Language selection


CSPS Virtual Café Series: Keeping Canada Safe – Talking National and Public Security (video)

Description: On July 14, 2020, the Canada School of Public Service was joined by David Vigneault, Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and Monik Beauregard, Associate Deputy Minister at Public Safety Canada, in conversation with Daniel Jean, former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister.

Date: February 23, 2021

Duration: 01:05:35

Resolution: 1080p


Hello everyone, and thank you for joining us for this second virtual café of the Canada School of Public Service. This is a new series of information events for public servants who review important ideas and themes with informed discussions that involve interesting stakeholders, both in the public service and elsewhere. The series was launched a few weeks ago with a discussion on the economic and social issues of the pandemic with Hassan Yussuff, Chair of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Goldy Hyder, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of Canada. Today, we're privileged to welcome two exceptional people who have joined me to discuss a subject that is far from simple and static, but incredibly important: public and national security. The virtual café will take place in French with simultaneous translation into English, a wonderful initiative of the school that made us—the panelists and I—pick up our dictionaries to relearn some words in French. Let me first introduce myself, my name is Daniel Jean, and I will be your facilitator for today's session. I worked in the Public Service for over 35 years, during which time I served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and as a National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the Prime Minister. It was an honour for me to serve Canada in managing international relations and national security issues, to work with people like our panelists today, and now I am retired and acting as a Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, as well as a Distinquished Fellow of the Canada School of Public Service. Today's subject, public and national security, is both immensely individual, what threatens me individually, and collectively, what threatens us as a society, what Canada's role is in world peace and security. We will discuss this subject in the context of... [Inaudible] where there is a great deal of uncertainty, and threats are ever changing and growing. On the one hand, we're dealing with international actors who are increasingly redefining cross-border partnerships and abandoning traditional institutions and rules. At the same time, influential international actors who have often been relied upon have withdrawn, becoming hostages of domestic concerns. The pandemic, a global health crisis that calls for a global response, has at times exacerbated this dynamic. It's not easy for Canada, which enjoyed its heyday when multilateralism was doing well, to navigate this ever-changing world. Through all this emerge threats both from abroad and from home. This is where important players in the security and intelligence community, like our two panelists today, come in. On the one hand, our fellow citizens expect our institutions to be able to prevent and eliminate these threats when they appear. On the other hand, how the government responds to threats raises important considerations related to privacy, transparency, and individual freedom. Our security and intelligence agencies must be effective while remaining true to our democratic values. We glimpsed some of this in the debate that we had about tracing, tracking data to try to assess the outbreak areas of COVID-19, and the entire ensuing debate about privacy protection. I now give the floor to our two speakers, Monik Beauregard and David Vigneault. Monik has had a successful career with various security and intelligence agencies, including CSIS. She was the head of ITAC, our threat assessment centre, and is now Associate Deputy Minister of Public Safety. I had the opportunity to work closely with Monik and see how she was doing when drafting the new National Security Act. David Vigneault, who is currently the director of the Canadian Intelligence and Security Service, CSIS, has worked in almost every agency in the security and intelligence community, including the Department of National Defence. I was able to count on his unwavering support as the right hand man of the Privy Council and as a colleague following his appointment as director of CSIS when I was a National Security Advisor. Monik and David will first briefly take the floor and introduce themselves, present their organization, and talk about their current priorities. I would like [inaudible] a question period. I will start the discussion with a few questions, then we will use your questions. I would like to point out that you can ask questions at any time by clicking on the Questions icon in the upper right corner of your screen, and these questions will be sent to me on my cell, so if I look at my cell from time to time, it's not because I'm trying to see what's going to happen with hockey starting up again. Let's start with the initial, Monik.

