Federal Legislation on Foreign Interference

There are a couple pieces of federal legislation that we have been monitoring with respect to elections as part of our ongoing tracking of local elections issues and trends.  

As members are aware, we released our recommendations to update the Municipal Elections Act, 1996 earlier this yearWithin our submission, we highlight several trends that we are monitoring on behalf of our members who have identified as areas of interest and concern. Among them was foreign interference and the potential impacts for local elections. 

Ahead of the introduction of legislation, we also wrote to the federal ministers of Justice and Democratic Institutions and Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing in the fall responding to a public consultation on potential legislation to counter foreign interference. With this we highlighted several considerations for the federal government to consider as legislation would also impact local elections. 

Since then, Bill C65, An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act (Electoral Participation Act), was introduced in March 2024  with measures addressing foreign interference in the electoral process, though it remains at standing committee for study as of this posting. 

Of particular interest is the provisions related to electoral reform for federal elections which proposes:

  • Disclosure of foreign funding for certain political activities
  • Prohibiting foreign contributions related to Canadian elections
  • Expanding powers of Commissioner of Elections to investigate and prosecute instances of foreign interference; improve cybersecurity measures; public awareness and education to combat foreign interference. 

On May 6, 2024, Federal Bill C-70, An Act respecting countering foreign interference was introduced. The Bill received Royal Assent on June 20, 2024.   

Of interest to members, the Bill:

  1. Made changes to the Security of Information Act
  • Renamed to "Foreign Interference and Security of Information Act." 
  • Creates new foreign interference offences for deceptive acts that undermine democracy e.g. influencing the outcomes of political processes, offences regarding intimidation, threats or violence
  1. Made changes to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act
  • Amends Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) powers to allow the sharing of intelligence with other levels of government. 
  • Introduces sabotage offence in the Criminal Code directed at “essential infrastructure” which includes transportation, financial, IT and communications technology. 
  • Introduces new offence of making, processing or selling/distributing devices like bots to commit sabotage. 
  1. Introduces Foreign Influence Transparency and Accountability Act
  • Authorizes establishing a foreign agents registry overseen by an independent Foreign Influence Transparency Commissioner. 

On a separate but related note,  the Federal Commission on  Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions (Foreign Interference Commission) released its initial report. The final report is due out in December 2024. 

We will continue to monitor developments and engage the federal government on these matters,  providing updates to members as they become available.