 March 2023.
33 Darren Major, “Johnston delivers classified final report on foreign interference, officially steps down”, CBC News, 26 June 2023.
34 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 10.
35 Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, “Government of Canada launches public inquiry into foreign interference”, Cision, 7 September 2023.
38 Terms of Reference, Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions, 12 September 2023, https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/terms-reference.html.
40 Between January and April 2023, we interviewed 18 victims of transnational repression across seven Canadian cities. All of our interviewees hold legal status in Canada. Where possible, statements were cross-checked with previously reported information and checked for inconsistencies. Six interviews were conducted with the assistance of two interpreters, who are well-known and trusted within the victim communities. Real names are used where we cite publicly reported information, or where we received explicit consent to use someone’s personal name. Otherwise, we have assigned victims random pseudonyms. We use the term “victim” throughout this paper, as that is how participants described themselves in interviews.
41 Gerasimos Tsourapas, supra note 5 at p. 636.
42 CSIS: Foreign Interference Threats, supra note 9 at p. 7.
43 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. xxxiii.
44 Aljizawi and Anstis, supra note 4.
45 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 28.
46 NSICOP Annual Report 2020, supra note 31 at para 59.
47 See for example: University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 4; Katie Bo Lillis and Natasha Bertrand, “Iran has sent military trainers to Crimea to train Russian forces to use drones”, CNN, 19 October 2022; Marcus Kolga and Kaveh Shahrooz, “Both the Russian army and Iran’s IRGC should be on Canada’s terror list”, National Post, 10 November 2022; and Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee, “Russia is providing ‘unprecedented’ military support to Iran in exchange for drones, officials say”, NBC News, 9 December 2022.
48 Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, “Kyrgyzstan and China: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), including relationship between China and Kyrgyzstan; activities of the organization involving the two countries (2012-2015)”, Government of Canada, 12 February 2015.
49 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 15.
50 Sam Cooper, “Canadian intelligence warned PM Trudeau that China covertly funded 2019 election candidates”, Global News, 7 November 2022. [Sam Cooper]
51 Jessica Mundie, “Foreign interference is the ‘greatest strategic threat’ facing Canada’s national security, CSIS says”, CBC News, 17 March 2023.
52 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 15.
55 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns: China’s covert operation to force ‘fugitives’ overseas back home”, January 2022, p. 14. [Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”]
56 Yana Gorokhovskaia, “Transnational Repression Threatens Freedom Worldwide”, Freedom House, 2 June 2022.
58 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 12.
59 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
60 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 3.
61 Ibid at p. 12.
62 Ibid at p. 11.
63 Ibid at p. 12.
64 Ibid at p. 18.
65 Ibid at p. 12.
66 Ibid at p. 17.
67 Ibid at p. 17.
68 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 18.
69 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at pp. 16-17.
70 Ibid at p. 17.
71 Ibid at p. 16.
72 Ibid at p. 17.
73 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at pp. 3, 11.
74 Ibid at p. 3.
76 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 17.
77 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
78 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 10.
81 Ibid at p. 11.
83 Ibid at p. 15.
85 Ibid at p. 21.
90 Clive Hamilton, “China’s Influence Activities: What Canada can learn from Australian”, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, November 2018.
91 Tom Blackwell, “‘Don’t step out of line’: Confidential report reveals how Chinese officials harass activists in Canada”, The National Post, 5 January 2018. [Tom Blackwell]
92 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
93 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 16.
94 Ryan Fedasiuk, “Putting Money in the Party’s Mouth: How China Mobilizes Funding for United Front Work”, Jamestown Foundation, China Brief Volume 20 Issue 16, 16 September 2020.
95 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 8.
96 Ibid at p. 22.
98 Ibid at p. 16.
99 Safeguard Defenders, “110 Overseas: Chinese Transnational Policing Gone Wild”, September 2022, p. 18. [Safeguard Defenders, “110 Overseas”]
100 Gao v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2022 FC 64 (CanLII).
101 Ibid at para 2.
102 Ibid at para 3.
103 Ibid at para 3.
104 Ibid at paras 18-19.
105 Ibid at para 20.
106 Ibid at para 57.
107 Ibid at para 37.
108 Ibid at para 51.
109 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 27.
112 Gerasimos Tsourapas, supra note 5 at p. 629.
115 Ibid at p. 631.
116 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 27.
117 Ibid at p. 28.
124 Ibid at p. 29.
126 Ari Shapiro, Jonaki Mehta, and Ashley Brown, “Chechnya once resisted Russia. Now, its leader is Putin’s brutal ally in Ukraine”, NPR, 27 April 2022.
127 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 29.
134 Ibid at p. 35.
135 Saeid Golkar, “Iran’s Intelligence Organizations and Transnational Suppression”, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 5 August 2021.
140 Adam Burns, “Victim of Markham, Ont., homicide identified as Iranian-Canadian activist Mehdi Amin”, The Canadian Press, 23 October 2020. [Adam Burns]
142 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 35.
143 Ibid at p. 36. Assadollah Assadi was released in 2021 in a prisoner swap. See: “Iran, Belgium conduct prisoner swap freeing aid worker, diplomat”, Al Jazeera, 26 May 2023.
144 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 35.
146 Gerasimos Tsourapas, supra note 5 at p. 631.
148 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 38.
149 Ibid at p. 39.
150 Ibid at p. 38.
151 Ibid at p. 39.
152 Canada, Parliament, House of Commons, Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, Evidence, 43rd Parl, 2nd Sess, No 27 (31 May 2021), https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/CACN/meeting-27/evidence. [Special Committee on Canada-China Relations]
153 Canadian Coalition on Human Rights in China and Amnesty International Canada, “Harassment & Intimidation of Individuals in Canada Working on China-related Human Rights Concerns”, March 2020, p. 2. [CCHRC and Amnesty Canada]
154 Ibid at p. 3.
156 Ibid at p. 22.
158 Ibid at p. 23.
159 Ibid at pp. 24-26.
160 Ibid at p. 27.
162 Ibid at p. 47.
163 Ibid at p. 33.
168 Ibid at p. 47.
170 Tom Blackwell, supra note 91.
171 Geordon Omand, “Miss World Canada aimed to confront China on human rights – not to win a tiara”, The Canadian Press, 20 December 2016. [Geordon Omand]
172 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 47.
173 Tom Blackwell, supra note 91.
174 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 47.
175 Geordon Omand, supra note 171.
176 Canada, Parliament, House of Commons, Standing Committee on National Defence, 44th Parl, 1st Sess, No 50 (14 February 2023), https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2023/parl/xc34-1/XC34-1-2-441-50-eng.pdf.
178 Marcus Kolga, “The long and poisonous tentacles of Kremlin intimidation”, Toronto Star, 13 September 2020.
180 Angela Hennessy and Katie Swyers, “Iranian dissidents in Canada say they’re being watched and under threat from the regime in Iran”, CBC News, 26 November 2022. [Hennessy and Swyers]
185 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 41.