Thank you, Daniel, and thank you to the school for setting up this virtual café on national security. This subject is important to us, so I will start by talking to you about the responsibilities of the Ministry, the Department of Public Safety, which is a, which is really a large department, that is, a large portfolio. The department itself is a small department of 1,200 people, but we have a portfolio of five agencies that help us support the Minister of Public Safety in a variety of priorities, and I will just point out that in the Minister's mandate letter, there are no fewer than 17 priorities that we must, that need to be addressed. So, I am going to try to summarize it in four pillars. The first one, national security of course, and we have the support of the RCMP and CSIS, and David will be able to talk a little bit more about that later. We have emergency management through the Emergency Management Act, and we have the GOC, the government operations group that helps us support it. Everything about law enforcement, emergency preparedness, so law enforcement, corrections, crime prevention, etc., and we're working very closely with the RCMP and Canadian correctional services, and, finally, border management. For border management, it's working with the Canada Border Services Agency. So basically, three of the department's current top priorities. I'll now talk about emergency management, especially COVID at this time, we're all in it, but also keep an eye on what is happening with respect to flooding and, at this time, a little more with respect to forest fires. Another priority, another very high priority for the minister, and you heard it during the election campaign, is firearms, drawing up lists of restrictions that are much more restrictive, in fact, on firearms. The third top priority is national security, and I will come back to that. In fact, Daniel asked us to talk about three top priorities. In light of recent events, I think that highlighting systemic racism, we're seeing the emergence of a new priority for us, which is to review the Indigenous Policing Program. So, in the area of national security in particular, the Department plays a role, a really key role in policy development, and I will give you some examples of what we have developed in recent years in collaboration with our partners that I have already identified, but also other security and intelligence partners. The most important initiatives, most recently in 2017, we created the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. It's called the "Centre" because the name is really too long, and the Centre has, among other things, developed a new national strategy for fighting radicalization leading to violence. In 2018, we announced the new National Cyber Security Strategy and still made significant investments to put the strategy in place and create some of the agencies that support it, and we will be able to talk about it a little more, later. And in 2019, Bill C-59 received Royal Assent, which really reframed national security, modernized national security institutions, and increased the level of accountability of these institutions. For the challenges that we still have to face, we still have some rather significant challenges to overcome in terms of national security. I will talk about the growing threat of terrorism, and then I think David will be able to talk a little bit more about this with respect to what is called IMVE. Another growing concern, especially with the COVID lens, is that foreign interference, foreign interference, and hostile activities towards Canada really make us think about how to better protect the Canadian economy. And we still have challenges regarding cyber security, especially with regard to 5G and encryption. In closing, I would like to point out that in the last few years, actually, I would say even more in the last decades, since the events of September 11, 2001, in fact, the main concern of the security and intelligence community has been the fight against terrorism, more specifically the terrorism committed by Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, then by ISIL, Daesh and its affiliates. When you think about it, in fact, the Department was created in 2003 in response to 9/11 and, essentially, to fight terrorism. In recent years, given several geopolitical changes, we have seen the rise of authoritarianism, we have seen a decrease in trust in certain international institutions, without reducing the threat still posed by Daesh, I think that this is, and David will be able to confirm this, our concerns are more focused on the hostile activities carried out by certain foreign countries in particular, which are primarily seeking to advance their own strategic interests such as their geographical range of influence, their own economic advancement or their military advantage. So, I will stop there, on the subject of national security in particular, and will be able to return to other issues through the question period.

David, it's your turn.

