Liberals propose changes to foreign investment screening to protect national security

By Nojoud Al Mallees and Jim Bronskill

OTTAWA – The Liberal government is aiming to address evolving national security concerns by proposing several changes to Canada’s investment screening law, including giving broader powers to the industry minister.

Proposed amendments to the Investment Canada Act would require foreign investors to notify the federal government about investments in certain business sectors.

Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne introduced the changes on Wednesday afternoon.

“While our government continues to welcome foreign direct investment, we need to be vigilant and protect Canadian interests,” Champagne said.

“These new amendments will help bring the act in line with today’s reality while ensuring we can work at the speed of business.”

The changes would give the industry minister the authority to impose interim conditions on an investment and, after consultation with the public safety minister, to order a further national security review of an investment.

With the agreement of the public safety minister, the industry minister would also be able to accept binding undertakings from investors.

Other changes include stronger penalties for non-compliance and allowing Canada to share case-specific information with international counterparts.

There will also be new rules protecting sensitive information during judicial reviews.

Champagne’s ministerial mandate letter directs him to promote economic security and combat foreign interference by modernizing the act to strengthen the national security review process and better address threats posed by investments from abroad.

He was also told to use all tools, including the Investment Canada Act, to ensure the protection and development of Canada’s critical minerals.

Canada sees critical mineral exploration, extraction, processing and manufacturing as key to becoming a global leader in the production of batteries and other clean technologies.

In October, the government announced plans to restrict the involvement of foreign state-owned companies in Canada’s critical minerals sector amid a global rush for the resources and growing tensions with China.