186 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 26.
189 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 30.
190 Ibid at p. 31.
191 Ibid at p. 39.
192 Hall and Jardine, supra note 20 at p. 37.
193 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 29.
194 Ibid at p. 30.
195 Christy Somos, “Hong Kongers say they’re being targeted by Chinese agents on Canadian soil”, CTV News, 16 April 2021. [Christy Somos]
196 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 30.
197 Christy Somos, supra note 195.
198 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 30.
201 Christy Somos, supra note 195.
202 Canada, Parliament, House of Commons, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, 44th Parl, 1st Sess, No 12 (21 June 2022), https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/44-1/SDIR/meeting-12/evidence.
208 The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, “Flight PS752: The Lonely Fight For Justice”, November 2021.
209 Ibid at p. 1.
213 Zarei v Iran, 2021 ONSC 3377 at paras 52-53.
214 Human Rights Watch, “Iran: Ukraine Airline Victims’ Families Harassed, Abused”, 27 May 2021.
215 Hennessy and Swyers, supra note 180.
224 Ashley Burke and Nahayat Tizhoosh, “Spy agency investigating ‘credible’ death threat from Iran against individuals in Canada”, CBC News, 18 November 2022.
227 Also spelled Aierken Kuerban.
228 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 37.
231 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. 142.
232 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 38.
233 Radio Free Asia, “Uyghur-Canadian Interrogated, Pressured to Spy For Chinese Authorities”, 24 April 2015. [Radio Free Asia]
235 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 38.
236 Radio Free Asia, supra note 233.
238 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. 143.
239 Radio Free Asia, supra note 233.
240 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. 143.
241 Radio Free Asia, supra note 233.
242 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. 143.
245 Christy Somos, supra note 195.
246 Sarah Teich, “Fighting back against global hostage-taking: A proposed new Act to hold state and terrorist actors to account”, Macdonald-Laurier Institute and Canadian Coalition Against Terror, 2021.
247 John Boyko, “Meng Wanzhou Affair (Two Micheals Case)”, The Canadian Encyclopedia, 19 July 2022.
248 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 3.
249 Nathan Vanderklippe, “Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador mum on Fan Wei, Canadian sentenced to death in China”, The Globe and Mail, 22 April 2020. [Nathan Vanderklippe]
250 Jessie Yeung and Steven Jiang, “Chinese court rejects Canadian’s appeal against death sentence for drug smuggling”, CNN, 10 August 2021.
251 The Associated Press, “China sentences 4th Canadian to death on drug charges in 2 years”, 7 August 2020.
253 Randy Boswell, “Ottawa Citizen: Liberal MP rises to defend Canadian jailed in China; KunLun Zhang a classic ‘prisoner of conscience’, says Irwin Cotler”, The Ottawa Citizen, 9 December 2000.
254 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 17.
255 Adam Miller and Francesca Fionda, “10 years later, family of Canadian in Chinese prison still looking for answers”, Global News, 17 March 2016.
257 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 17.
259 Nathan Vanderklippe, supra note 249.
260 Jennifer Hansler, “Exclusive: Paul Whelan tells CNN he’s confident ‘wheels are turning’ toward his release”, CNN, 21 May 2023.
262 Jennifer Hansler, “Exclusive: Paul Whelan tells CNN he is ‘disappointed’ that more has not been done to secure his release”, CNN, 8 December 2022.
263 Vladimir Kara-Murza, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, https://www.raoulwallenbergcentre.org/en/pursuing-justice/defending-political-prisoners/vladimir-kara-murza.
264 Ibid; “Russia: Anti-war political activist and prisoner of conscience Vladimir Kara-Murza sentenced to 25 years in jail”, Amnesty, 17 April 2023.
265 “Russia: Anti-war political activist and prisoner of conscience Vladimir Kara-Murza sentenced to 25 years in jail”, Amnesty, 17 April 2023.
266 Catherine Cullen, “How many Canadians are jailed in Iran? The government won’t say”, CBC News, 13 July 2016. [Catherine Cullen]
268 Ibid; “Interview / Homa Hoodfar”, Canadian Association of University Teachers, January 2017.
269 Cheryl Chan, “Detained Iranian-Canadian sculptor Parviz Tanavoli returns to Vancouver”, Vancouver Sun, 18 July 2016.
271 Catherine Cullen, supra note 266.
272 Ibid; “Toronto-area man faces death in Iran prison”, CBC News, 18 January 2012.
273 “Toronto-area man faces death in Iran prison”, CBC News, 18 January 2012.
274 Saeed Malekpour, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, https://www.raoulwallenbergcentre.org/en/pursuing-justice/defending-political-prisoners/saeed-malekpour.
277 Jordan Press, “Supreme Court says Zahra Kazemi’s family can’t sue Iran for her death”, Ottawa Citizen, 10 October 2014.
281 Negar Mojtahedi, “Canadian woman missing in Iran and her family believes she’s been detained”, Global News, 8 March 2023.
282 Akhtar Safi, “Canadian Couple ‘Missing’ In Iran For 18 Months”, IranWire, 9 March 2023.
284 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 3.
288 Ibid at p. 4.
290 Safeguard Defenders, “110 Overseas”, supra note 99 at p. 6.
291 Hall and Jardine, supra note 20 at p. 9.
292 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 8.
293 Ibid at p. 36.
294 Ibid at p. 36.
295 Ibid at pp. 47-48.
296 Adam Miller and Francesca Fionda, “10 years later, family of Canadian in Chinese prison still looking for answers”, Global News, 17 March 2016.
297 Huseyin Celil, Amnesty International Canada, https://amnesty.ca/huseyin-celil/.
298 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 7.
300 Ibid at p. 8.
301 Ibid at p. 41.
304 Ibid at p. 8.
305 Ibid at p. 9.
306 Ibid at p. 54.
308 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
309 Hennessy and Swyers, supra note 180.
310 Their names have not been made public. Brennan MacDonald, “Canada condemns Iran after kidnapping plot alleged in US indictment”, CBC News, 14 July 2021.
312 Spencer S. Hsu and Shane Harris, “Former Saudi intelligence officer accuses crown prince of ordering his assassination in Canada”, The Washington Post, 6 August 2020. [Hsu and Harris]
317 BBC News, “Saudi crown prince accused of sending hit squad to Canada”, 6 August 2020. [BBC News]
318 Hsu and Harris, supra note 312.
319 BBC News, supra note 317.
322 Adam Burns, supra note 140.
324 CBC News, “Woman charged with 2nd-degree murder in death of Iranian activist Mehdi Amin”, 5 November 2020.
326 Adam Burns, supra note 140.
327 Shah Meer Baloch and Hannah Ellis-Petersen, “Karima Baloch, Pakistani human rights activist, found dead in Canada”, The Guardian, 22 December 2020.