Thank you very much, and I must say, it's a privilege for me to have the opportunity to speak to you all, especially with my colleagues and friends, Monik and Daniel. As Daniel said, I've been working in the field of national security and intelligence for almost 25 years, and I must tell you that when we look at the primary function of the federal government, and we see it, it's repeated in all Speeches from the Throne, the government's primary responsibility is to protect Canadians. So we, at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, it's what we do day in, day out, so we contribute to that security. This is an exceptional privilege, but I must tell you that it's also a burden on all CSIS employees because we know the impact of, when there are threats to national security. So, in this context, I would like to thank the school too for this wonderful initiative. We'll talk, of course, about several topics today, but I would like perhaps to simply only talk about, let's start with threats. If we look at the environment we—Canada and our allies—are in, we're in a period of deep change, technological change. We're talking about 5G, we're talking about quantum technology, artificial intelligence, so all the benefits that will be made possible with these new technologies, but also like with everything, there are two sides to every story. There are also threats that are emerging with these new technologies. So, it's important to understand this perspective. There are also all the geopolitical changes, Monik and Daniel brought them up. When we see actors who, like Russia and China, benefit from the environment, shape the environment for their benefit, who, but on the other hand [inaudible] do so using methods and means that go against our values, against our interests, it's a very significant geopolitical change. We're seeing the weakening of traditional alliances such as NATO, the European Union, and therefore, what are the, what environment of threats this creates for Canada, of course. The health environment, when we're in the national security field, the pandemic is something that we think about, but I have to tell you that this is not necessarily what was at the top of the agenda when we came back from the holidays in January, when we started to see the first information, the first information about the problems in China. So, this environment actually shapes what we're more specifically concerned about. So the environment, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service's mandate is to investigate threats to national security, to inform the government, to advise the government, and finally, to take steps to mitigate the threat when it has, where possible. So, in this context, I'm going to talk to you more specifically about terrorism and espionage and foreign interference, which are the most significant threats in which we invest our efforts. Monik spoke of Al-Qaeda and Daesh, or ISIS as it's often called. This is really, I would say, what, since 2001, September 11, 2001, which has really been the driving force of all, all the intelligence services activities around the world. That said, the threat has continued to change. Actors learn, adapt their methods, change their approach, and so the threat is constantly changing. We will always be able to try to better understand the vectors, the actors behind this threat. There have always been groups that espoused ideologies that were slightly more connected to the extreme right and the extreme left. I will come back to this a little later. But these groups are becoming more and more part of an agenda where once again, there is a lack of understanding by the people, there is a lack of belonging. People make themselves, have sources of information such as social networks and groups on the dark web, which make it possible to convey information. So, these groups are having an increasingly greater impact on us. I am talking about social networks, I am talking about communication networks, because that is really where we see the phenomenon of radicalization. This is where people who can be individuals, who have little or no social connection with others, other elements of threats, will be able to develop these networks, will be able to develop their own understanding and their own manifestation, in an imaginary world of different views and will potentially take action to commit acts of violence to advance the cause that, which is going, has become their own during this process of radicalization. We talk a lot about terrorism. Of course, I say this publicly, I say it in the service's annual report, it's still the most significant threat to the safety of people. However, we believe that espionage and foreign interference are the threat, the most significant threats to Canada's prosperity and sovereignty, not only now, but in the years to come. I have talked about some countries, China, Russia, and others who want what we have. We're a rich country, we're a country with a lot of natural resources and a lot of human resources, universities, and high-tech companies. People want what we have, envy our freedom in some way, and will use every means to transform our advantages for their own interests. So, this phenomenon of espionage and foreign interference has always existed, but it's now taking on new shapes and manifest themselves with even greater seriousness for us. I will perhaps talk about one last thing in the context in which we work. In English, we often say that National security is a team sport, so it's really a team effort. So, CSIS, as our colleagues pointed out, we work with many partners, both in the federal government and from other levels of government and others, other actors in Canadian civil society. This afternoon, I am meeting with the people from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. We're going to hold a webinar with them in the next few days specifically to talk to Canadian entrepreneurs, to tell them a little bit about national security. So, partnerships in Canada, but also partnerships abroad. We work with more than 3,000 agencies around the world, therefore many agencies, in several countries to ensure that we have the best information, the best partnerships to be able to conduct our national security investigations and intelligence operations for the benefit of Canada. The last point I want to make, and Daniel talked about it, we work, we're an intelligence agency that works in Canada, therefore a constitutional state, a country that is governed by rules and the service, these are part of our fundamental values, respect for the law, and respect for democratic values. I would not say that the same is true for our opponents and several countries that we have to work against, regarding the activities that we have to monitor and counter. These countries often do not respect the values of law, do not respect democratic values, so they do things that we cannot do and would not want to do anyway, because we're an intelligence organization that works in a democracy, so I think that it's quite important to point that out. I am going to briefly talk about the pandemic. Of course, this was a topic we worked on, I said it at the beginning of the year, but in a more active way already in February. Not only has it had an impact on us as an organization, on the way we work because all our employees, like all other Canadians, have had to learn to live again with the pandemic, to learn to work again with the pandemic, so our operations have been affected, but I must say that, once again, the great thing about working for an organization like CSIS is seeing people's ingenuity, innovation, and desire to make a difference. So, I will stop here for now, but I want to tell you that, once again, it's a privilege to have the opportunity to talk to you all today. Thank you.

