Canada starts setting up foreign agent registry amid reports of Chinese election meddling

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is starting to lay the groundwork for a foreign agent registry amid media reports detailing alleged Chinese meddling in the country's past two elections, the public safety minister said on Friday.

"Today I'm announcing the launch of consultations to guide how we will set up a new foreign influence transparency registry in Canada," Marco Mendicino told reporters.

One goal would be to "foster transparency regarding legitimate foreign state lobbying," he said.

Under such a registry, people who act on behalf of a foreign state to advance its goals would have to disclose their ties to the government employing them. The United States and Australia have similar registries.

Canadian media have recently published detailed reports, citing anonymous intelligence sources, alleging schemes run by China to interfere in Canada's elections in 2021 and 2019.

China has denied those accusations. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's spy agencies have declined to confirm the reports and are investigating the leaks of secret information.

Trudeau on Monday said he will appoint an independent special investigator to probe alleged election interference by China.

Trudeau has come under pressure from the opposition to set up a public inquiry since the media reports came out and a recent poll showed a majority of Canadians want him to respond more forcefully to alleged election interference by China.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; editing by John Stonestreet and Angus MacSwan)