328 Mary Lynk, (Host), “Episode 1: Death of an Icon”, In: The Kill List, CBC Listen, Ilina Ghosh, 23 January 2022.
330 Zaffar Baloch, [@ZaffarBaloch], “Baloch Human Rights Canada #BHRC rejects finding of the @TorontoPolice that #KarimaBaloch killed herself. She did not escape death in Pakistan to come to Canada and commit suicide. BHRC demands an independent enquiry into her death that excludes any Pakistani-Canadian police,” Twitter, https://twitter.com/zaffarbaloch/status/1341460512245215237.
332 Diary Marif, “Karima Baloch’s death remains a mystery”, New Canadian Media, 6 January 2023.
334 Hindustan Times, “Baloch activist vocal about Pakistan goes missing, found dead in Toronto”, 22 December 2020.
335 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18; Freedom House 2022, supra note 19.
336 Marcus Michaelsen and Johannes Thumfart, “Drawing a line: Digital transnational repression against political exiles and host state sovereignty”, European Journal of International Security (2022), pp.1-21 at 2. [Michaelsen and Thumfart]
337 Ibid at p. 9.
338 Marcus Michaelsen, “The Digital Transnational Repression Toolkit, and Its Silencing Effects”. In: Nate Schenkkan et al. (Eds.), “Perspectives on “Everyday” Transnational Repression in an Age of Globalization”, Freedom House, July 2020. [Marcus Michaelsen]
339 Aljizawi and Anstis, supra note 4.
340 Marcus Michaelsen, supra note 338.
341 Aljizawi and Anstis, supra note 4.
342 Michaelsen and Thumfart, supra note 336 at p. 2.
343 Nate Schenkkan, “Introduction”. In: Nate Schenkkan et al. (Eds.), “Perspectives on “Everyday” Transnational Repression in an Age of Globalization”, Freedom House, July 2020, p.2. [Nate Schenkkan]
344 Michaelsen and Thumfart, supra note 336 at p. 1.
345 Elizabeth Thompson, “Chinese cyber espionage operation targeted Canadian Uyghurs, says Facebook”, CBC News, 24 March 2021.
352 Amnesty International, “Nowhere Feels Safe: Uyghurs Tell of China-Led Intimidation Campaign Abroad”, February 2020.
355 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 41.
356 Ibid at p. 30.
357 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 33.
358 Ibid at p. 34.
359 Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, supra note 152.
361 Gerasimos Tsourapas, supra note 5 at p. 627.
362 Fiona B. Adamson and Gerasimos Tsourapas, “At Home and Abroad: Coercion-by-Proxy as a Tool of Transnational Repression”. In: Nate Schenkkan et al. (Eds.), “Perspectives on “Everyday” Transnational Repression in an Age of Globalization”, Freedom House, July 2020.
367 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 25.
370 Ibid at p. 26.
374 Ibid at p. 27.
376 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
377 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 28.
378 Ibid at pp. 28, 30.
379 Ibid at p. 28.
381 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 39.
383 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 39.
386 Ibid at p. 27.
388 Ibid at p. 28.
391 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 31.
392 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 40.
397 David Tobin and Nyrola Elimä, “’We know you better than you know yourself’: China’s transnational repression of the Uyghur diaspora”, The University of Sheffield, 2023.
398 Mary Lynk, (Host), “Episode 4: ‘I am not a terrorist’”, In: The Kill List, CBC Listen, Ilina Ghosh, 23 January 2022.
399 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 31.
400 Safeguard Defenders, “110 Overseas”, supra note 99 at p. 8.
401 Ibid at p. 9.
402 Ibid at p. 5.
403 Gerasimos Tsourapas, supra note 5 at p. 626.
404 Meduza, “Russian Embassy in Canada refused to admit a Russian national because she follows a pro-Navalny Facebook page”, 27 January 2023.
406 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 38.
407 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 37.
409 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 41.
410 Idil Mussa, “RCMP investigating Chinese ‘police’ stations in Canada”, CBC News, 26 October 2022.
411 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
412 Kalina Laframboise, “Why RCMP are investigating ‘alleged Chinese police stations’ in Quebec”, Global News, 9 March 2023.
413 Safeguard Defenders, “110 Overseas”, supra note 99 at p. 12.
414 Ibid at p. 11.
415 Ibid at p. 4.
416 Ibid at p.19.
417 Alexander Panetta and Richard Raycraft, “The US is cracking down on Chinese ‘police stations’ with a tool Canada still doesn’t have”, CBC News, 22 April 2023. [Panetta and Raycraft]
420 The Canadian Press, “China accuses Canada of smearing its reputation over alleged secret police stations”, CBC News, 10 March 2023.
421 UN General Assembly, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 10 December 1984, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1465, p.85.
422 UN General Assembly, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 20 December 2006.
423 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 7.
424 Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, supra note 27 at p. 23.
425 Gerasimos Tsourapas, supra note 5 at p. 627.
426 INTERPOL, “Member countries”, https://www.interpol.int/en/Who-we-are/Member-countries#:~:text=INTERPOL%20has%20195%20member%20countries,police%20with%20our%20global%20network.
427 Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run: China’s expanded mis(use) of INTERPOL since the rise of Xi Jinping”, 2021, p.5. [Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run”]
428 Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “INTERPOL and Europol”, 31 July 2017. [RCMP]
431 Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run”, supra note 427.
432 Canada, Parliament, House of Commons, Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Evidence, 42nd Parl, 1st Sess, No 138 (22 November 2018) at 0845. [Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, 2018].
434 Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run”, supra note 427 at p. 5.
436Ibid at p. 6.
438 Ibid at p. 9.
439 Ibid at p. 8.
440 Ibid at p. 5.
442 Ibid at p. 8.
446 Ibid at p. 6.
447 UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137. [Refugee Convention]
448 INTERPOL, “Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (CCF)”, https://www.interpol.int/en/Who-we-are/Commission-for-the-Control-of-INTERPOL-s-Files-CCF#:~:text=The%20Commission%20for%20the%20Control,complies%20with%20the%20applicable%20rules.
449 Rasmus H. Wandall, “Ensuring the rights of EU citizens against politically motivated Red Notices”, European Parliament, Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, February 2022.
450 Sophie Richardson, “Letter from HRW to Interpol Secretary General Stock”, Human Rights Watch, 24 September 2017. [Sophie Richardson]
451 Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run”, supra note 427 at p. 9.
455 Fair Trials, “INTERPOL: New data reveals 1,000 Red Notices and Wanted Person diffusions rejected or deleted each year”, 7 November 2022.
456 Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run”, supra note 427 at p. 4.
458 Safeguard Defenders, “Involuntary Returns”, supra note 55 at p. 12.
460 Ibid at p. 13.
461 Ibid at p. 19.
462 Freedom House 2021, supra note 18 at p. 20.
463 Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run”, supra note 427 at p. 14.