Thank you very much, David. Thank you, Monik. David, while we're on the subject of threats, I think you have thoroughly discussed the most important threats that the service and Canada must be mindful of. A few years ago, the focus was really on counter-terrorism. We were really in the fight against Al-Qaeda, then against Daesh, as you and Monik alluded to, and when we look at what has happened in the last few years, as recently as the current COVID-19 pandemic, the allegations against the Russians in Afghanistan, interference in democratic processes. It appears that the importance of intelligence is making a comeback. I would like to hear your comments on the importance of intelligence and the importance of intelligence in our current environment. While respecting the unclassified nature of this virtual discussion, how can Canada do the best it can to assess and counter threats while being highly effective in terms of intelligence?

Thank you, Daniel. I'll share a few thoughts with you on that subject. First, the role of intelligence is to give the government an advantage. It's to be able to give information to the government that it could not have otherwise. So, it's secret intelligence, it's undercover, recruiting, and surveillance operations that a service like ours carries out day in, day out. So, it's about getting information that isn't available otherwise, from people who would normally not want to give us the information. However, it's also the use of, to make sense of any information that is also available in the public domain. There's a variety of sources of information, many of which are credible, while others are much less so, and the objective is to, to be able to take information in the public domain, information in the secret domain, and to make a sound analysis to give, once again, an advantage to the Government of Canada with respect to decision-making. It can be at the very tactical level, so it can be to say who the players in the field are in the context of the pandemic. It can be to say who the players are in Canada and abroad. Who is trying to use supply chains for protective devices, ventilators, masks, and all that to have a negative impact on Canada. It could be a foreign power that tries to manipulate public opinion to make people believe that the situation is not really what it is, to highlight some of the more positive elements of the activity of a foreign government so that our population can support these activities. So, our job at that time is to come and to not only take public information, but also to go get information from secret sources and to be able to give the government the right analysis to say, here is what is really going on, here is what our allies think, here is what other intelligence services around the word see, and thus enable the government to make the best decisions possible. It's very, sometimes, what we call very tactical, so is contract X, which is being negotiated with a foreign power, the intentions of that power are the right ones, or is there, it can also be in the area of the vaccine, is there a partner who offers us some things who has ulterior motives on which we must give information to the government to be able protect ourselves. So in this area, in the context of the pandemic, I would say yes, there is a more pressing need for intelligence, but, as I said earlier, I 've been in this field for over 25 years or almost 25 years, I would say that there's still a need to have this information, to have an advantage for the government. That is really why we exist.

Thank you, David. If you'll allow me to expand a little on what you just said, it's very important to the government , but since in my activities now at the university, I meet a lot of people in the private sector, a lot of people in the academic sector, and they constantly talk to me about the importance for them to also be better aware of these threats where geopolitics and geo-economics mix, and like the importance that agencies like CSIS, like the Communications Security Establishment can better inform them, as much as can be disclosed, in these threats. I know that this is a very important issue. I saw that in the first speeches, in the first year, you touched on this subject. What is being done now and what more needs to be done to better equip our citizens and our private sector against these threats.

