WSO Calls for Clarity and Safeguards in Counter-Interference Bill C-70

Ottawa (June 11, 2024):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) has made recommendations on Bill C-70 An Act Respecting Countering foreign Interference in testimony before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and also the Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs.  The recommendations aim to ensure that the legislation is true to its purpose of countering foreign interference and not used to target minority communities in Canada.

For four decades, India has attempted to intimidate and silence Sikhs in Canada, particularly those advocating for Khalistan, a sovereign state governed by Sikh principles. This interference has manifested through disinformation campaigns, visa denials, intimidation of family members, and, as recently revealed, assassinations. In June 2023, Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar, President of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, was assassinated in a plot that was orchestrated by agents of the Government of India. 

Foreign interference poses a national crisis, with deadly consequences for the Sikh community. While Bill C-70 is a step in the right direction, the WSO has concerns about some of the bill’s provisions:

  1.     Information Disclosure by CSIS: The legislation allows CSIS to disclose information to any relevant entity. This could provide clarity to the Sikh community, which has received vague "duty to warn" letters. However, there is concern that foreign state officials or agents in Canada could be considered "entities". Defining "entity" as a domestic entity within the legislation is crucial.  Vigilance is needed to ensure new powers are used to counter foreign interference, not to share intelligence with hostile countries such as India, potentially harming the Sikh community.
  2.     Criminal Code Sabotage Provision: The addition makes it an offense to interfere with access to essential infrastructure, including the safety of foreign military forces in Canada. There is concern this could be used against Sikh protestors, as seen with false accusations after the protest at the Indian embassy in Ottawa in March 2023.
  3.     Intimidation Provisions in the Criminal Code: Introducing life imprisonment penalties for "intimidation" without a clear definition raises concerns about potential misuse against activists.
  4.     International Relations Considerations in the Immigration Refugee Protection Act: Giving the Minister the ability to intervene based on international relations could counteract the legislation's purpose. Past considerations of international relations have allowed foreign interference against Sikhs to go unchecked, prioritizing trade relations with India over the Sikh community's safety.
  5.     Independence of Foreign Influence Transparency (FIT) Commissioner:  The WSO endorses the recommendations of Democracy Watch to ensure that the FIT Commissioner is independent and not susceptible to political pressure. This includes having a fixed seven year term, and appointments being made by Parliament. 

WSO President Danish Singh said today,

“While Bill C-70 is a step in the right direction, we are concerned that without amendments, the new powers may be turned around to target minority communities like ours.  The Sikh community in Canada has faced four decades of interference from India which has now taken the form of targeted assassinations as in the case of Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar. We urge the government to consider our recommendations seriously, ensuring that the legislation not only counters foreign interference but also safeguards the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights of all individuals.  

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  • Balpreet Singh
    published this page in Press Releases 2024-06-11 17:25:50 -0400