466 Michael J. Abramowitz, “INTERPOL Must Not Legitimize Governments Committing Transnational Repression”, Freedom House, 24 November 2021.
469 Safeguard Defenders, “No Room to Run”, supra note 427 at p. 10.
470 Sophie Richardson, supra note 450.
472 BBC News, “Meng Hongwei: China sentences ex-Interpol chief to 13 years in jail”, 21 January 2020.
476 Angela Charlton, “Wife of arrested Chinese ex-Interpol president sues agency”, AP News, 7 July 2019.
477 Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, 2018, supra note 432.
487 CSIS: Foreign Interference Threats, supra note 9 at p. 4.
488 Catharine Tunney, supra note 24.
490 Danielle Cave and Jake Wallis, “Defending democracies from disinformation and cyber-enabled foreign interference”, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 22 April 2021.
493 CSIS: Foreign Interference Threats, supra note 9 at p. 6; Catharine Tunney, supra note 24.
494 Foreign Interference and You, supra note 8 at p. 5.
495 Catharine Tunney, “CSIS warned MPs, senators that hostile states might listen in on their conversations”, CBC News, 25 April 2023.
497 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “CSIS documents reveal Chinese strategy to influence Canada’s 2021 election”, The Globe and Mail, 17 February 2023.
502 Catharine Tunney, “CSIS warned MPs, senators that hostile states might listen in on their conversations”, CBC News, 25 April 2023.
503 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
506 Canada Elections Act (S.C. 2000, c.9). [Canada Elections Act]
507 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
508 Simina Mistreanu and Rozina Sabur, “China planted spies in Canadian parliament”, The Telegraph, 8 November 2022.
509 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
510 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “China views Canada as a ‘high priority’ for interference: CSIS report”, The Globe and Mail, 1 May 2023.
511 Vote No.56, 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session, 22 February 2021. https://www.ourcommons.ca/members/en/votes/43/2/56.
512 Darren Major, “Canada expelling diplomat accused of targeting MP Michael Chong’s family”, CBC News, 8 May 2023. [Darren Major]
514 The Globe and Mail, “The alarm on China’s interference is ringing louder”, 2 May 2023.
515 Steven Chase and Robert Fife, “Trudeau blames CSIS for not informing MP Chong about being target of China”, The Globe and Mail, 3 May 2023.
516 Darren Major, supra note 512.
517 CBC Radio, “Chrystia Freeland a target a of Russian intelligence operation, says expert”, 13 March 2017.
519 Tasha Kheiriddin, “China’s people need the most protection from the Chinese Communist Party”, National Post, 15 November 2022. [Tasha Kheiriddin]
520 Chauncey Jung, “China’s Interference in Canada’s Elections”, The Diplomat, 22 November 2022.
521 Tasha Kheiriddin, supra note 519.
522 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
523 CBC News, “Former B.C. MP says he lost his seat due to China allegedly meddling in Canadian election”, 3 March 2023.
525 Catharine Tunney, “Spy agency warned Trudeau China’s tactics becoming more ‘sophisticated… insidious’”, CBC News, 7 December 2021. [Catharine Tunney, December 2021]
526 CBC News, “Former B.C. MP says he lost his seat due to China allegedly meddling in Canadian election”, 3 March 2023.
528 Marc Godbout and Richard Raycraft, “Federal government awarded RCMP contract to firm with ties to China”, CBC News, 7 December 2022. [Godbout and Raycraft]
531 Catharine Tunney, “RCMP says it’s running checks on equipment purchased from company linked to China”, CBC News, 30 January 2023.
532 Godbout and Raycraft, supra note 528.
535 Richard Raycraft, “RCMP suspends contract with China-linked company”, CBC News, 8 December 2022.
536 Catharine Tunney, “RCMP says it’s running checks on equipment purchased from company linked to China”, CBC News, 30 January 2023.
537 Conor Healy and Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, “Canada is being naïve about the risks of Chinese technology”, The Globe and Mail, 13 December 2022.
539 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “Chinese AI firm blacklisted by US gave funds to York, Queens universities”, 28 May 2021, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-chinese-ai-firm-blacklisted-by-us-gave-funds-to-two-ontario/.
540 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “Mountie targeted B.C. real estate tycoon for China, RCMP allege”, Globe and Mail, 21 August 2023.
542 Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, “How to identify misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation”, February 2022.
544 Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, “National Cyber Threat Assessment 2023-2024”, Government of Canada, p.16. [National Cyber Threat Assessment 2023-2024]
545 Foreign Interference and You, supra note 8 at p. 4.
546 CSIS: Foreign Interference Threats, supra note 9 at p. 8.
547 Catharine Tunney, December 2021, supra note 525.
548 Alliance Canada Hong Kong, “In Plain Sight: Beijing’s unrestricted network of foreing influence in Canada”, May 2021.
549 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 7.
551 Alex Joske, “The party speaks for you: foreign interference and the Chinese Communist Party’s united front system”, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 9 June 2020.
554 Michael Walsh, “Australia called for a COVID-19 probe. China responded with a trade war”, ABC News, 2 January 2021.
556 Marcus Kolga, “Confusion, Destabilization and Chaos: Russia’s Hybrid Warfare Against Canada and its Allies”, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, October 2021, p. 2.
557 Public Safety Canada, “Remarks by Director David Vigneault to the Centre for International Governance Innovation”, Government of Canada, 9 February 2021.
558 Elizabeth Thompson, “Disinformation, foreign interference threating Canada’s electoral system, elections watchdog warns”, CBC News, 22 June 2022. [Elizabeth Thompson]
560 Hannah Jackson, “Experts warn of disinformation during election but say political attack ads within legal limit”, Global News, 22 September 2019.
561 Elizabeth Thompson, supra note 558.
563 Foreign Interference and You, supra note 8 at p. 4.
564 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 10.
566 Ibid at p. 20.
567 Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, supra note 152.
568 Yojana Sharma, “Student group with links to Beijing banned from McMaster”, University World News, 4 October 2019. [Yojana Sharma]
569 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. 164.
570 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 41.
571 Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, supra note 152.
574 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 41.
575 Yojana Sharma, supra note 568.
577 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. 164.
578 Yojana Sharma, supra note 568.
580 Bradley Jardine, supra note 16 at p. 164.
581 Yojana Sharma, supra note 568.
583 Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, supra note 152; CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 43.
584 Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, supra note 152.
587 China has also issued several improper Red Notices for Dolkun Isa’s arrest, claiming that he is a terrorist.
588 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 43.
589 Levon Sevunts, “Chinese officials pressured Canadian university to cancel event with Uighur activist”, Radio Canada International, 27 March 2019.
590 Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, supra note 152.
594 CCHRC and Amnesty Canada, supra note 153 at p. 34.
595 Ibid at p. 35.
596 Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, supra note 152.
603 Carleton Ukrainian Students’ Society, “Statement RE: Acts of Hate Against Ukrainian Students at Carleton University”, 27 January 2023.