Thank you, Daniel. I'm glad you raised this point because it's a priority for the Service. The intelligence service has authorities and people with quite exceptional skills. We do a lot, but we're unable, first, to do everything, we're not allowed to do everything, and we aren't the best people to be able to counter the threat at all times, everywhere in Canada and abroad. So when we say that national security is a team sport, people in civil society, academics, people who are in companies, in various community organizations that work with various parts of the population, these are people who, in our opinion, need to be better informed about some, some phenomena, like if we talk about foreign interference, we have groups, diasporas. As we all know, the Government of Canada and Canadian society are very open to the world. Every year, we welcome hundreds of thousands of new Canadians, so it's necessary, these people come from countries that sometimes try to use these diasporas to influence Canada, the Government of Canada. So, the better these people understand what is going on, the risks, the ways foreign powers do things, the more they are going to be able to protect themselves well. I had the opportunity to speak with the chairs of Canada's largest universities to raise their awareness. The objective was not to tell them that there's a risk each time they partner with foreign universities or foreign companies. That everyone has malicious intentions. However, the reality is that there are companies, there are people, there are countries with malicious intentions. Their goal is not to reap benefits in an equal partnership, it's to be able to manipulate the work, to manipulate scientific research for the benefit of these countries. It has been said publicly, I'll do it with you today. There are a few hundred of us here, we're going trust each other. China is indeed a country that uses every means possible for the benefit of their, to advance China. Again, that is what we all want to do. We want to do, we want to put our country in the best position possible. However, when the means that are used are illicit, are under cover, are, use coercion, that is where there's a problem. I'll talk about the economic sector. It's absolutely essential that people, the economic players of Canada better understand the threats of espionage to the survival of their own company and, with the multiplier effect, for Canada's prosperity. We've seen Canadian companies that have developed technologies, innovations that no one else had made around the world to realize that through human espionage, electronic espionage, and therefore cyber threats, and through acquisition partnerships, they found themselves overnight with intellectual property completely gone, and the foreign company was now the company that manufactured and marketed these products. So, Canada lost jobs, and Canada lost the prosperity that seemed to come from it. So, really all sectors of Canadian society need to be more aware, and I think that today's webinar [inaudible] is one of these elements. All our colleagues on the platform today are people who understand this better by being important players in government, are able to make an impact. So, I think the point you are raising, Daniel, is very, very important.

Thank you very much, David. Monik, let's talk a little bit about cyber security. When I was a national security advisor, when I travelled to the capitals of our various allied countries, whether in North America or Europe, I was always told that we were seen as a leader in protecting government systems when cyber security threats emerged. However, between us, we knew that there was progress to be made in raising public awareness, making Canada, Canadians, our private sector more resilient to cyber threats, and that is what led to the development of the cyber security strategy that your department announced in 2018. At the same time, your department, David's agency, the Communications Security Establishment, has also done a great deal of work with the Minister responsible for Democratic Institutions and with Canadian political parties to raise their awareness of potential threats to the democratic process through interference that is being made, through cyber means, cyber, but which also wants to be done through the good old model of analogue interference. Monik, I know that you work very closely with the Communications Security Establishment on these issues. What is the state of the cyber threat in Canada? How much progress have you made in implementing the strategy? How is the new Canadian Centre for Cyber Security going, and how are the RCMP's efforts going having a national strategy with the police more with respect to cyber, cybercrime, if you will, cyber fraud?

I think I have to get off Mute. Am I, no, okay... So, look, the state of the, the state of the threat, that, we'll say that with COVID, it really took a turn. The cyber threat is more present today than ever before. Already before COVID, the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security of the CSE, the Communications Security Establishment, on average blocked on a daily basis approximately one billion malicious actions against systems and databases and several federal government websites. Today, with nearly 85-90% of the public service working at home, it can really be said that malicious actions, cyber, threats, and cyber threats have really increased and the CSE is doubling, redoubling its efforts to identify and counter these threats. I would also say that cybercrime is more of a problem. It has always been. There are always malicious entities that seek to target the most, the most vulnerable of us, and I would also say that in terms of cybercrime, unfortunately, there is an upsurge and even a fairly sharp increase in the sexual exploitation of children online on the Internet. So, the fact that COVID is among us, unfortunately, has not acted as a deterrent to cyber threats and cybercrime. And I would agree with David on the subject of cyber threats, that it's not only threats to the government or to individuals against us, but also cyber threats to our Canadian businesses and how we should we be better equipped to protect the Canadian economy. With respect to the second part of your question, which is about the implementation of our strategy, our national cyber security strategy, I must say that we're doing quite well. A great deal of progress has been made. We're based on three pillars, really, three themes. A security-resilience theme, which is to, to work more with our cyber security partners, not only through the government, but also with Canadians, and so I agree with David. All partners are being used to communicate more with Canadians about cybercrime and to raise awareness of the cyber threat. In terms of innovation, in terms of cyber security too, there has still been a great deal of progress in improving skills and knowledge related to cyber security. And also in leadership and collaboration, a lot of work with the provinces and territories. Really, we're trying to play a leading role in advancing knowledge of cyber security in Canada. The strategy was accompanied by significant funding to create two centres in particular. The first is the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, which has been created and is fully functional, directed by Scott Jones, and which was created by bringing together the functions and expertise of three departments, the CSE, and thus the operational functions of the Communications Security Establishment. Our operational team, Public Safety's operational team, therefore, we divorced it, it's now within the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, as well as the operational expertise of Shared Services Canada. All this, in the end, now forms a centre of excellence that, as I said, is fully operational and whose role is to work with the government, the private sector, and academia. The second unit that was created was the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit, and this unit was created within the RCMP to enhance the RCMP's ability to investigate cybercrime. Basically, it became a coordinating centre for partners and also became the gateway to report a cybercrime incident, whether it's by a Canadian company or individual, and the centre is currently struggling with the growth I talked about in cases of sexually exploited children on the Internet. And there you have it.

