Tag Archives: Indo-Pacific region

The 2023 Canadian federal budget: science & technology of the military and cybersecurity and some closing comments (2 of 2)

So far in part 1, the budget continues its focus on life sciences especially biomanufacturing, climate (clean energy, clean (?) manufacturing, mining, space, the forest economy, agriculture, and water. The budget also mentioned funding for the research councils (it’s been a while since I’ve seen them in a budget document).

Now, it’s time to focus on the military and cybersecurity. As noted in part 1 (third paragraph of my introduction), the military is often the source for technology (e.g., television, the internet, modern anesthesiology) that transforms society.

Chapter 5: Canada’s Leadership in the World

Finally, for this blog posting, there’s Chapter 5, from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

Key Ongoing Actions

In the past year, the federal government has announced a series of investments that have enhanced Canada’s security and our leadership around the world. These include:

  • $38.6 billion over 20 years to invest in the defence of North America and the modernization of NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command; emphasis mine];
  • More than $5.4 billion in assistance for Ukraine, including critical financial, military, and humanitarian support;
  • More than $545 million in emergency food and nutrition assistance in 2022-23 to help address the global food security crisis and respond to urgent hunger and nutrition needs;
  • $2.3 billion over the next five years to launch Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy [emphasis mine], including the further global capitalization of FinDev Canada [also known as Development Finance Institute Canada {DFIC}], which will deepen Canada’s engagement with our partners, support economic growth and regional security, and strengthen our ties with people in the Indo-Pacific;
  • $350 million over three years in international biodiversity financing, in addition to Canada’s commitment to provide $5.3 billion in climate financing over five years, to support developing countries’ efforts to protect nature;
  • $875 million over five years, and $238 million ongoing, to enhance Canada’s cybersecurity capabilities [emphasis mine];
  • Delivering on a commitment to spend $1.4 billion each year on global health, of which $700 million will be dedicated to sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls; and,
  • Channeling almost 30 per cent of Canada’s newly allocated International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights to support low-income and vulnerable countries, surpassing the G7’s 20 per cent target.

Defence Policy Update

In response to a changed global security environment following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the federal government committed in Budget 2022 to a Defence Policy Update that would update Canada’s existing defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged.

This review, including public consultations, is ongoing, and is focused on the roles, responsibilities, and capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Department of National Defence will return with a Defence Policy Update [emphasis mine] that will ensure the Canadian Armed Forces remain strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged around the world.

With this review ongoing, the Canadian Armed Forces have continued to protect Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, support our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, and contribute to operations in the Indo-Pacific.

In the past year, the government has made significant, foundational investments in Canada’s national defence, which total more than $55 billion over 20 years. These include:

  • $38.6 billion over 20 years to strengthen the defence of North America, reinforce Canada’s support of our partnership with the United States under NORAD, and protect our sovereignty in the North [emphases mine];
  • $2.1 billion over seven years, starting in 2022-23, and $706.0 million ongoing for Canada’s contribution to increasing NATO’s [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] common budget [emphasis mine];
  • $1.4 billion over 14 years, starting in 2023-24, to acquire new critical weapons systems needed to protect the Canadian Armed Forces in case of high intensity conflict, including air defence, anti-tank, and anti-drone capabilities;
  • $605.8 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $2.6 million in remaining amortization, to replenish the Canadian Armed Forces’ stocks of ammunition and explosives, and to replace materiel donated to Ukraine;
  • $562.2 million over six years, starting in 2022-23, with $112.0 million in remaining amortization, and $69 million ongoing to improve the digital systems of the Canadian Armed Forces;
  • Up to $90.4 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, to further support initiatives to increase the capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces; and,
  • $30.1 million over four years, starting in 2023-24, and $10.4 million ongoing to establish the new North American regional office in Halifax for NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic [emphasis mine].

In addition, the government is providing $1.4 billion to upgrade the facilities of Joint Task Force 2, Canada’s elite counterterrorism unit.

Establishing the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence in Montreal

Climate change has repercussions for people, economic security, public safety, and critical infrastructure around the world. It also poses a significant threat to global security, and in 2022, NATO’s new Strategic Concept recognized climate change for the first time as a major security challenge for the Alliance.

At the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, Montreal was announced as the host city for NATO’s new Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence, which will bring together NATO allies to mitigate the impact of climate change on military activities and analyze new climate change-driven security challenges, such as the implications for Canada’s Arctic.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $40.4 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $0.3 million in remaining amortization and $7 million ongoing, to Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence to establish the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence [emphasis mine].

Protecting Diaspora Communities and All Canadians From Foreign Interference, Threats, and Covert Activities

As an advanced economy and a free and diverse democracy, Canada’s strengths also make us a target for hostile states seeking to acquire information and technology [emphasis mine], intelligence, and influence to advance their own interests.

This can include foreign actors working to steal information from Canadian companies to benefit their domestic industries, hostile proxies intimidating diaspora communities in Canada because of their beliefs and values, or intelligence officers seeking to infiltrate Canada’s public and research institutions.

Authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, China, and Iran, believe they can act with impunity and meddle in the affairs of democracies—and democracies must act to defend ourselves. No one in Canada should ever be threatened by foreign actors, and Canadian businesses and Canada’s public institutions must be free of foreign interference.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $48.9 million over three years on a cash basis, starting in 2023-24, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to protect Canadians from harassment and intimidation, increase its investigative capacity, and more proactively engage with communities at greater risk of being targeted. 
  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $13.5 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, and $3.1 million ongoing to Public Safety Canada to establish a National Counter-Foreign Interference Office.

5.4 Combatting Financial Crime

Serious financial crimes, such as money laundering, terrorist financing, and the evasion of financial sanctions, threaten the safety of Canadians and the integrity of our financial system. Canada requires a comprehensive, responsive, and modern system to counter these sophisticated and rapidly evolving threats.

Canada must not be a financial haven for oligarchs or the kleptocratic apparatchiks of authoritarian, corrupt, or theocratic regimes—such as those of Russia, China, Iran, and Haiti. We will not allow our world-renowned financial system to be used to clandestinely and illegally move money to fund foreign interference inside Canada. [emphases mine]

Since 2019, the federal government has modernized Canada’s Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing (AML/ATF) Regime to address risks posed by new technologies and sectors, and made investments to strengthen Canada’s financial intelligence, information sharing, and investigative capacity.

Canada’s AML/ATF Regime must continue to be strengthened in order to combat the complex and evolving threats our democracy faces, and to ensure that Canada is never a haven for illicit financial flows or ill-gotten gains.

In Budget 2023, the government is proposing further important measures to deter, detect, and prosecute financial crimes, protect financial institutions from foreign interference, and protect Canadians from the emerging risks associated with crypto-assets.

Combatting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

Money laundering and terrorist financing can threaten the integrity of the Canadian economy, and put Canadians at risk by supporting terrorist activity, drug and human trafficking, and other criminal activities. Taking stronger action to tackle these threats is essential to protecting Canada’s economic security.

