Spying and meddling by foreign countries, mainly China and Russia, are the biggest threats to Canada, says the 2020 report to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.
The report was finished before last Christmas, but a redacted version was published April 12. It says the effects of espionage and foreign interference are not as obvious as terrorism, but “they are the most significant long-term threats to Canada’s sovereignty and prosperity.”
“The pandemic, meanwhile, has provided a new impetus for foreign states to conduct espionage activities against the Canadian health sector and Canadian organizations working in science and technology,” says the report.
China and Russia have targeted government networks, public institutions and private corporations for cyber espionage, it said. They have also targeted critical infrastructure, conducted online influence campaigns and monitored dissidents abroad.
“The pandemic put these threats into stark relief, in particular the threats posed to Canada’s health sector.”
Foreign states, it said, have “conducted opportunistic attacks to interfere with our politics and steal hard-won research and proprietary data; and organized crime groups exploited legislative and enforcement weaknesses to launder money and traffic increasingly lethal drugs.”
The primary physical threat faced by Canada continues to be low-sophistication attacks on unsecured public spaces and the pandemic may be feeding radicalization.
“The RCMP assesses that the restrictions, including Iockdown measures, put in place during the pandemic could result in people looking for advice or information over the Internet and accessing extremist echo chambers. This risk is magnified by the challenges of social isolation and financial hardship during restrictions. These same restrictions also make it difficult for others to identify individuals who may be on a path to radicalization.”
Meanwhile, organized crime remains a threat. Due to the pandemic, organized crime groups have increased their web presence to enable trafficking of personal protective equipment, masks and medical equipment. CBSA says groups have adjusted their smuggling methods, but the pandemic “is unlikely to result in significant drops in global trafficking of drugs to Canada over the next year.” Instead, according to CBSA, smaller groups will likely be absorbed into larger ones “better able to adapt quickly to the shifting restrictions of the pandemic.”
The proceeds of crime mean billions of dollars of lost revenue for governments.
“Beyond these costs are the financial and societal ramifications of organized crime: it undermines the rule of law, threatens public safety, and erodes our financial, legal, political and social institutions.”
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