610 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “Canadian universities conducting joint research with Chinese military scientists”, Globe and Mail, 30 January 2023.
613 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “University of Waterloo advises researchers they aren’t obligated to talk to CSIS agents”, The Globe and Mail, 24 April 2023. [Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “University of Waterloo”]
614 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “Ottawa ends all research funding with Chinese military and state security institutions”, The Globe and Mail, 14 February 2023.
616 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “University of Waterloo”, supra note 613.
619 The Canadian Press, “University of Waterloo to end research partnership with Chinese tech giant Huawei”, 4 May 2023.
621 Tom Blackwell, “Chinese government’s Confucius Institute holds sway on Canadian campuses, contracts indicate”, National Post, 22 March 2020.
622 Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “The Security Dimensions of an Influential China”, Government of Canada, September 2013, p. 123. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “The Security Dimensions of an Influential China”]
623 National Association of Scholars, “How Many Confucius Institutes Are in the United States?”, 19 September 2022.
624 Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “The Security Dimensions of an Influential China”, supra note 622 at p. 125.
625 Tom Blackwell, “Chinese government’s Confucius Institute holds sway on Canadian campuses, contracts indicate”, National Post, 22 March 2020. [Tom Blackwell, “Chinese government’s Confucius Institute”]
627 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
629 Tom Blackwell, “Chinese government’s Confucius Institute”, supra note 625.
630 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 9.
632 Hennessy and Swyers, supra note 180.
634 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “CSIS reports outline how China targets Canadian politicians, business leaders”, The Globe and Mail, 20 February 2023.
636 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
637 Shen Yun is operated by Falun Gong, and performs globally. It is banned in China.
638 Michaelsen and Thumfart, supra note 336 at p. 2.
639 Statute of the International Court of Justice, Article 38(1).
640 “International Law and Canadian Domestic Law”, University of Melbourne, https://unimelb.libguides.com/c.php?g=929683&p=6717562#:~:text=While%20ratification%20of%20a%20treaty,be%20incorporated%20into%20domestic%20legislation.
643 R. v. Hape,  2 S.C.R. 292, 2007 S.C.C. 26 at para 36.
644 United Nations, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1155, p. 331.
645 OHCHR, “Ratification of 18 International Human Rights Treaties”, United Nations.
646 UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III).
647 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, A/RES/217(III)[A], 10 December 1948, 3rd Sess, Supp No 13, UN Doc A/810 (1948) 71.
648 “International Human Rights Law”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-and-mechanisms/international-human-rights-law#:~:text=International%20human%20rights%20law%20lays,and%20to%20fulfil%20human%20rights.
649 UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171. [ICCPR]
650 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 7, Part 1 of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11. [Charter]
651 ICCPR, supra note 649 at Article 2.
652 ICCPR, supra note 649 at Article 2.
653 Refugee Convention, supra note 447 at Articles 4, 15-18, 22-23, and 26.
654 UN General Assembly, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 21 December 1965. [ICERD]
655 UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966. [ICESCR]
656 UN General Assembly, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 10 December 1984. [CAT]
657 UN General Assembly, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, 18 December 1990. [ICMW]
658 UN General Assembly, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 23 December 2010. [CPED]
659 The Case of the S.S. “Lotus” (France v. Turkey) (1927) P.C.I.J., Ser. A, No. 10.
660 Michaelsen and Thumfart, supra note 336 at p. 2.
661 Ibid at p. 10.
662 Ibid at p. 11.
663 Katja S. Ziegler, “Domaine Réservé”, Max Planck Encyclopedias of International Law, April 2013.
664 Michaelsen and Thumfart, supra note 336 at p. 11.
665 Tallin Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, Michael N. Schmitt ed., 2012.
666 Michaelsen and Thumfart, supra note 336 at p. 12.
669 Ibid at p. 13.
670 Ibid at p.14.
672 “Eritrea: Events of 2020”, Human Rights Watch, https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2021/country-chapters/eritrea.
675 “Why is Eritrea backing Russian aggression in Ukraine?”, The Economist, 8 March 2022.
676 “Canadian Sanctions Related to Eritrea”, Government of Canada, https://www.international.gc.ca/world-monde/international_relations-relations_internationales/sanctions/eritrea-erythree.aspx?lang=eng.
678 See the Report of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission/Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights Joint Investigation into Alleged Violations of International Human Rights, Humanitarian and Refugee Law Committed by all Parties to the Conflict, https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/3947207?ln=en#:~:text=From%2016%20May%20to%2030,refugee%20law%20committed%20in%20the.
679 Ibid at 5.
680 “Eritreans in Canada say consul still demands cash from them”, CBC News, 22 May 2013.
681 “Ottawa forced Eritrea to nix ‘2% extortion tax’ on citizens in Canada”, National Post, 2 September 2012; “Eritrea’s ‘diaspora tax’ is funding violence and oppression”, Al Jazeera, 20 February 2023.
682 “Letter dated 11 July 2012 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea addressed to the President of the Security Council” (13 July 2012) at 22, https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/Somalia%20S%202012%20545.pdf.
683 “Eritrea’s ‘diaspora tax’ is funding violence and oppression”, Al Jazeera, 20 February 2023.
684 Michaelsen and Thumfart, supra note 336 at p. 14.
686 “Declarations recognizing the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory: Iran, Islamic Republic of”, International Court of Justice, https://www.icj-cij.org/declarations/ir.
687 “Declarations recognizing the jurisdiction of the Court as compulsory: Pakistan”, International Court of Justice, https://www.icj-cij.org/declarations/pk.
688 “ICJ Order on Provisional Measures: The Gambia v Myanmar”, OpinioJuris, 2020, http://opiniojuris.org/2020/01/24/icj-order-on-provisional-measures-the-gambia-v-myanmar/.
690 “Q&A: The Gambia v Myanmar, Rohingya Genocide at The ICJ, May 2020 Factsheet”, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, 2020, https://www.globalr2p.org/publications/myanmarqav2/. Note that the state would have to have not made a reservation under the relevant article.
691 Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Glossary of technical terms related to the treaty bodies”, https://www.ohchr.org/en/treaty-bodies/glossary-technical-terms-related-treaty-bodies#:~:text=A%20reservation%20may%20enable%20a,approve%20or%20accede%20to%20it.
692 “What are reservations to treaties and where can I find them?” Dag Hammarskjöld Library, https://ask.un.org/faq/139887#:~:text=Reservations%20cannot%20be%20incompatible%20with,withdrawn%20at%20a%20later%20date.
693 Case Concerning Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (New Application: 2002) (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Rwanda), International Court of Justice, 3 February 2006.