In June 2022, the Government of British Columbia released the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia [emphasis mine], also known as the Cullen Commission. This report highlighted major gaps in the current AML/ATF Regime, as well as areas for deepened federal-provincial collaboration [emphasis mine]. Between measures previously introduced and those proposed in Budget 2023, as well as through consultations that the government has committed to launching, the federal government will have responded to all of the recommendations within its jurisdiction in the Cullen Commission report.

In Budget 2023, the federal government is taking action to address gaps in Canada’s AML/ATF Regime, and strengthen cooperation between orders of government.

  • Budget 2023 announces the government’s intention to introduce legislative amendments to the Criminal Code and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) to strengthen the investigative, enforcement, and information sharing tools of Canada’s AML/ATF Regime.

These legislative changes will:

  • Give law enforcement the ability to freeze and seize virtual assets with suspected links to crime;
  • Improve financial intelligence information sharing between law enforcement and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and law enforcement and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC);
  • Introduce a new offence for structuring financial transactions to avoid FINTRAC reporting;
  • Strengthen the registration framework, including through criminal record checks, for currency dealers and other money services businesses to prevent their abuse;
  • Criminalize the operation of unregistered money services businesses;
  • Establish powers for FINTRAC to disseminate strategic analysis related to the financing of threats to the safety of Canada;
  • Provide whistleblowing protections for employees who report information to FINTRAC;
  • Broaden the use of non-compliance reports by FINTRAC in criminal investigations; and,
  • Set up obligations for the financial sector to report sanctions-related information to FINTRAC.

Strengthening Efforts Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

In keeping with the requirements of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), the federal government will launch a parliamentary review of this act this year.

This review will include a public consultation that will examine ways to improve Canada’s Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (AML/ATF) Regime, as well as examine how different orders of government can collaborate more closely. This will include how governments can better use existing tools to seize the proceeds of crime, and the potential need for new measures, such as unexplained wealth orders. Other topics of consultation will include, but will not be limited to, measures to support investigations and prosecutions, enhance information sharing, close regulatory gaps, examine the role of the AML/ATF Regime in protecting national and economic security, as well as the remaining recommendations from the Cullen Commission [also known as, the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia].

  • Budget 2023 announces that the government will bring forward further legislative amendments, to be informed by these consultations, to give the government more tools to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.

Canada is also leading the global fight against illicit financial flows, having been chosen to serve for two years, effective July 2023, as Vice President of the Financial Action Task Force (from which Russia has been suspended indefinitely), as well as co-Chair of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering for two years, [emphases mine] beginning in July 2022. 

Implementing a Publicly Accessible Federal Beneficial Ownership Registry

The use of anonymous Canadian shell companies can conceal the true ownership of property, businesses, and other valuable assets. When authorities don’t have the tools to determine their true ownership, these shell companies can become tools of those seeking to launder money, avoid taxes, evade sanctions, or interfere in our democracy.

To address this, the federal government committed in Budget 2022 to implementing a public, searchable beneficial ownership registry of federal corporations by the end of 2023.

This registry will cover corporations governed under the Canada Business Corporations Act, and will be scalable to allow access to the beneficial ownership data held by provinces and territories that agree to participate in a national registry.

While an initial round of amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act received Royal Assent in June 2022, further amendments are needed to implement a beneficial ownership registry.

The government is introducing further amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act and other laws, including the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Income Tax Act, to implement a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry through Bill C-42. This represents a major blow to money laundering operations and will be a powerful tool to strengthen the security and integrity of Canada’s economy.

The federal government will continue calling upon provincial and territorial governments to advance a national approach to beneficial ownership transparency to strengthen the fight against money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing.

Modernizing Financial Sector Oversight to Address Emerging Risks

Canadians must be confident that federally regulated financial institutions and their owners act with integrity, and that Canada’s financial institutions are protected, including from foreign interference.

  • Budget 2023 announces the government’s intention to amend the Bank Act, the Insurance Companies Act, the Trust and Loan Companies Act, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) to modernize the federal financial framework to address emerging risks to Canada’s financial sector [emphasis mine].

These legislative changes will:

  • Expand the mandate of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) to include supervising federally regulated financial institutions (FRFIs) in order to determine whether they have adequate policies and procedures to protect themselves against threats to their integrity and security, including protection against foreign interference;
  • Expand the range of circumstances where OSFI can take control of an FRFI to include where the integrity and security of that FRFI is at risk, where all shareholders have been precluded from exercising their voting rights, or where there are national security risks;
  • Expand the existing authority for the Superintendent to issue a direction of compliance to include an act that threatens the integrity and security of an FRFI;
  • Provide new powers under the PCMLTFA to allow the Minister of Finance to impose enhanced due diligence requirements to protect Canada’s financial system from the financing of national security threats, and allow the Director of FINTRAC to share intelligence analysis with the Minister of Finance to help assess national security or financial integrity risks posed by financial entities;
  • Improve the sharing of compliance information between FINTRAC, OSFI, and the Minister of Finance; and,
  • Designate OSFI as a recipient of FINTRAC disclosures pertaining to threats to the security of Canada, where relevant to OSFI’s responsibilities.

The government will also review the mandate of FINTRAC to determine whether it should be expanded to counter sanctions evasion and will provide an update in the 2023 fall economic and fiscal update. In addition, the government will review whether FINTRAC’s mandate should evolve to include the financing of threats to Canada’s national and economic security as part of the parliamentary review.

These actions will continue the strong oversight of the financial sector that underpins a sound and stable Canadian economy.

Canada Financial Crimes Agency

To strengthen Canada’s ability to respond to complex cases of financial crime, Budget 2022 announced the government’s intent to establish a new Canada Financial Crimes Agency (CFCA), and provided $2 million to Public Safety Canada to undertake this work.

The CFCA will become Canada’s lead enforcement agency against financial crime. It will bring together expertise necessary to increase money laundering charges, prosecutions and convictions, and asset forfeiture results in Canada. These actions will address the key operational challenges identified in both domestic and international reviews of Canada’s AML/ATF Regime.

Public Safety Canada is developing options for the design of the CFCA, working in conjunction with federal, provincial and territorial partners and external experts, as well as engaging extensively with stakeholders. Further details on the structure and mandate of the CFCA will be provided by the 2023 fall economic and fiscal update.

Protecting Canadians from the Risks of Crypto-Assets

Ongoing turbulence in crypto-asset markets, and the recent high-profile failures of crypto trading platform FTX, and of Signature Bank, have demonstrated that crypto-assets can threaten the financial well-being of people, national security, and the stability and integrity of the global financial system.

To protect Canadians from the risks that come with crypto-assets, there is a clear need for different orders of government to take an active role in addressing consumer protection gaps and risks to our financial system.

The federal government is working closely with regulators and provincial and territorial partners to protect Canadians’ hard-earned savings and pensions, and Budget 2023 proposes new measures to protect Canadians.

  • To help protect Canadians’ savings and the security of our financial sector, Budget 2023 announces that the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) will consult federally regulated financial institutions on guidelines for publicly disclosing their exposure to crypto-assets.

