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Statement: Controlling Foreign Influence in Canadian Elections Report

Honourable senators, I will rise briefly to thank the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for the report that has just been tabled entitled Controlling Foreign Influence in Canadian Elections.

I want to commend the chair of the committee, Senator Runciman, and the deputy chair, Senator Baker, and all committee members for taking the initiative to bring attention to this important and troubling issue.

As we learned during committee hearings and against all logic and contrary to the interests of Canada's democracy and our sovereignty, foreign funding in Canadian elections is permitted in the Canada Elections Act under certain conditions. This fact was exposed through testimony and documents shared with us by Elections Canada. For the benefit of those who have not had had a chance to read this report, allow me to quote one of its important passages:

Despite the challenges in countering foreign interference, Canada's electoral laws must include strong prohibitions and sufficient penal consequences to deter and denounce any violations. Amendments could be considered that would allow for the seizure and forfeiture of assets of foreign entities that attempt to interfere in our elections.

The recommendations put forward in this report are very much in line with Bill S-239, the eliminating foreign funding in elections bill, which I introduced in this chamber on May 30. Bill S-239 seeks to close the loopholes in the Canada Elections Act which allows third-party organizations to receive funding from abroad for the purposes of election activity. Former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley described those loopholes as "large enough to fly a 747 through." I encourage all honourable senators to read this report to better understand the gaps in Canadian law that allow for foreign influence in our elections. In light of the very serious allegations of foreign meddling in the recent U.S. election, foreign interference in our own domestic elections is a threat that Canadians should take extremely seriously.

Thanks again to Senator Runciman and the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee for their excellent work.

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