694 Ibid at paras 66-70.
695 Dissenting Opinion of Judge Koroma at para 12, https://www.legal-tools.org/doc/34abef/pdf.
696 “Statement By The Subcommittee On International Human Rights Concerning The Human Rights Situation Of Uyghurs And Other Turkic Muslims In Xinjiang, China”, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, House of Commons Chambre Des Communes Canada, 21 October 2020.
697 “The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention”, Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, March 2021.
698 “An Independent Legal Analysis of the Russian Federation’s Breaches of the Genocide Convention in Ukraine and the Duty to Prevent”, Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, May 2022.
699 UN General Assembly, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 9 December 1948, Article IX.
700 “Inter-state complaints”, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, https://www.ohchr.org/en/treaty-bodies/human-rights-bodies-complaints-procedures/inter-state-complaints.
701 The complaint form can be found at https://spsubmission.ohchr.org/. Communications may also be sent by mail to Special Procedures, OHCHR-UNOG, 8-14 Avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland.
702 Communications to the UN Human Rights Council may be sent by email (CP@ohchr.org), fax (41 22 917 90 11), or mail (Complaint Procedure Unit, Human Rights Council Branch, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland). The complaint form can be found online at https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/hrc/complaint-procedure/hrc-complaint-procedure-index.
703 See for example, the advocacy of Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) of UN Watch, https://twitter.com/hillelneuer?s=21.
704 “Statement By The Subcommittee On International Human Rights Concerning The Human Rights Situation Of Uyghurs And Other Turkic Muslims In Xinjiang, China”, Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, House of Commons Chambre Des Communes Canada, 21 October 2020.
705 “The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China’s Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention”, Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, March 2021.
706 “Repression Across Borders: The CCP’s Illegal Harassment and Coercion of Uyghur Americans”, Uyghur Human Rights Project, August 2019.
707 Kristina Hook, “The Russian Federation’s Escalating Commission of Genocide in Ukraine: A Legal Analysis”, Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, 26 July 2023.
708 Ontario Human Rights Commission, “About the Commission”; Human Rights Legal Support Centre, “Defending your Human Rights in Ontario”, Government of Ontario; Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, “About the HRTO”, Government of Ontario; Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 190, c. H.19. [OHRC]
710 Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, “What We Do”, Government of Ontario.
711 Huang v 1233065 Ontario, 2011 HRTO 825 (CanLII), at para 5.
712 Ibid at paras 110-116.
713 Ibid at para 69.
714 Ibid at para 70.
716 Ibid at para 142.
717 Lewis N. Klar, “Torts in Canada”, The Canadian Encyclopedia, 30 July 2013, last edited 30 October 2020, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/torts.
719 Chris Lackner, “Court seeks diplomat’s assets”, The Globe and Mail, 29 July 2004 [Chris Lackner]; See also: Minghui.org, “Toronto Star Reports on Falun Gong Practitioner’s Victory of Libel Lawsuit”, 6 February 2004. [Minghui.org]
723 Kazemi Estate v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 2014 SCC 62. [Kazemi]
724 Immunity ratione materiae applies in respect of official acts performed for or on behalf of a state. Immunity ratione materiae is distinguished from immunity ratione personae, which is a blanket immunity attaching to all acts performed by high-ranking officials such as heads of state.
725 Kazemi, supra note 723 at para 229.
726 State Immunity Act, RSC 1985, c. S-18, s. 6. [State Immunity Act]
727 Kazemi, supra note 723 at para 73.
728 Schreiber v. Canada (Attorney General), 2002 SCC 62 at para 32. [Schreiber]
730 Ibid at para 37.
731 Walker v. Bank of New York Inc, 111 DLR (4th) 186, 16 OR (3d) 504.
732 United States of America v. Friedland, 182 DLR (4th) 614, 46 OR (3d) 321 at para 25.
733 Ibid at paras 26-27.
734 Schreiber, supra note 728 at para 42.
736 Kazemi, supra note 723 at para 75.
737 Doe v. Holy See, 434 F. Supp. (2d) 925, 948 (D. Or. 2006), aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 557 F. (3d) 1066 (9th Cir. 2009), cert. denied sub nom. Holy See v. Doe, 130 S. Ct. 3497 (mem.) (2010); Skeen v. Federative Republic of Brazil, 566 F. Supp. 1414, 1417 (DDC 1983).
738 Minghui.org, supra note 719.
739 Chris Lackner, supra note 719.
740 Torts and their legal tests may vary between provinces and territories. For consistency, in this section, we focus on torts available in Ontario.
741 Grant v. Torstar Corp., 2009 SCC 61 (CanLII),  3 SCR 640.
742 Prinzo v. Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, 2002 CanLII 45005 (ON CA).
743 “Intentional Infliction Of Mental Suffering In The Workplace “, Achkar Law, https://achkarlaw.com/intentional-infliction-of-mental-suffering-in-the-workplace/#:~:text=What%20Constitutes%20Intentional%20Infliction%20of,provable%20illness%20for%20the%20plaintiff.
745 Central Canada Potash Co. Ltd. et al. v. Government of Saskatchewan, 1978 CanLII 21 (SCC),  1 SCR 42.
746 Ibid at p. 8.
747 Merrifield v. Canada (Attorney General), 2019 ONCA 205 (CanLII).
748 Caplan v. Atas, 2021 ONSC 670 (CanLII).
750 Ibid at para 99.
751 Ibid at para 228.
752 385277 Ontario Ltd. v Gold, 2021 ONSC 4717 (CanLII).
753 Ibid at para 48.
754 Ibid at paras 50-63.
755 2110120 Ontario Inc. o/a Cargo County v. Buttar, 2022 ONSC 1766 (CanLII).
756 40 Days for Life v. Dietrich et. al., 2022 ONSC 5588 (CanLII).
757 Ibid at para 92.
758 Government of Canada, “Stalking is a crime called criminal harassment”, 8 December 2021.
760 Chen et al. v Attorney General of Alberta, (2007), 416 A.R. 14 (QB).
761 Ibid (Memorandum of the Applicants, 26 August 2006 at para 37).
762 Ibid at para 3.
763 Ibid (Respondent’s brief at para 53).
764 Ibid (Argument, Counsel for the Attorney General).
765 Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46)at s. 372(3) [Criminal Code].
766 Krieger v. Law Society of Alberta, 2002 SCC 65 at para 46.
767 R v Power,  1 SCR 601.
768 Ibid at para 12.
769 Jacob R. W. Damstra, “Private Prosecutions in the Public Interest?: Process, Possibilities, and Problems” Lerners, October 2016.
772 Criminal Code, supra note 765 at s. 7 (7).
773 Written copy of submission available at: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bnaibrithcanada/pages/2771/attachments/original/1556816941/Matas-Submission_02May2019.pdf?1556816941.
774 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, S.C. 2001, c. 27 at s. 34(1). [IRPA]
775 Ibid at s. 33.
776 Ibid at s. 35 (1).
777 Ibid at s. 35.1 (1).
778 Ibid at s. 36 (2).
779 Ibid at s. 40 (1).
780 Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, S.C. 1991, c. 41.