Secure pension plans are the cornerstone of a dignified retirement. While pension plan administrators are required to prudently manage their investments, the unique nature and evolving risks of crypto-assets and related activities require continued monitoring.

  • To help protect Canadians’ retirements, Budget 2023 announces that the government will require federally regulated pension funds to disclose their crypto-asset exposures to OSFI. The government will also work with provinces and territories to discuss crypto-asset or related activities disclosures by Canada’s largest pension plans, which would ensure Canadians are aware of their pension plan’s potential exposure to crypto-assets.

The federal government launched targeted consultations on crypto-assets as part of the review on the digitalization of money announced in Budget 2022. Moving forward, the government will continue to work closely with partners to advance the review, will bring forward proposals to protect Canadians from the risks of crypto-asset markets, and will provide further details in the 2023 fall economic and fiscal update.

Leadership in the world?

Maybe they should have titled chapter 5, “Shoring up Canada’s position in the world.” Most of the initiatives in this section of the budget seem oriented to catching up with the rest of world than forging new paths.

NORAD, NATO, and sovereignty in the North

It’s about time we contributed in a serious way to the “defence of North America and the modernization of NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command].” The same goes for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), where we have failed to contribute our fair share for decades. For the latest NATO/Canada dustup, you may want to read Murray Brewster’s April 7, 2023 article (NATO is getting ready to twist Canada’s arm on defence spending) for CBC news online,

In late March [2023?], NATO published an annual report that shows Canada’s defence spending amounted to just 1.29 per cent of GDP in fiscal 2022-2023.

It’s not much of a stretch to say Canada has no plan to meet that 2 per cent target. There wasn’t one when the previous Conservative government signed on to the notion at the 2014 NATO leaders summit (when the goal was for allies to reach 2 per cent by 2024).

The Liberal government’s 2017 defence policy tiptoed around the subject. Whenever they’ve been asked about it since, Trudeau and his ministers have bobbed and weaved and talked about what Canada delivers in terms of capability.

In an interview with the London bureau of CBC News this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly was asked point-blank about Stoltenberg’s [NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg] assertion that allies would soon consider the two per cent benchmark the floor, not the ceiling.

She responded that Canada recognized the world changed with the war in Ukraine and that tensions in the Indo-Pacific [emphasis mine] mean “we need to make sure that we step up our game and that’s what we’ll do.”

“Step up our game” may be a relative term, because Joly went on to say that the government is engaged “in a very important defence policy review, which is required before announcing any further investments.”

That defence policy review was announced in the 2022 federal budget. A year later, shortly after presenting its latest fiscal plan, the government announced there would be public consultations on how best to defend Canada in a more uncertain world.

The best-case scenario, according to several experts, is the defence policy being delivered next year and the necessary investments being made at some indeterminate point in the future.

In fairness, the Liberals have committed to spending $19 billion on new fighter jets, starting in 2026. They have agreed to put $4.9 billion toward modernizing continental defence through NORAD.

The current Liberal government has followed a longstanding precedent of many Canadian governments (Liberal or Conservative) of inadequately funding national defence.

Getting back to NATO commitments, yes, let’s pull our weight. Further, I hope they follow through with protecting sovereignty in the North as there’s more than one jurisdiction interested in claiming to be an ‘Arctic” country of some kind, including Scotland (on behalf of the UK?). My November 20, 2020 posting features the Scottish claim. Interestingly, the closest Scottish land (Shetland Islands, which have a separatist movement of their own) is 400 miles south of the Arctic.

China too claims to be close to the Arctic despite being some 900 miles south at its closest point. Roslyn Layton’s August 31, 2022 article (Cold Front: The Arctic Emerges As A New Flashpoint Of Geopolitical Challenge) for Forbes magazine provides good insight into the situation, including this tidbit: ‘on August 26, 2022 the US appointed an Ambassador-At-Large for the Arctic’.

For a Canadian take on the challenges vis-à-vis China’s interest in the Arctic, there’s a January 12, 2021 posting on the University of Alberta’s China Institute website, “China in the Canadian Arctic: Context, Issues, and Considerations for 2021 and Beyond” by Evan Oddleifson, Tom Alton, and Scott N. Romaniuk. Note: A link has been removed,

Shandong Gold Mining Co., a Chinese state-owned enterprise, brokered a deal in May 2020 to acquire TMAC Resources, a Canadian gold mining company with operations in the Hope Bay region of Nunavut [emphasis mine]. At the time, observers voiced concern about the merits of the deal, speculating that Shandong Gold may be motivated by political/strategic interests rather than solely firm-level economic considerations.

I don’t see it mentioned in their posting, but the Shandong acquisition would be covered under the ‘Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments‘ (also known as Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) or Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPPA). It was not a popular agreement in Canada when it was signed, from a September 12, 2014 opinion piece by Scott Harris for The Council of Canadians, Note: Links have been removed,

In the world of official government announcements, a two-paragraph media release sent out in the late afternoon on the Friday before Parliament resumes sitting is the best way for a government to admit, “We know this is really, really unpopular, but we’re doing it anyway.”

That’s the way the Harper government, by way of a release quoting Trade Minister Ed Fast, announced that it had decided to ignore widespread public opposition, parliamentary opposition from the NDP, Greens and even lukewarm Liberal criticism, an ongoing First Nations legal challenge, and even division at its own cabinet table and grassroots membership [emphases mine] and proceed with the ratification of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).

With China’s ratification of the deal long since signed, sealed, and delivered (and, really, when you can convince another government to sign a deal this lopsided in your favour, wouldn’t you ratify as quickly as possible too?) Canada’s ratification of the deal means it will enter into force on October 1 [2014]. …

The CBC published this sharply (unusual for them) worded September 19, 2014 article by Patrick Brown for CBC news online,

The secrecy shrouding the much-delayed Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China makes it hard for experts, let alone average Canadians, to figure out what benefits this country will see from the deal.

While reporting on Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the first time, during his visit to China in early 2012, I wrote a column with the headline Great Glorious and Always Correct, which began: “If Stephen Harper ever gets tired of being Canada’s Prime Minister, he might like to consider a second career in China – he’d fit right in.” [Note: Our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, once indicated that he found some aspects of the Chinese Communist Government’s system appealing. November 8, 2013 (article) Trudeau under fire for expressing admiration for China’s ‘basic dictatorship’]

The government revealed the text of the FIPA agreement and signed [emphasis mine] it in Vladivostok not long after the Beijing trip, and gave a briefing to the parliamentary trade committee for one single hour in October 2012 [emphasis mine]. Then the cone of silence descended.

Then late Friday afternoon, the witching hour favoured by spinmeisters with stealthy announcements they hope everyone will forget by Monday, a press release revealed that the agreement with China, mysteriously unratified [emphasis mine] for almost two years, has been approved by cabinet. It goes into effect Oct. 1 [2014].