Thank you, Monik. I will continue with questions. Before I go on, I just want to tell our audience members, remind them that you can write your questions. When you look at the right tab, you see someone who seems to be raising their hand. By clicking it, you can write your questions, and they will be sent to us. I still have a few questions in my arsenal, but I will need reinforcements, so please send your questions. Thank you very much. Still on the subject of cyber threats, Monik, I know that this question is more for Scott Jones' Centre for Cyber Security or the Communications Security Establishment, but more than 600 people are tuning in at the moment. What is the best advice you can give them for seizing, taking advantage of the opportunities of the digital world, but while doing it safely in terms of cyber security, more specifically at this time of teleworking?

The first piece of advice I would give everyone is really to visit the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security website, really all the tools are there. So I will, I will name a few anyway. Naturally, we talk all the time about our passwords, to constantly recheck, to change them regularly, not to use 1, 2, 3, 4 or 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, as my mother did, to be a little more creative with our passwords and to review them regularly. Also, not to open emails that seem suspicious to us. If we see that the URL address of the email that we, that we receive, simply delete them, to put them immediately, to identify them as spam, not to open them because often, simply opening it makes it possible to be harpooned. This is phishing, so we try not to open these types of emails.

If possible, encrypt our data, use, I personally use ProtonMail. I also use Gmail, but especially ProtonMail, which supposedly encrypts our emails, so if we have emails to send so that there is encryption, so encrypt the information, to use other tools than Gmail or Hotmail, or products of this kind. Also, remove the information that is stored in our devices, and I would also add, as far as social media is concerned, it's pretty much the same. Continue to use unique passwords every time you access various social media. Regularly review the security and privacy policies, which are changed fairly regularly, they tend to be ignored. I know it takes a very, very long time to read. I would say that even I sometimes try to skim. And especially be vigilant when clicking on links, and this takes us to other sites where our information could be siphoned through those sites. So, a few tips, but especially to visit the site of the CSE or of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

Thank you very much, Monik. That is very, very good advice. When I do work with actors more on the private sector side, it always surprises me, the number of actors who are unfamiliar with the Centre for Cyber Security, and when tools like the 10 best practices are brought to their attention, that sort of thing, how useful it is for them. In the same way, I would add to the advice you have given and say that I would give our listeners, that is the issue of updates. What is interesting in analyzing the greatest security breaches that have been made, especially in terms of privacy with large companies, the number of those cases where it could have been avoided. Because there was in fact a security measure that had been put in place months before, but often, as is the case with us, we see update again, update again, I don't have the time. We don't do it, and then suddenly, we can no longer take advantage of the security measure that could have protected us.

You both spoke, Monik and David, about the issue of violent extremism, which is ideologically motivated. Well, we've always faced this, in a way, in terms of terrorism and other things, but we're now seeing new trends in this respect. David, you have an important role in tracking, intelligence, things that that can equip us to prevent, stop, work with the RCMP if there are criminal issues in this respect. On the other hand, in terms of policies, Monik, you've talked about it, you've done a lot of work, what you call the centre, the Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. How can the government better work with parents, with actors in society, to try to prevent this problem and try, at least, if we can't prevent it, to be able to act before there are tragedies as we've seen here, but also elsewhere?

