Senators Oh and Woo Ramp Up Efforts Against Foreign Agent Registry in Canada, Calling It Anti-Chinese

Senators Oh and Woo Ramp Up Efforts Against Foreign Agent Registry in Canada, Calling It Anti-Chinese
Sen. Victor Oh in a file photo. (Becky Zhou/The Epoch Times)
Isaac Teo

Senators Yuen Pau Woo and Victor Oh have ramped up efforts against enacting a foreign agent registration act as the Canadian government considers the legislation to combat foreign influence.

Both senators brought up the issue again at a conference that marked the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Immigration Act, held at the Splendid China Mall in Scarborough, Ont., on Saturday, May 27.

The act, introduced on July 1, 1923, is commonly known as the Chinese Exclusion Act, as it resulted from an effort to stop Chinese immigration, stated a May 30 federal government news release recognizing "the national historic significance" of this legislation.

The event was organized by a group called the “Reflecting on the 100th Anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act Organizing Committee.” Woo and Oh were invited as keynote speakers, among several others.

Speaking to some 200 attendees, Woo urged the Chinese community to reject “modern forms of Chinese exclusion,” according to a May 28 report by Canadian Chinese Media News.
The senator has been asserting that a foreign influence registry might become “a modern form of Chinese exclusion,” as he reiterated in March in response to a tweet by Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino announcing that the government had launched public consultations on creating one.
Sen.Yuen Pau Woo denounces RCMP allegations of Chinese interference in Canada as community organizer May Chiu looks on during a news conference at the Chinese Family Service Centre in Montreal on May 5, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz)
Sen.Yuen Pau Woo denounces RCMP allegations of Chinese interference in Canada as community organizer May Chiu looks on during a news conference at the Chinese Family Service Centre in Montreal on May 5, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz)
Oh’s speech on May 27 had a similar tone as Woo’s. He told the audience to support petition e-4395, an online petition sponsored by Liberal MP Chandra Arya calling on the federal government to "reconsider its proposed Foreign Influence Transparency Registry."
He added that this piece of legislation “will change your life” and that “tomorrow when you get up, the life will be different; nothing belongs to you anymore.”
Parliamentary efforts to create a foreign agent registry have been ongoing for over two years in Canada. Should the law be enacted, individuals advocating for a foreign state will be required to register their activities or face fines or jail time.
In the current session of Parliament, Conservative Sen. Leo Housakos has presented Senate Bill S-237 seeking to create the registry, but so far the bill has not received government support.
Prior to that, in 2021, then-Conservative MP Kenny Chiu introduced a private member’s bill, C-282, seeking to establish a foreign agent registry act, but the bill never reached second reading before summer break, and an election was called in August that year.
Chiu subsequently lost his seat in the B.C. riding of Steveston–Richmond East in the 2021 federal election. He said at the time that he was the target of a widespread misinformation campaign in Chinese media which claimed that Bill C-282 was anti-Chinese.

The former MP had stressed that the bill was meant to protect diaspora communities in Canada from harassment and persecution by foreign governments.

To date, the United States and Australia have enacted legislation to establish a foreign influence registry.

‘Helped to Draft the Petition’

The event in Scarborough was also attended by other politicians.
They included Trade Minister Mary Ng; Liberal MPs Chandra Arya, Jean Yip and Paul Chiang; Ontario MPP Aris Babikian; Markham Deputy Mayor Michael Chan; and Markham Regional Councillor Alan Ho.
Arya, who sponsored petition e-4395, in his remarks at the event stated that the proposed registry “is a draconian tool.”

The petition was initiated by Li Wang, a Coquitlam, B.C., resident in April. “A registry is a misleading way to identify sources of foreign influence,” it stated, adding that “a foreign influence registry poses a serious harassment and stigmatization risk for racialized communities.”

Wang has published several articles in Chinese-language media against the proposed legislation. In one of her articles, dated April 27, she wrote that the petition “received guidance” from Woo.

She also noted that Woo, along with Arya and Oh, have accepted interviews and recorded promotion videos for the petition.

In an earlier email statement, Woo confirmed to The Epoch Times that he has “helped to draft the petition.”

‘Not the Same’

Oh and Woo have regularly cited racism concerns as part of opposing setting up a foreign agent registry in Canada.
In a document that Woo's office has allegedly repeatedly removed from Woo's website, but that was publicly archived in 2019, it appears that Oh had joined Woo in leading a forum discussion in 2018 in a manner opposing the proposed foreign agent registration laws in Canada.
“This was a non-partisan event that was designed to advance parliamentarians’ understanding of the issues in order to minimize the risk of politicization and public over-reaction to concerns about Chinese influence and interference,” the document said.
In mid February this year, Woo delivered a speech at the Senate repeating his position against having a foreign agent registry act.

“Do you wonder why so many Chinese Canadians today are wary of efforts to again register those who are already in the country but who are deemed to have the wrong connections or backgrounds?” he said.

On March 16, Woo and Oh held a press conference announcing their plans to hold a national remembrance ceremony and other commemorative events on June 23 through 25 to mark the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Chinese Immigration Act.
On April 18, Woo wrote to Mendicino saying that the proposed foreign agent registry act is a “wrong solution” and that it is driven by “anti-China sentiment.”

A number of diaspora groups have spoken out to call for establishment of a foreign agent registry so that they can be protected.

“The Chinese Canadian community, together with our Uyghur community, Tibetan community, and other people, welcome this foreign agent registry. A registry on foreign agents is not the same as a registry on all Chinese Canadians,” Cheuk Kwan, co-chair of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China, told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics on March 10.
Ai-Men Lau, an adviser with Alliance Canada Hong Kong, also told the committee that a foreign agent registry would help in the efforts to combat foreign influence in Canada, although other means are also needed to tackle this issue effectively.

"I would say that a foreign agent registry is certainly a good first step," Lau said. "We also need to be cognizant of the fact that it is limited in scope."

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, a senior fellow at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs of the University of Ottawa, told the House Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on May 30 that groups that the CCP has targeted for persecution have for years called for a foreign agent registry and other means to curb the CCP's threats against them.

“The Uyghurs, Tibetans, Falun Gong, pro-democracy Hong Kongers, and human rights activists would be more targeted if they spoke in public hearings,” said McCuaig-Johnston.

"They've called for many years for a single window for investigations and for a foreign agent registry, which are still not implemented. I hope that the government has now gotten the message that Canadians care about these issues, because they clearly do," a translator interpreted her remarks from French.

Andrew Chen contributed to this report.