Critics of the agreement, such as Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Hall law professor who has written two books on investment treaties, raise several key objections:

  • Canadian governments are locked in for a generation. If Canada finds the deal unsatisfactory, it cannot be cancelled completely for 31 years [emphasis mine].
  • China benefits much more than Canada, because of a clause allowing existing restrictions in each country to stay in place. Chinese companies get to play on a relatively level field in Canada, while maintaining wildly arbitrary practices and rules for Canadian companies in China.
  • Chinese companies will be able to seek redress against any laws passed by any level of government in Canada which threaten their profits.[emphasis mine] Australia has decided not to enter FIPA agreements specifically because they allow powerful corporations to challenge legislation on social, environmental and economic issues. Chinese companies investing heavily in Canadian energy will be able seek billions in compensation if their projects are hampered by provincial laws on issues such as environmental concerns or First Nations rights, for example [emphasis mine].
  • Cases will be decided by a panel of professional arbitrators, and may be kept secret at the discretion of the sued party [emphasis mine]. This extraordinary provision reflects an aversion to transparency and public debate common to the Harper cabinet and the Chinese politburo.
  • Differences between FIPA and the North American Free Trade Agreement may offer intriguing loopholes for American lawyers [emphasis mine] to argue for equal treatment under the principle of Most Favoured Nation.

It is a reciprocal agreement but it seems China might have more advantages than Canada does. So, we’ll be able to establish sovereignty in the North, eh? That should be interesting.

There doesn’t seem to be any mention of involving the indigenous peoples in the discussion around sovereignty and the North. Perhaps it’s in another chapter.

An updated defence policy, the Indo-Pacific region, and cybersecurity

Hopefully they will do a little more than simply update Canada’s defence policy as Paul T. Mitchell’s (Professor of Defence Studies, Canadian Forces College) September 23, 2021 essay (Canada’s exclusion from the AUKUS security pact reveals a failing national defence policy) for The Conversation suggests there are some serious shortcomings dating back at least 100 years, Note: Links have been removed,

The recently announced deal on nuclear submarines between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, known as AUKUS, likely seems irrelevant to many Canadians.

But AUKUS is about far more than submarines. And Canada’s exclusion from the pact represents growing suspicions about the Canadian commitment to the rules-based international order.

The problem stems from Canada’s tacit “grand strategy” [emphasis mine] underlying our defence policy.

A country’s grand strategy typically outlines geopolitical realities alongside a plan to achieve its diplomatic goals.

In 1924, Liberal politician Raoul Dandurand famously said “Canada is a fire-proof house, far removed from flammable materials,” putting into words Canada’s approach to defence since 1867 [emphasis mine]. Simply put, three oceans and a superpower sufficiently shield us from having to think about how to achieve national security.

Canadian defence policy has never varied from three priorities — defend Canada, defend North America and contribute to international peace and security — that have appeared in every Defence Department white paper since the 1950s, regardless of the governing party. This attitude was evident in the recent election campaign, when discussions about defence were largely absent, despite growing threats from abroad and the turmoil within our own military.

Since the heydays of defence spending of the 1950s, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have been gradually shedding fundamental capabilities — including long-range artillery, tanks, fighters that are now obsolete, submarine forces, destroyers and maritime logistics.

And while the CAF specifically faces new challenges in terms of diversity, its traditional approach to leadership has alienated thousands within the ranks, causing a rush to the exits, especially among the most experienced of personnel. The lack of support for modern equipment has also contributed to this problem.

We can continue to drag our heels, but eventually the bill will come due when our government commits our forces to a mission they can no longer fulfil because we thought we didn’t need to concern ourselves with the health of the military.

Just prior to the 2023 budget announcement, AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, and United States) moved forward on a security deal in the Indo-Pacific region. As far as I’m aware, the UK no longer has any exposure (colonies/territories) in the Indo-Pacific region while Canada, like the US, has one border (defined by the Pacific Ocean) on the region. Lee Berthiaume’s March 13, 2023 article for The Canadian Press can be found on both the CBC website and the CTV website,

Experts are warning that, as the U.S., Britain and Australia move ahead on an expanded military pact, Canada’s omission from that group suggests a larger problem with how this country is perceived by its friends. [emphasis mine]

U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian leader Anthony Albanese were at a naval base in San Diego on Monday [March 13, 2023] to confirm the next steps of the trilateral agreement, known as “AUKUS” after the three countries involved.

Those next steps include formalizing American and British plans to help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in response to growing concerns about China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Trudeau government has downplayed [emphasis mine] the importance of AUKUS to Canada, saying Ottawa is not in the market for nuclear-powered submarines — even as others have lamented its absence from the pact.

One senior Canadian Armed Forces commander, Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, told The Canadian Press he worries about Canada not having access to the same cutting-edge technology [emphasis mine] as three of its closest allies.

Canada’s exclusion is seen by some as further evidence that its allies do not believe Ottawa is serious about pushing back against Chinese ambitions, despite the release of a new Indo-Pacific strategy late last year.

Canada’s strategy seeks to strike a balance between confronting and co-operating with China. It says Canada will challenge China “in areas of profound disagreement” while working together on areas of shared interest, such as climate change.

The U.S. is taking a very different approach. In a defence strategy released earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin described “an increasingly aggressive China” as a “generational challenge” and the American military’s top priority.

Numbers remain uncertain, but Australia reportedly is poised to spend billions of dollars as part of the deal to purchase new submarines. Britain and the U.S. are also expected to put money into the agreement for technology development [emphasis mine], training and other areas.

Defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute noted the U.S., Britain and Australia are all spending two per cent or more of their national gross domestic product on defence, compared to less than 1.3 per cent in Canada. [emphases mine]

They also have solid plans to build new submarines, while Ottawa has yet to even commit to replacing the Royal Canadian Navy’s four trouble-plagued Victoria-class vessels, let alone start work on plans to build or buy a new fleet.

Canadian military commanders — including chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre — have repeatedly underscored the need for submarines.

Swiss cheese cybersecurity with a special emphasis on our research

While our defence spending is considered problematic, I suspect our cybersecurity is also in question, as I’ve noted previously in a September 17, 2021 posting (Council of Canadian Academies (CCA): science policy internship and a new panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age), scroll down about 45% of the way to the ‘What is public safety?’ subhead; look for the Cameron Ortis story (hints: (1) he was the top ranking civilian RCMP staff member reporting directly to the commissioner; (2) he was tasked with overseeing cybersecurity issues; and (3) he was fluent in Mandarin). You’ll also find information about the first AUKUS announcement and a link to a documentary about the Cameron Ortis affair further down under the ‘Almost breaking news’ subhead.

The Cameron Ortis story is shocking enough but when you include both the issues around the Winnipeg level 4 virology lab (see the Karen Pauls/Kimberly Ivany July 8, 2021 article for CBC online news for a summary and an analysis) and the National Research Council of Canada’s serious security breach (see the Tom Spears/Jordan Press July 29, 2014 article “Suspected Chinese cyber attack forces NRC security overhaul” for the Ottawa Citizen; it seems unbelievable and yet—it is.

