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Canadian universities say foreign influence registry could harm research partnerships

Canada's leading research universities warn that a proposed foreign influence transparency registry could have an unintended «chilling effect» on international partnerships, meaning Canada misses out on cutting-edge opportunities.

The U15 Canada universities are among several concerned voices urging MPs to adopt changes to the planned registry, a centrepiece of legislation being whisked through a House of Commons committee.

Members of the committee are slated to begin a clause-by-clause review of the sweeping anti-foreign interference bill today — including any amendments — after only a week of hearings.

The legislation would introduce new criminal provisions against deceptive or surreptitious acts, allow for the sharing of sensitive information with businesses and others beyond government, and establish a foreign influence transparency registry.

The bill recognizes that states and other foreign entities might engage in interference to advance political goals, and can employ people to act on their behalf without disclosing those ties.

The transparency registry would require certain individuals to register with the federal government to help guard against such activity.

Failing to register an arrangement or activity with a foreign principal — a power, state, entity or economic entity — could result in financial penalties or even criminal sanctions.

In a written brief to the committee, the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities expresses concern about the reporting requirements under the registry, given the extensive international networks of research co-operation.

«It is simply impossible for large research-intensive universities to track individual research collaborations across their institutions and report this on the

Read more on cbc.ca