Protecting Immigrants and Refugees: Canada’s Obligation to Combat Transnational Repression

A recent report by human rights advocates highlights Canada’s duty to take decisive action in safeguarding immigrants and refugees who frequently become targets of foreign interference. The report asserts that Canada is not fulfilling its international obligations to shield those seeking a fresh start in the country from intimidation and pressure stemming from authoritarian governments in their homelands.

While there are legal frameworks and mechanisms at Canada’s disposal, both domestically and internationally, to combat transnational repression, the report emphasizes that the Canadian government has yet to adequately respond. Consequently, the report presents several recommendations to address this issue and ensure the protection and well-being of vulnerable populations.

One key recommendation is to terminate Canada’s long-standing 1994 treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters with China. This agreement compels Ottawa to collaborate with Beijing on police and criminal investigations. The report highlights instances where China has exploited ostensibly anti-corruption initiatives, like Operation Fox Hunt, to locate and punish dissidents who have sought refuge in other countries. It further emphasizes that China has operated illegal police stations in Canada and other nations.

To effectively combat transnational repression, the report urges Canada to establish a registry of foreign agents to track potential efforts to influence the country. Additionally, it calls for the creation of a commissioner of foreign influence who can receive and investigate complaints, including allegations of violations by foreign embassies and consulates.

The report also recommends the implementation of a dedicated hotline for individuals facing intimidation, allowing them to seek assistance and enabling coordinated responses to such repression. It proposes criminalizing the offense of “refugee espionage,” wherein foreign governments spy on individuals who have resettled in Canada after fleeing their native countries. Moreover, the report advocates for the introduction of a civil cause of action specific to transnational repression, providing diaspora communities with easier standing to sue foreign governments or their agents in Canada.

In addition to these measures, the report suggests training law enforcement officers and campus security personnel at universities to identify and address instances of transnational repression. It also emphasizes the importance of imposing targeted sanctions on foreign officials or entities engaged in such activities.

By implementing these recommendations, Canada can mitigate transnational repression and enhance its global reputation in combatting foreign interference. The report maintains that failing to fulfill obligations to protect individuals within its borders from foreign-based repression is inconsistent with international conventions and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Q: Why is Canada urged to terminate its treaty with China?
A: The treaty obliges Canada to cooperate with China on police and criminal investigations, which allows China to exploit it for purposes of transnational repression.

Q: What are the recommended measures to combat transnational repression?
A: The report suggests establishing a registry of foreign agents, creating a commissioner of foreign influence, implementing a dedicated hotline for targets of intimidation, criminalizing “refugee espionage,” introducing a civil cause of action specific to transnational repression, and training law enforcement officers and campus security personnel.

Q: How can Canada enhance its global reputation in addressing foreign interference?
A: By effectively combatting transnational repression through the proposed measures, Canada can improve its reputation and demonstrate its commitment to protecting vulnerable individuals within its borders.

Q: What are the consequences of Canada’s failure to protect individuals from transnational repression?
A: Canada’s failure to fulfill its obligations puts vulnerable populations at risk and undermines its reputation in addressing foreign interference. It also disregards international conventions and the rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.