This February 15, 2022 article for CBC news online by Catharine Tunney announces a report on a series of security breaches,

Gaps in Ottawa’s cyber defences could leave the government agencies holding vast amounts of data on Canadians and businesses susceptible to state-sponsored hackers from countries like China and Russia, says a new report from Parliament’s security and intelligence committee.

Their report, tabled late Monday in the House of Commons, shows previous mistakes have allowed state-sponsored actors to infiltrate and steal government information over the past decade.

“Cyber threats to government systems and networks are a significant risk to national security and the continuity of government operations,” says the report from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

Intellectual property, advanced research already stolen

A year-long attack by China while Stephen Harper was prime minister served as a “wake-up call” for the federal government, said the report.

Between August 2010 and August 2011, China targeted 31 departments and eight suffered “severe compromises,” the report said. [emphases mine]

“Information losses were considerable, including email communications of senior government officials, mass exfiltration of information from several departments, including briefing notes, strategy documents and secret information, and password and file system data,” said the report.

In 2014 [emphasis mine], a Chinese state-sponsored actor was able to compromise the National Research Council.

“The theft included intellectual property and advanced research and proprietary business information from NRC’s partners. China also leveraged its access to the NRC network to infiltrate a number of government organizations,” said the report. [emphases mine]

You can find the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Special Report on the Government of Canada’s Framework and Activities to Defend its Systems and Networks from Cyber Attack here. By the way, we have had a more recent ‘cyber incident’ at the National Research Council as reported in a March 21, 2022 article for CBC online news by Catharine Tunney.

Meanwhile, the 2022 budget (released April 7, 2022) made these announcements (from my April 19, 2022 posting; scroll down about 50% of the way to the ‘Securing Canada’s Research from Foreign Threats’ subhead),

To implement these guidelines fully, Budget 2022 proposes to provide $159.6 million, starting in 2022-23, and $33.4 million ongoing, as follows:

  • $125 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, and $25 million ongoing, for the Research Support Fund [emphasis mine] to build capacity within post- secondary institutions to identify, assess, and mitigate potential risks to research security; and
  • $34.6 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, and $8.4 million ongoing, to enhance Canada’s ability to protect our research, and to establish a Research Security Centre [emphasis mine] that will provide advice and guidance directly to research institutions.

The About page for the Research Support Fund on the SSHRC website (perhaps there’s another fund with the same name somewhere else?) doesn’t mention identifying, assessing, and/or mitigating risks to research security and I cannot find any mention of a Research Security Centre on the government of Canada website or from a Google search. The government doesn’t seem to be rushing to address these issues.

Cybersecurity for the rest of us

As a reminder, there’s this from Chapter 5,

Canada must not be a financial haven for oligarchs or the kleptocratic apparatchiks of authoritarian, corrupt, or theocratic regimes—such as those of Russia, China, Iran, and Haiti. We will not allow our world-renowned financial system to be used to clandestinely and illegally move money to fund foreign interference inside Canada. [emphases mine]

Money laundering and terrorist financing can threaten the integrity of the Canadian economy, and put Canadians at risk by supporting terrorist activity, drug and human trafficking, and other criminal activities. Taking stronger action to tackle these threats is essential to protecting Canada’s economic security.

In June 2022, the Government of British Columbia released the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia [emphasis mine], also known as the Cullen Commission. This report highlighted major gaps in the current AML/ATF Regime, as well as areas for deepened federal-provincial collaboration [emphasis mine]. Between measures previously introduced and those proposed in Budget 2023, as well as through consultations that the government has committed to launching, the federal government will have responded to all of the recommendations within its jurisdiction in the Cullen Commission report.

A March 29, 2023 article by Bob Mackin for The Breaker News comments on some of the government initiatives announced in the wake of the Cullen report about BC’s investigation into money laundering

In the wake of B.C. case collapse, Liberal government promises new regulation of money services businesses

The federal government has pledged to fill a gap in Canada’s anti-money laundering laws, less than a month after a special prosecutor’s report blamed it for the failure to bring a Richmond man to justice.

The Jin case had been one of the biggest organized crime investigations in B.C. history and was featured throughout the B.C. NDP government’s $19 million Cullen Commission public inquiry into money laundering. 

I want to emphasize that it’s not just the Chinese Communist Government that abuses our systems, there is other state-backed interference with various diaspora communities and other Canadian communities.

According to a February 14, 2023 article (The Canadian businessmen accused of helping Iran’s regime) for CBC news online by Ashley Burke and Nahayat Tizhoosh, it seems Iran has used Canada as a ‘safe haven’ for evading US sanctions and to conduct “… transactions on the Iranian regime’s behalf worth more than $750 million US.”

A February 15, 2023 followup article for CBC news online by Ashley Burke and Nahayat Tizhoosh reiterates the businessmen’s claims that the allegations are baseless and not proven in court. The article includes this,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is working “very closely with American partners” and the Iranian diaspora in Canada to target people with ties to Iran’s regime.

Iranian-Canadians accuse the government of doing too little to ensure Canada isn’t a safe haven for the Iranian regime’s business transactions. [emphasis mine] Trudeau defended the government’s actions on Wednesday [February 15, 2023], citing the sanctions it has imposed since the fall on Iranian individuals and entities.

In October 2022 [emphasis mine], the government announced it would be spending $76 million to help enforce sanctions on Iran. Some of the money was earmarked for an additional 30 staff members at the RCMP. But the national police force confirmed it’s still working with the Department of Finance on receiving the funds. 

“The process is ongoing and its implementation is expected to start during next fiscal year [2024?],” wrote Robin Percival, a spokesperson for the RCMP.

If memory serves, the Iranian (Persian) diaspora communities like the Chinese communities in Canada have also warned of being targeted by overseas agents.

Coincidentally or not, the Council of Canadian Academies; Expert Panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age released its report, Vulnerable Connections on March 30, 2023. The expert panel was asked to answer these questions, from p. 17 (xvii) of the report,

How have activities relating to serious criminal activity (including organized crime and child sexual exploitation) and online harms (including disinformation, violent extremist and terrorist use of the internet) in Canada changed to exploit the evolving information and communications technologies (ICTs) landscape?

The headline for the CCA’s Vulnerable Connections March 30, 2023 news release highlights what the 2023 federal budget is tacitly confirming, “Advances in digital technology [are] outpacing efforts to address online harms: expert panel report” [emphasis mine].

As you can see from the budget, state-backed efforts extend from the financial sector to attempts to affect elections, intimidate various communities, and more. Let’s not forget the ‘average’ consumer; criminal enterprises are also active. So, the federal government is playing ‘catch up’ with a complex set of issues.

My final comments

As I noted, no splashy announcements but there are some interesting developments, especially with regard to military spending and a focus on cyber issues, and with the announcement of a Canada Water Agency. It all comes back to science and technology.

Always a little disappointment

There are a number of commentaries but I’m most interested in the ‘science and research’ aspect of the budget for which I found two.