781 CSIS Act, supra note 6 at s. 2.
782 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 2.
783 Security of Information Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. O-5 at s. 22-23. [Security of Information Act]
784 Ibid at s. 4.
785 Ibid at s. 5.
786 Ibid at s. 6, s. 2.
787 Ibid at s. 9-15.
788 Ibid at s. 16.
789 Ibid at s. 17-18.
790 Ibid at s. 19 (1).
791 Ibid at s. 19 (3) (b).
792 Ibid at s. 20 (1).
793 Ibid at s. 20 (2).
794 Ibid at s. 3(1).
795 Subcommittee on the Review of the Anti-terrorism Act, “Rights, Limits, Security: A Comprehensive Review of the Anti-terrorism Act and Related Issues (Final Paper of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security)”, March 2007 at p. 65.
796 Ibid at s. 24.
797 Lobbying Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. 44 (4th Supp.). [Lobbying Act]
798 Elections Modernization Act, S.C. 2018, c.31. [Elections Modernization Act]
799 Office of the Minister of Democratic Institutions, “Government of Canada passes Elections Modernization Act”, Government of Canada, 14 December 2018.
801 Michael Pal, “Evaluating Bill C-76: the Elections Modernization Act”, Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, 25 August 2019, p. 171-181 at 172. [Michael Pal]
802 Elections Modernization Act, supra note 798 at s. 325.1 (1).
803 Michael Pal, supra note 801 at p. 173.
805 Canada Elections Act, supra note 506 at ss. 282.4 (1) and (2).
806 Ibid at s. 323.
807 Ibid at s. 481 (1).
808 Ibid at s. 282.4 (5).
809 “Countering an evolving threat: Update on recommendations to counter foreign interference in Canada’s democratic institutions”, Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/democratic-institutions/news/2023/04/countering-an-evolving-threat-update-on-recommendations-to-counter-foreign-interference-in-canadas-democratic-institutions.html [“Countering an evolving threat”]
810 Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “Mandate”, Government of Canada, 25 January 2021.
811 Global Affairs Canada, “Raison d’etre, mandate and role: who we are and what we do”, Government of Canada, 27 February 2023.
812 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 16.
813 Government of Canada, “Rapid Response Mechanism Canada: Global Affairs Canada”, Global Affairs Canada, 20 September 2022.
814 Canada’s Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force brings together officials from the CSE, CSIS, GAC, and the RCMP to assess and respond to interference threats. It works to identify and prevent covert, clandestine, or criminal activities from influencing or interfering with Canadian elections.
815 Government of Canada, “Rapid Response Mechanism Canada: Global Affairs Canada”, Global Affairs Canada, 20 September 2022.
817 Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “About the RCMP”, Government of Canada, 22 November 2021.
818 Government of Canada, “The National Cybercrime Coordination Centre (NC3)”, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 19 October 2022.
820Communications Security Establishment Act, S.C. 2019, c. 13, s. 76 at s. 15.
821 Ibid at s. 17-19.
822 Government of Canada, “Canadian Centre for Cyber Security”, 30 May 2023.
823 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 18.
824 Government of Canada, “About the Cyber Centre”, Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, 23 December 2022.
826 “Countering an evolving threat”, supra note 809.
828 “Government of Canada provides update on recommendations to combat foreign interference”, Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/democratic-institutions/news/2023/04/government-of-canada-provides-update-on-recommendations-to-combat-foreign-interference.html.
829 Aaron D’Andrea and Annabelle Olivier, “Hydro-Quebec employee charged with alleged espionage for China: RCMP”, Global News, 14 November 2022.
831 Robert Fife and Steven Chase, “Mountie targeted BC real estate tycoon for China, RCMP allege”, Globe and Mail, 21 August 2023.
833 Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, “National Cyber Threat Assessment 2020”, Government of Canada, p. 11.
834 National Cyber Threat Assessment 2023-2024, supra note 544 at p. iii.
835 Ibid at p.12.
836 Foreign Interference and You, supra note 8.
837 Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “News Release: Foreign Actor Interference”, Government of Canada, 22
839 Sarah Teich and Mehmet Tohti, “Hacking the activists fighting for human rights”, iPolitics, 12 January 2022.
840 Leyland Cecco, “‘A brazen intrusion’: China’s foreign police station raise hackles in Canada”, The Guardian, 7 November 2022 [Leyland Cecco].
842 Freedom House 2022, supra note 19 at pp. 3-4.
843 Christy Somos, supra note 195.
844 Foreign Interference and You, supra note 8 at p. 3.
845 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
847 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 1.
848 Ibid at p. 2.
849 Ibid at p. 10.
851 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 2.
852 John Packer and Ghuna Bdiwi, “Canada Must Protect Activists-in-Exile Against Transnational Repression”, Centre for International Policy Studies, University of Ottawa, 9 December 2022.
853 Catharine Tunney, “CSIS warned MPs, senators that hostile states might listen in on their conversations”, CBC News, 25 April 2023.
854 “Economic Security is National Security”, Business Council of Canada, 7 September 2023.
856 The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, “2021 Annual Report” May 2022 at 16; The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, “2022 Annual Report” at 17.
857 Security of Information Act, supra note 783 at s. 19 (3) (b).
858 Ibid at s. 20.
859 Lobbying Act, supra note 797.
860 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
861 Michael Pal, “Evaluating Bill C-76: the Elections Modernization Act”, Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law, [13 J.P.P.L.] p.171-181. p.180.
865 Global News, “Knowingly spreading disinformation ahead of voting must be outlawed: Elections Canada”, 7 June 2022.
868 Sam Cooper, supra note 50.
869 Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization, “The Recognition and Criminalization of ‘Refugee Espionage’ in Europe”, March 2022. [UNPO]
872 Aljizawi and Anstis, supra note 4.
873 UNPO, supra note 869 at p. 5.
874 United Nations Population Fund, “A new copyright for the human body”, https://www.unfpa.org/bodyright.
879 Security of Information Act, supra note 783 at s. 24.
880 Written copy of submission available at: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/bnaibrithcanada/pages/2771/attachments/original/1556816941/Matas-Submission_02May2019.pdf?1556816941.
881 IRPA, supra note 774 at ss. 34 (1) (a), (b.1), (d), (e), and (f).
882 Ibid at s. 40.
883 Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, S.C. 1991, c. 41.
884 Government of Canada, “Government of Canada launches public consultations on a Foreign Influence Transparency Registry in Canada”, Public Safety Canada, 10 March 2023.
886 Bill C-282, An Act to establish the Foreign Influence Registry, 2nd Sess, 43rd Parl, 2001.
887 Bill S-237, An Act to establish the Foreign Influence Registry and to amend the Criminal Code, 1st Sess, 44th Parl, 2021.
888 United States Government, “Foreign Agents Registration Act”, US Department of Justice, https://www.justice.gov/nsd-fara.
