Canada and other NATO allies are facing an increasing threat of espionage — including industrial espionage — from foreign actors, NATO’s secretary-general said Monday.
“We have seen increased efforts by other nations to try to spy on NATO allies in different ways,” said Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of NATO, at a press conference alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Stoltenberg delivered the comments in response to a question from reporters about the threat from China, and an ongoing investigation into the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
The Public Health Agency of Canada, which runs the lab, said they are looking into an “administrative matter” involving “possible policy breaches.” They notified the RCMP on May 24, and the police are currently investigating. No laboratory employees are under arrest or confined to their home, PHAC said in a statement.
Both agencies say that there is no risk to the public. The lab contains a high-security research facility, designed to deal with dangerous pathogens like Ebola, under strict safety protocols.
NATO has established a new intelligence division, Stoltenberg said, to improve the way the organization shares intelligence, as well as improving their ability to respond to cyber threats.
“This is partly about industrial espionage, something which is dealt with by civilian intelligence, but also, of course, it affects our military forces and also military intelligence,” Stoltenberg continued. “So this is something we take very seriously.”
While there haven’t been many arrests in Canada related to espionage, Trudeau said, “I can assure you that our security and intelligence agencies work extremely hard and work extremely successfully in countering many threats to Canadians in an ongoing fashion.”
In December, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned business leaders that foreign states were attempting to steal their secrets. “There is state-sponsored espionage in Canada,” CSIS director David Vigneault said.
Canadian companies need to be vigilant and report suspicious activity, he said.
— With files from Stewart Bell