First, Universities Canada issued a March 28, 2023 media release that states a position in its headline “Budget 2023 a missed opportunity to keep Canada competitive in science and research,”

“Canada’s universities are disappointed in Budget 2023’s lack of any significant support for Canadian research,” says Paul Davidson, President of Universities Canada. “With no new funding that matches the ambition of our peers, today’s budget is without the investments across Canada’s research ecosystem which are urgently needed to keep Canada competitive and ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.” 

Second, a March 28, 2023 Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences briefing note holds forth in a similar fashion,

Without a plan to attract and support our next generation of researchers, Budget 2023 is a missed opportunity for Canada. Despite a call for action from students, researchers, and our post-secondary sector, the Budget lacks urgently-needed investments in Canada’s graduate students and early-career researchers.

Over the past two decades, Canada’s graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have faced rising living costs and stagnating funding levels. Dedicated support is needed to reverse the declining value of this funding, and to ensure it remains competitive and keeps pace with rising inflation. Investment in Canada’s research talent and skilled workforce will bolster our capacity to solve our most important challenges here in Canada and internationally.

Disappointment is inevitable with any budget. The writers have a point but where will the money come from? We’re having to spend money on our military after ignoring it for decades. As well, we have security issues that are urgent not to mention the oncoming climate crisis, which faces everyone research scientists and graduate students included.

Will our money be well spent?

I don’t think I’ve ever addressed that question in any of my budget commentaries over the years.

The emphasis on the climate is encouraging as is the potential Canada Water Agency. and finally addressing some of our obligations to our military is a relief. (I have a friend who’s been in the regular Army and in the reserves and he’s been muttering about a lack of and outdated equipment for years.) Assuming the government follows through, it’s about time.

As for obligations to NATO and NORAD, our partners have rightly been applying pressure. It’s good to see money going to NORAD and perhaps the promised Defence Policy update will include policy that supports greater contributions to NATO and, since we’ve been left out of AUKUS, perhaps some fleshing out of the federal government’s new found interest in the Indo-Pacific Region. (This represents a seismic shift from the federal government’s almost exclusively eurocentric focus when looking beyond the border with our southern neighbour, the US.)

The greatest focus for election interference and influence on immigrant diaspora communities has been on the Chinese Communist Government (CCG) but there are others. The Trudeau government’s response has not been especially reassuring even with these budget promises. The best summary of the current situation regarding CCG interference that I’ve seen is an April 13, 2023 article by Frederick Kelter for Al Jazeera.

We definitely could do with a boost in our cybersecurity. The latest incident may have involved Russian hackers according to an April 13, 2023 article for CBC news online by Catharine Tunney, Note: A link has been removed,

One of Canada’s intelligence agencies says a cyber threat actor “had the potential to cause physical damage” to a piece of critical infrastructure recently, a stark warning from the Communications Security Establishment [CSE] amid a string of hits linked to pro-Russian hackers.

“I can report there was no physical damage to any Canadian energy infrastructure. But make no mistake — the threat is real,” said Sami Khoury, head of the CSE’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security during briefing with reporters Thursday.

Earlier this week, leaked U.S. intelligence documents suggested Russian-backed hackers successfully gained access to Canada’s natural gas distribution network.

Defence Minsiter Anita Anand said Canada has seen a “notable rise in cyber threat activity by Russian-aligned” [sic] and issued a cyber flash on April 12 to let critical Canadian sectors know about an ongoing campaign.

Earlier Thursday [April 13, 2023], a pro-Russian hacking group claimed responsibility for a cyberattack on Hydro Quebec, the province’s state-owned electricity provider.

The same group took credit for knocking the Prime Minister Office website offline [emphasis mine] earlier this week in a distributed denial-of-service attack as Canada played host to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Denial-of-service attacks flood the target website with traffic, triggering a crash. Earlier this week CSE said these types of attacks have very little impact on the affected systems.

Khoury said that state-sponsored cyber threat actors like to target critical infrastructure “to collect information through espionage, pre-position in case of future hostilities, and as a form of power projection and intimidation.”

My answer (will our money be well spent?) is yes, assuming at least some of it goes to the projects mentioned.

Shifting winds

The world seems an unfriendlier place these days, which is what I see reflected in this budget. Multiple references to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a major focus on Canada’s financial system being used to support various state-sponsored hostile actions suggest the Canadian government is beginning to recognize a need to respond appropriately and, I hope, in a more time sensitive fashion than is usual for a government that is known for ‘dragging its feet’.

There’s a quite interesting April 19, 2023 article by Alexander Panetta for CBC news online, which highlights some of the tensions, Note: A link has been removed,

A massive leak of U.S. national security documents has now spilled over into Canada.

The Washington Post says it has seen a Pentagon document criticizing Canada’s military readiness among materials allegedly posted online by a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman arrested last week.

The purported document, which CBC has not seen, makes two broad claims, according to the Post.

First, it says that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told NATO officials privately that Canada will never reach the military spending target agreed to by members of the alliance.

Second, the document claims wide-ranging deficiencies in Canada’s military capabilities are a source of tension with allies and defence partners.

That US security leak is a good reminder that everyone has problems with security and (not mentioned in Panetta’s article) that the US spies on its ‘friends’. BTW, Canada does the same thing. Everyone spies on everyone.

The past and the future and the now

Strikingly, the 2023 budget went back in time to revisit the ‘staples theory’ when mining, agriculture, and forestry were Canadian economic mainstays.

It’s the first time I’ve seen a reference in a budget to a perennial R&D (research and development) problem, Canadian companies do not invest in research. We score low on investment in industrial research when compared to other countries. In fact, a 2018 report from the Council of Canadian Academies, “Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada; The Expert Panel on the State of Science and Technology and Industrial Research and Development in Canada” executive summary states this,

… The number of researchers per capita in Canada is on a par with that of other developed countries, and increased modestly between 2004 and 2012. Canada’s output of PhD graduates has also grown in recent years, though it remains low in per capita terms relative to many OECD countries.

In contrast, the number of R&D personnel employed in Canadian businesses dropped by 20% between 2008 and 2013. This is likely related to sustained and ongoing decline in business R&D investment across the country. R&D as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) has steadily declined in Canada since 2001, and now stands well below the OECD average (Figure 1). As one of few OECD countries with virtually no growth in total national R&D expenditures between 2006 and 2015, Canada would now need to more than double expenditures to achieve an R&D intensity comparable to that of leading countries. [p. xviii on paper or p. 20 PDF]

Our problems in this area will not be solved quickly. Nor will our defence issues; it’s about time we started paying our way with NORAD and NATO and elsewhere. By the way, I wasn’t expecting to find a “new North American regional office in Halifax for NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic” (innovation, in this case, being code for technology). This hearkens back to the military being a resource for scientific and technological advances, which affect us all.

More generally, it’s good to see some emphasis on the climate and on water and food security.

There was one odd note regarding the 2023 budget according to an April 18, 2023 CBC news online article by Janyce McGregor (confession: I missed it),

King Charles, Canada’s head of state, will no longer include the phrase “Defender of the Faith” in his official royal title in Canada.

