Independent Senator Yuen Pau Woo complained of "extreme anti-China sentiment" in Canada following the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat who targeted the family of a Conservative family.
"Our better instincts have been compromised by the extreme anti-China sentiment that has spilled over into the toxic stigmatization of Canadians who are associated with the People's Republic of China because of their ancestry, business ties or professional interests," Woo wrote in an Ottawa periodical Policy Options magazine on May 16.
"The recent media reporting of anonymous and unsubstantiated 'intelligence' reports has created a frenzy of innuendo against Chinese Canadian politicians, scholars and community leaders, all in the name of national security," he continued.
While Woo did not refer to Wei Zhao, he urged Canadians to sign a Commons petition against a registry of foreign agents, reported Blacklock's Reporter.
Petition 4395 states a registry "poses a serious harassment and stigmatization risk for racialized communities" that may be unconstitutional. "It could also create a chill within vulnerable communities leading them to withdraw from civic engagement and public service," it reads.
In March, Woo called a foreign influence registry "a modern form of Chinese exclusion" as he attempted to link the historical wrongs against Chinese immigrants with efforts to create a foreign influence transparency registry.
"100 years ago, as part of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Canada forced all Chinese people in the country to register or face deportation," he said. "How can we prevent this registry from becoming a modern form of Chinese exclusion?"
On May 9, Public Safety Canada completed public consultations on needing a foreign registry. On May 17, the all-party Commons special committee on Canada-China relations recommended the introduction of a foreign registry.
Private member's bill S-237, which seeks to establish a foreign influence registry, would "require anyone with ties to an organization that could be under the direction" of foreign governments to register their position as a prerequisite for contacting Canadian officials.
"The fundamental problem with this approach would not be not in the number of entities that end up in the registry, it would be in the stigmatization of those for whom the threat of registration is always hanging over their heads and the chill in civic discourse and political participation that would descend on whole communities," wrote Woo.
However, the senator clarified he supported registries if a "material" demonstration of foreign influence exists.
According to anonymous security sources, Chinese diplomats and their proxies actively worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered "hostile" towards Beijing during the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
The leaked, top-secret CSIS reports uncovered that China had used disinformation campaigns, undeclared cash donations, and international students to volunteer for preferred Liberal candidates.
The federal spy agency clarified its report that Canadians friendly with China constituted non-ethnic-Chinese individuals who maintain relations with PRC officials in Canada and have close ties with federal politicians, not Chinese Canadians close to MPs.
Woo said his job partly entails meeting foreign government officials from China and other countries, suggesting the current focus on foreign interference is detrimental to the ability of officials to do their work.
He told reporters it was "deeply insulting" to ask if he had contacts with Beijing. "I don't like getting these attacks."
"I shouldn't have to feel any pressure. It's part and parcel of my job. But the recent reckless allegations have given pause to many of us about whether what we consider the normal course of meeting with officials with other countries is unacceptable."