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China wants to steal Canadian secrets and silence critics: CSIS boss

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Canadian press

Jim Bronskill

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February 09, 2021 • • February 9, 2021 • • 3 minutes read • • 5 comments A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Building was displayed in Ottawa on May 14, 2013.A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Building was displayed in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick /.THE CANADIAN PRESS

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OTTAWA – Canada’s security chief warns that China is undermining Canada by attempting to steal valuable technology and silencing critics of Beijing politics.

In a speech sponsored by the Center for International Governance Innovation Tuesday, CSIS Director David Vigneault said all sectors of Canadian society must work together to counter these threats.

Vigneault stressed that Canadians have benefited from their relationship with Chinese researchers, scholars, artists, business people, and others for decades.

“To be clear, the threat does not come from the Chinese people, but from the Chinese government, which has a strategy for geopolitical advantage on all fronts – economic, technological, political and military,” he said.

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Vigneault bluntly stated that Beijing “is using all elements of state power to carry out activities that pose a direct threat to our national security and sovereignty”.


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“We all need to strengthen our defenses.”

Vigneault said ill-intentioned countries want to “take advantage” of Canada to get back on their economic feet once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.

The sectors of the Canadian economy that are most vulnerable to government sponsored cyber espionage include biopharmaceuticals and health, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and aerospace.

Most of these technologies are developed in the academic arena in small startups, which are attractive targets because they offer modest security protections and are more likely to pursue collaborations that can and unfortunately are used by other countries, he said.

“Unfortunately, research has shown that this threat has caused significant damage to Canadian businesses,” said Vigneault.

“Overall, it threatens Canada’s knowledge-based economy. If our most innovative technology and know-how are lost, the future of our country will be stolen. “

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Federal officials openly say that China is able to conduct foreign interference in Canada by clandestinely and misleading pressure and influence to pursue its strategic goals.

They say China and certain other foreign nations routinely threaten and intimidate people around the world through various government entities and nongovernmental proxies.

A notable example of this is the Chinese government’s covert global program known as Operation Fox Hunt, which claims to crack down on corruption “but was also believed to have been used to target and appease dissidents against the regime,” Vigneault said.


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“Those threatened often lack the resources to defend themselves and are unaware that they can report these activities to Canadian authorities, including CSIS.”

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa did not have an immediate response to the comments.

Vigneault said while CSIS is most concerned about the actions of governments in countries like China and Russia, threats can come from anywhere in the world.

The fluid and rapidly evolving environment created by COVID-19 has created a situation ripe for those looking to cause harm or advance their own interests, he said.

This has resulted in extremists continuing to use online platforms to recruit others and spread hateful news, anti-authoritarian narratives and conspiracy theories about the pandemic to rationalize and justify violence.

“We are also seeing increased use of cyber tools to steal sensitive information, carry out ransomware attacks and cause disruption.”

The federal government recently revised many aspects of national security legislation. However, Vigneault pointed out that more needs to be done to update the CSIS law and called for a healthy public discussion of the issue.

Vigneault said the law should be changed to allow CSIS to use modern tools to access data and share the fruits of its research with a wider range of partners outside of government.

“Whether it’s violent extremism, espionage or foreign interference, no single government department or agency can handle these threats alone,” he said.

“If we are to effectively address modern threats, we need to build strategic partnerships inside and outside government.”

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