The new language was revealed late Monday [April 17, 2023] when the Liberal government published its notice of the Ways and Means Motion for this spring’s budget implementation bill — the legislation that actually brings into force the measures Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced on March 28.

The new title will read: “Charles the Third, by the Grace of God King of Canada and His other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.”

In addition to dropping the religious role, the revised title also deletes a reference to Charles as King of the United Kingdom — an update consistent with Canada’s status as an independent country among the 14 other countries that share the same monarch.

Getting back to the budget, I’m mildly optimistic.

Council of Canadian Academies (CCA): science policy internship and a new panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age

It’s been a busy week for the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA); I don’t usually get two notices in such close order.

2022 science policy internship

The application deadline is Oct. 18, 2021, you will work remotely, and the stipend for the 2020 internship was $18,500 for six months.

Here’s more from a September 13, 2021 CCA notice (received Sept. 13, 2021 via email),

CCA Accepting Applications for Internship Program

The program provides interns with an opportunity to gain experience working at the interface of science and public policy. Interns will participate in the development of assessments by conducting research in support of CCA’s expert panel process.

The internship program is a full-time commitment of six months and will be a remote opportunity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Applicants must be recent graduates with a graduate or professional degree, or post-doctoral fellows, with a strong interest in the use of evidence for policy. The application deadline is October 18, 2021. The start date is January 10, 2022. Applications and letters of reference should be addressed to Anita Melnyk at internship@cca-reports.ca.

More information about the CCA Internship Program and the application process can be found here. [Note: The link takes you to a page with information about a 2020 internship opportunity; presumably, the application requirements have not changed.]

Good luck!

Expert Panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age Announced

I have a few comments (see the ‘Concerns and hopes’ subhead) about this future report but first, here’s the announcement of the expert panel that was convened to look into the matter of public safety (received via email September 15, 2021),

CCA Appoints Expert Panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age

Access to the internet and digital technologies are essential for people, businesses, and governments to carry out everyday activities. But as more and more activities move online, people and organizations are increasingly vulnerable to serious threats and harms that are enabled by constantly evolving technology. At the request of Public Safety Canada, [emphasis mine] the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) has formed an Expert Panel to examine leading practices that could help address risks to public safety while respecting human rights and privacy. Jennifer Stoddart, O.C., Strategic Advisor, Privacy and Cybersecurity Group, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin [law firm], will serve as Chair of the Expert Panel.

“The ever-evolving nature of crimes and threats that take place online present a huge challenge for governments and law enforcement,” said Ms. Stoddart. “Safeguarding public safety while protecting civil liberties requires a better understanding of the impacts of advances in digital technology and the challenges they create.”

As Chair, Ms. Stoddart will lead a multidisciplinary group with expertise in cybersecurity, social sciences, criminology, law enforcement, and law and governance. The Panel will answer the following question:

Considering the impact that advances in information and communications technologies have had on a global scale, what do current evidence and knowledge suggest regarding promising and leading practices that could be applied in Canada for investigating, preventing, and countering threats to public safety while respecting human rights and privacy?

“This is an important question, the answer to which will have both immediate and far-reaching implications for the safety and well-being of people living in Canada. Jennifer Stoddart and this expert panel are very well-positioned to answer it,” said Eric M. Meslin, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS, President and CEO of the CCA.

More information about the assessment can be found here.

The Expert Panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age:

  • Jennifer Stoddart (Chair), O.C., Strategic Advisor, Privacy and Cybersecurity Group, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin [law firm].
  • Benoît Dupont, Professor, School of Criminology, and Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity and Research Chair for the Prevention of Cybercrime, Université de Montréal; Scientific Director, Smart Cybersecurity Network (SERENE-RISC). Note: This is one of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE)
  • Richard Frank, Associate Professor, School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University; Director, International CyberCrime Research Centre International. Note: This is an SFU/ Society for the Policing of Cyberspace (POLCYB) partnership
  • Colin Gavaghan, Director, New Zealand Law Foundation Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies, Faculty of Law, University of Otago.
  • Laura Huey, Professor, Department of Sociology, Western University; Founder, Canadian Society of Evidence Based Policing [Can-SEPB].
  • Emily Laidlaw, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity Law, Faculty of Law, University of Calgary.
  • Arash Habibi Lashkari, Associate Professor, Faculty of Computer Science, University of New Brunswick; Research Coordinator, Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity [CIC].
  • Christian Leuprecht, Class of 1965 Professor in Leadership, Department of Political Science and Economics, Royal Military College; Director, Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University.
  • Florian Martin-Bariteau, Associate Professor of Law and University Research Chair in Technology and Society, University of Ottawa; Director, Centre for Law, Technology and Society.
  • Shannon Parker, Detective/Constable, Saskatoon Police Service.
  • Christopher Parsons, Senior Research Associate, Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto.
  • Jad Saliba, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Magnet Forensics Inc.
  • Heidi Tworek, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, and Department of History, University of British Columbia.

Oddly, there’s no mention that Jennifer Stoddart (Wikipedia entry) was Canada’s sixth privacy commissioner. Also, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin (her employer) changed its name to Fasken in 2017 (Wikipedia entry). The company currently has offices in Canada, UK, South Africa, and China (Firm webpage on company website).

Exactly how did the question get framed?

It’s always informative to look at the summary (from the reports Public Safety in the Digital Age webpage on the CCA website),

Information and communications technologies have profoundly changed almost every aspect of life and business in the last two decades. While the digital revolution has brought about many positive changes, it has also created opportunities for criminal organizations and malicious actors [emphasis mine] to target individuals, businesses, and systems. Ultimately, serious crime facilitated by technology and harmful online activities pose a threat to the safety and well-being of people in Canada and beyond.

Damaging or criminal online activities can be difficult to measure and often go unreported. Law enforcement agencies and other organizations working to address issues such as the sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, and violent extremism [emphasis mine] must constantly adapt their tools and methods to try and prevent and respond to crimes committed online.

A better understanding of the impacts of these technological advances on public safety and the challenges they create could help to inform approaches to protecting public safety in Canada.

This assessment will examine promising practices that could help to address threats to public safety related to the use of digital technologies while respecting human rights and privacy.

The Sponsor:

Public Safety Canada

The Question:

Considering the impact that advances in information and communications technologies have had on a global scale, what do current evidence and knowledge suggest regarding promising and leading practices that could be applied in Canada for investigating, preventing, and countering threats to public safety while respecting human rights and privacy?

Three things stand out for me. First, public safety, what is it?, second, ‘malicious actors’, and third, the examples used for the issues being addressed (more about this in the Comments subsection, which follows).

What is public safety?

Before launching into any comments, here’s a description for Public Safety Canada (from their About webpage) where you’ll find a hodge podge,

Public Safety Canada was created in 2003 to ensure coordination across all federal departments and agencies responsible for national security and the safety of Canadians.

Our mandate is to keep Canadians safe from a range of risks such as natural disasters, crime and terrorism.

Our mission is to build a safe and resilient Canada.