891 Government of Canada, “Foreign Interference – Foreign Agent Registry”, Public Safety Canada, 20 August 2021, https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/trnsprnc/brfng-mtrls/prlmntry-bndrs/20210625/20-en.aspx.
892 Library of Congress, Australia. “Australia: Bills Containing New Espionage, Foreign Interference Offenses, and Establishing Foreign Agent Registry Enacted”, 21 August 2018, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2018-08-21/australia-bills-containing-new-espionage-foreign-interference-offenses-and-establishing-foreign-agent-registry-enacted/.
894 Australia’s Foreign Relations (State and Territory Arrangements) Bill 2020.
895 Panetta and Raycraft, supra note 417.
896 Marcus Kolga and Kaveh Shahrooz, “Opinion: Both the Russian army and Iran’s IRGC should be on Canada’s terror list”, National Post, 10 November 2022. [Kolga and Shahrooz]
897 Allan Woods, “Is Vladimir Putin running a ‘terrorist state’? Why what we call Russia right now matters”, Toronto Star, 25 November 2022.
898 State Immunity Act, supra note 726 at s. 6.1 (2).
899 Ibid at s. 2.1.
900 Criminal Code, supra note 765.
901 Ibid at s. 83.05 (1).
902 Ibid at s. 83.01 (1).
903 Council of the EU, “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine: Wagner Group and RIA FAN added to the EU’s sanctions list”, Press release, 13 April 2023.
905 Kolga and Shahrooz, supra note 896.
906 Delaney Simon and Michael Wahid Hanna, “Why the US Should Not Designate Russia as a State Sponsor of Terrorism”, International Crisis Group, 4 August 2022.
907 Kolga and Shahrooz, supra note 896.
908 Mojdeh Shahriari, et al., “Open Letter from Canadian lawyers – Action against the Islamic Republic of Iran”, 23 December 2022.
911 Freedom House 2022, supra note 19 at p. 33.
912 Yana Gorokhovskaia, “Tracking Transnational Repression: Next Steps for the State Department’s Human Rights Reports”, Just Security, 2 June 2021.
913 Front organizations and fake NGOs are commonly utilized by authoritarian regimes. For example, in 2019, an organization called the “Tibetan Association of Canada” was established in Toronto. This organization was supported by the Chinese government. See: https://savetibet.org/setting-up-astroturf-tibetan-associations-in-the-west-is-chinas-latest-ploy-to-mislead-the-world-on-tibet/.
914 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 15.
915 CSIS: Foreign Interference Threats, supra note 9 at p. 14.
916 University of Ottawa Report, supra note 12 at p. 18.
917 “Policy Recommendations: Transnational Repression”, Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/policy-recommendations/transnational-repression. [“Policy Recommendations: Transnational Repression”]
919 Victim’s Bill of Rights, 1995, S.O. 1995, c. 6, s. 5.
920 Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, S.C. 2015, c. 13, s.2.
921 Christy Somos, supra note 195.
922 Jo-Anne Wemmers, “Compensating Crime Victims: Report prepared for the Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime”, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, March 2021. [Wemmers]
924 Ibid; “Victims’ Rights in Canada”, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime (CRCVC), February 2015, https://crcvc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/victims-rights_paper_DISCLAIMER_Feb2015.pdf.
925 Wemmers, supra note 922.
927 The serious violent crimes specified are homicide; sexual assault; aggravated assault; and other serious personal violence offences including against a child (this includes assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, kidnapping, hostage taking, human trafficking, and forced marriage).
928 Sarah Teich, “Part II – Analysis of the Five Eyes’ Systems for Addressing Cross-Border Victims’ Needs – Discerning Best Practices And Proposing Targeted Recommendations For Canada”, in Developing a modernized federal response plan for Canadians victimized abroad in acts of mass violence: How Canada can address the needs of cross-border victims based on international best practices (Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, 2021).
929 “Program Guidelines on Financial Assistance to Canadians Victimized Abroad”, Government of Canada, September 2017, section 3.5, https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fund-fina/cj-jp/fund-fond/guide_abr-ligne_etr.html#s3.
931 “Policy Recommendations: Transnational Repression”, supra note 917.
932 Safeguard Defenders, “14 governments launch investigations into Chinese 110 overseas police services stations”, 7 November 2022.
933 Kate Weine, “US Lawmakers Tackle Transnational Repression”, Human Rights Watch, 24 March 2023.
934 “Policy Recommendations: Transnational Repression”, supra note 917.
935 Nate Schenkkan, supra note 343.
936 Brendan Nicholson, “EU looks to Australia for help on fighting foreign interference”, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 21 September 2022.
939 Daniel Ward, “Making Australia’s foreign influence laws work”, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 22 July 2021.
942 Kate Weine, “US Lawmakers Tackle Transnational Repression”, Human Rights Watch, 24 March 2023.
943 Safeguard Defenders, “110 Overseas”, supra note 99 at p. 3.
944 Shane Harrison, “Chinese ‘police station’ in Dublin ordered to shut, BBC News, 27 October 2022.
945 Leyland Cecco, supra note 840.
949 “China travel advice”, Government of Canada, https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/china.
952 “Russia travel advice”, Government of Canada, https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/russia.
954 “Iran travel advice”, Government of Canada, https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/iran.
956 Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) S.C. 2017, c. 21, s. 4 (2) (paraphrased).
957 Ibid at s. 4 (3) (paraphrased).
958 Special Economic Measures Act, S.C. 1992, c. 17 at s. 4 (1.1).
959 LjubljanaThe Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of the Crime of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and Other International Crimes, https://www.gov.si/assets/ministrstva/MZEZ/projekti/MLA-pobuda/The-Ljubljana-The-Hague-MLA-Convention.pdf.
960 The Constitution, INTERPOL, https://www.interpol.int/en/Who-we-are/Legal-framework/Legal-documents.
961 Treaty Between Canada and the People’s Republic of China on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (E101640 – CTS 1995 No. 29), https://www.treaty-accord.gc.ca/text-texte.aspx?id=101640.
962 Ibid at Article 25.
963 Stockholm Center for Freedom, “[Interview] Dr. Dana Moss calls on the UN to appoint a special rapporteur on transnational repression”, 28 December 2022.
965 “Policy Recommendations: Transnational Repression”, supra note 917.
966 Human Rights Watch, “Resisting Chinese Government Efforts to Undermine Academic Freedom Abroad”, March 2019.
968 Michelle Toh, “UK bans Chinese surveillance cameras from ‘sensitive’ sites”, CNN, 25 November 2022. [Michelle Toh]
969 Leyland Cecco, “’Asleep at the wheel’: Canada police’s spyware admission raises alarm”, The Guardian, 7 July 2022.
970 Michelle Toh, supra note 968.
972 Conor Healy and Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, “Canada is being naïve about the risks of Chinese technology”, The Globe and Mail, 13 December 2022.