The country’s four major securities priorities were brought to light in front of a full house at the University of Regina’s College Avenue Campus Tuesday afternoon.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale talked about Bill C-59, high-risk terrorist travellers, the country’s new cybersecurity policy and foreign interference in Canadian affairs by foreign actors.
Bill C-59 is legislation currently before the Senate to “renovate” Canada’s national security model to suit current realities.
Goodale said he expects the new legislation, once passed, to accomplish three important objectives.
“It will make several corrections to the law to fix, what we consider to previous errors like language that was too vague and rendered some provisions in the law very unlikely ever to be used,” Goodale said.
“A defective no-fly list that victimized children, implied contraventions of the charter.”
Secondly, Goodale said the bill strengthens and clarifies the constitutional and legal authorities under which the country’s security and intelligence agency operate while creating new tools for them to use.
“Various court decisions and expert reports have raised questions about these matters in recent years and it is vital for there to be no doubt about the powers and the authorities these agencies have and how they can be used,” Goodale said.
Finally, Goodale said Bill C-59 ushers in a whole new era of transparency and accountability.
“It creates a new comprehensive national security and intelligence review agency with a government-wide mandate to examine any and all federal departments and agencies with the security or intelligence function,” Goodale said.
“Gone will be fragmented reviews conducted bin isolated silos.”
Goodale said he is hopeful that Bill C-59 will win the approval of the Senate soon and becomes law early this year.
When it comes to terror, Goodale said about 40,000 people worldwide have been lured into the terrorist cause by Daesh (ISIS) since its beginning, and have traveled to various global locations to participate in some way.
He said that travel mostly occurred before 2016.
While Canada is in stable condition in terms of immediate threats, Goodale said the country isn’t immune to terroristic situations.
“Working closely with our international partners, Canada’s security and intelligence and police agencies have identified approximately 250 of these high-risk extremist travellers with a connection to Canada who have journeyed overseas,” Goodale said.
“About half into Syria, Iraq and Turkey and the rest into Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of North and East Africa.”
Goodale warns Canadians that terror threats are also coming from fanaticism such as right-wing white supremacist groups and neo-Nazis.
Cybersecurity has become a major concern over the past two decades, said Goodale, with the revolution of information technology.
Goodale said Canadian’s are online more than any other nationality in the world – spending an average of 43 and a half hours a month online.
“Our most sensitive, personal and financial information is quite literally, floating in a cloud,” Goodale said.
“Millions of times every day, hackers at home and around the world are trying to break in. The culprits may be foreign states, military or spy agencies, terror groups, organized crime, petty thieves or people with corporate or personal grudges.”
Based on Statistics Canada, cybercrime in the country is causing more than $3 billion in economic losses every year. Globally, the economic loss of cybercrime in 2018 was estimated at more than $600 billion.
The last federal budget identified $750 million dollars over five years for the new federal cyber plan – one-third of that goes to Shared Services Canada to enhance and protect cyber systems within the Government of Canada.
They also invested $155 million to create the new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security in Ottawa.
The RCMP is receiving $200 million to strengthen cybercrime investigative capacity and to start a National Cybercrime Coordination Unit.
The final subject Goodale addressed was foreign interference and an outside government’s attempt to mold public opinion and government policy in other countries in order to advance their own interest.
“As long as that is done in a peaceful, open, transparent manner within in the law its fine,” Goodale said.
Examples of that include, espionage to steal commercial secrets or sabotage a global competitor. It could be murder to silence a vocal critic or foreign agents providing illegal funds to support candidates.
Goodale said protecting our democratic institutions countering possible hostile state activity are pressing priorities for the Government of Canada including safeguarding the integrity of this year’s federal election.
The Bill C-76, the Elections Modernization Act, which received royal assent in December, will help, said Goodale.
“It will prohibit Canadian third parties from partisan activities using foreign funds during an election campaign or not.”
Goodale said there are about 60,000 people working to protect Canadian security, with an annual budget of $10 billion.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Services Border Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada are some of the dedicated personnel.
“Canadians are indeed fortunate to have an amazing team of strong talented dedicated people, who are indeed world class. Every day they give their best to keep us all safe and safeguard our precious rights and freedom,” Goodale said.