The Public Safety Portfolio

A cohesive and integrated approach to Canada’s security requires cooperation across government. Together, these agencies have an annual budget of over $9 billion and more than 66,000 employees working in every part of the country.

Public Safety Partner Agencies

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) manages the nation’s borders by enforcing Canadian laws governing trade and travel, as well as international agreements and conventions. CBSA facilitates legitimate cross-border traffic and supports economic development while stopping people and goods that pose a potential threat to Canada.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) investigates and reports on activities that may pose a threat to the security of Canada. CSIS also provides security assessments, on request, to all federal departments and agencies.

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) helps protect society by encouraging offenders to become law-abiding citizens while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control. CSC is responsible for managing offenders sentenced to two years or more in federal correctional institutions and under community supervision.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is an independent body that grants, denies or revokes parole for inmates in federal prisons and provincial inmates in province without their own parole board. The PBC helps protect society by facilitating the timely reintegration of offenders into society as law-abiding citizens.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) enforces Canadian laws, prevents crime and maintains peace, order and security.

So, Public Safety includes a spy agency (CSIS), the prison system (Correctional Services and Parole Board), and the national police force (RCMP) and law enforcement at the borders with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). None of the partner agencies are dedicated to natural disasters although it’s mentioned in the department’s mandate.

The focus is largely on criminal activity and espionage. On that note, a very senior civilian RCMP intelligence official, Cameron Ortis*, was charged with passing secrets to foreign entities (malicious actors?). (See the September 13, 2021 [updated Sept. 15, 2021] news article by Amanda Connolly, Mercedes Stephenson, Stewart Bell, Sam Cooper & Rachel Browne for CTV news and the Sept. 18, 2019 [updated January 6, 2020] article by Douglas Quan for the National Post for more details.)

There appears to be at least one other major security breach; that involving Canada’s only level four laboratory, the Winnipeg-based National Microbiology Lab (NML). (See a June 10, 2021 article by Karen Pauls for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news online for more details.)

As far as I’m aware, Ortis is still being held with a trial date scheduled for September 2022 (see Catherine Tunney’s April 9, 2021 article for CBC news online) and, to date, there have been no charges laid in the Winnipeg lab case.

Concerns and hopes

Ordinarily I’d note links and relationships between the various expert panel members but in this case it would be a big surprise if they weren’t linked in some fashion as the focus seems to be heavily focused on cybersecurity (as per the panel member’s bios.), which I imagine is a smallish community in Canada.

As I’ve made clear in the paragraphs leading into the comments, Canada appears to have seriously fumbled the ball where national and international cybersecurity is concerned.

So getting back to “First, public safety, what is it?, second, ‘malicious actors’, and third, the examples used for the issues,” I’m a bit puzzled.

Public safety as best I can tell, is just about anything they’d like it to be. ‘Malicious actors’ is a term I’ve seen used to imply a foreign power is behind the actions being held up for scrutiny.

The examples used for the issues being addressed “sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, and violent extremism” hint at a focus on crimes that cross borders and criminal organizations, as well as, like-minded individuals organizing violent and extremist acts but not specifically at any national or international security concerns.

On a more mundane note, I’m a little surprised that identity theft wasn’t mentioned as an example.

I’m hopeful there will be some examination of emerging technologies such as quantum communication (specifically, encryption issues) and artificial intelligence. I also hope the report will include a discussion about mistakes and over reliance on technology (for a refresher course on what happens when organizations, such as the Canadian federal government, make mistakes in the digital world; search ‘Phoenix payroll system’, a 2016 made-in-Canada and preventable debacle, which to this day is still being fixed).

In the end, I think the only topic that can be safely excluded from the report is climate change otherwise it’s a pretty open mandate as far as can be told from publicly available information.

I noticed the international panel member is from New Zealand (the international component is almost always from the US, UK, northern Europe, and/or the Commonwealth). Given that New Zealand (as well as being part of the commonwealth) is one of the ‘Five Eyes Intelligence Community’, which includes Canada, Australia, the UK, the US, and, NZ, I was expecting a cybersecurity expert. If Professor Colin Gavaghan does have that expertise, it’s not obvious on his University of Otaga profile page (Note: Links have been removed),

Research interests

Colin is the first director of the New Zealand Law Foundation sponsored Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies. The Centre examines the legal, ethical and policy issues around new technologies. To date, the Centre has carried out work on biotechnology, nanotechnology, information and communication technologies and artificial intelligence.

In addition to emerging technologies, Colin lectures and writes on medical and criminal law.

Together with colleagues in Computer Science and Philosophy, Colin is the leader of a three-year project exploring the legal, ethical and social implications of artificial intelligence for New Zealand.

Background

Colin regularly advises on matters of technology and regulation. He is first Chair of the NZ Police’s Advisory Panel on Emergent Technologies, and a member of the Digital Council for Aotearoa, which advises the Government on digital technologies. Since 2017, he has been a member (and more recently Deputy Chair) of the Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology. He was an expert witness in the High Court case of Seales v Attorney General, and has advised members of parliament on draft legislation.

He is a frustrated writer of science fiction, but compensates with occasional appearances on panels at SF conventions.

I appreciate the sense of humour evident in that last line.

Almost breaking news

Wednesday, September 15, 2021 an announcement of a new alliance in the Indo-Pacific region, the Three Eyes (Australia, UK, and US or AUKUS) was made.

Interestingly all three are part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and US. Hmmm … Canada and New Zealand both border the Pacific and last I heard, the UK is still in Europe.

A September 17, 2021 article, “Canada caught off guard by exclusion from security pact” by Robert Fife and Steven Chase for the Globe and Mail (I’m quoting from my paper copy),

The Canadian government was surprised this week by the announcement of a new security pact among the United States, Britain and Australia, one that excluded Canada [and New Zealand too] and is aimed at confronting China’s growing military and political influence in the Indo-Pacific region, according to senior government officials.

Three officials, representing Canada’s Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Defence departments, told the Globe and Mail that Ottawa was not consulted about the pact, and had no idea the trilateral security announcement was coming until it was made on Wednesday [September 15, 2021] by U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The new trilateral alliance, dubbed AUKUS, after the initials of the three countries, will allow for greater sharing of information in areas such as artificial intelligence and cyber and underwater defence capabilities.

Fife and Chase have also written a September 17, 2021 Globe and Mail article titled, “Chinese Major-General worked with fired Winnipeg Lab scientist,”

… joint research conducted between Major-General Chen Wei and former Canadian government lab scientist Xiangguo Qiu indicates that co-operation between the Chinese military and scientists at the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) went much higher than was previously known. The People’s Liberation Army is the military of China’s ruling Communist Party.

Given that no one overseeing the Canadian lab, which is a level 4 and which should have meant high security, seems to have known that Wei was a member of the military and with the Cameron Ortis situation still looming, would you have included Canada in the new pact?

*ETA September 20, 2021: For anyone who’s curious about the Cameron Ortis case, there’s a Fifth Estate documentary (approximately 46 minutes): The Smartest Guy in the Room: Cameron Ortis and the RCMP Secrets Scandal.