Maybe I'm going to, I'm going to start, Daniel, maybe I'm going to talk more about, the first thing to do is to fully understand the problem. It's a problem that is complex. Often, people will speak of the extreme right, the extreme left to try to understand the motivations and ideologies. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has done a lot of work over the last two, three years to better understand the problem and to develop nomenclature that is more accurate. You used the expression violent ideological extremism, which is what, which is the concept, the paradigm that we developed to better understand these forms of extremism. There are four broad categories of extremism. For example, there is xenophobic extremism, so people who have, characterized by fear or hatred of the other, what is considered foreign or different. We saw this on display in a quite horrible way in New Zealand, two or three years ago, when an individual entered mosques and killed 51 people. So, really, when we talk about neo-Nazi groups, so people who, use ideological references, historical references to once again denigrate others, denigrate people who are, people who are different. So, we see it in Canada, here, the government has declared groups like Blood and Honour and Combat Eighteen to be criminal organizations, neo-Nazi organizations that unfortunately have supporters here in Canada. The other vector of this ideological movement, biological extremism, is anti-authoritarian extremism. So, these are people who see forms of government, democratic authority as a threat to their individual freedoms. Again, this philosophy, this ideology can be quite correct, so to believe that individual freedoms are more important than collective freedoms. However, it's when the movement moves toward, what actions should be taken to protect these individual freedoms. We see that this is when control is lost. In Canada, here, we remember the attack in Moncton during which an individual shot and killed four RCMP officers because they represented the government's authority, so it's very, very important. The other vector is gender-based violence. So, it's people who really hate people of the opposite gender or people with a different sexual orientation. The most striking example are incels (involuntary celibates), an ideological movement characterized by men, young men who feel sexually frustrated, and their way of expressing that frustration is to attack women. And as we saw, the individual in Toronto, two years ago, who got into a truck and ran over people on the sidewalk, killing 10 people here in Toronto, is a, a person who claims this ideology. The last, finally, this is violence based on other grievances, ideologies. This is where we see, we're talking about religions and traditional groups such as Al-Qaeda, Daesh, who claim to have, religious aspects. So, the first thing is really, is to understand the problem, it's to understand what motivates people. From that point on, we can develop approaches, and Monik could talk about it with the prevention centre. But for us, on the intelligence side, it's to understand who the main players are, to establish a difference between what is protected by freedom of expression. So, someone can say absolutely horrible things online, but it's protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When we take an interest in people who start to organize, who are people who are going to want to incite violence, that is when we, we're going to intervene with our intelligence activities so that we can find out who these people are before they commit activities. So maybe, Monik...


I would give you the floor perhaps a little at this point.

Yes, yes, perfect. Thank you, David. And before I get into the role of the centre, I would also say first and foremost that we still have several tools available to us to fight terrorism. David just talked about everything related to investigations, gathering information, etc., but we still have several tools. We have the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act, which enables us to create lists of terrorist entities that ultimately help the RCMP, which really facilitate RCMP criminal investigations related to national security. We have the Secure Air Travel Act, which also allows us to prevent the movement of certain persons. There is also the possibility of cancelling, denying, and revoking the passports of certain individuals who we suspect may travel abroad to commit terrorism-related activities, etc. The service also works, its powers include threat reduction measures to mitigate the threats posed by certain individuals and, of course, we work with the centre, the Canadian Centre, to fight radicalization and violence for the purpose of prevention. So, the work directly with parents, Daniel, is done through the agencies that are supported by the centre. The centre, its main objective is really to promote and coordinate, and to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders who work directly, private stakeholders, municipal stakeholders or even provincial stakeholders who work directly with the individuals affected, so in some cases parents or even the individuals themselves who have been radicalized and who we try to deradicalize, or even individuals who are becoming radicalized towards violence, but who have not yet crossed this line to violence. So basically, the centre finances several of these stakeholders. There is a Community Resilience Fund, which is intended to increase Canada's capacity to fight radicalization and that is also intended, first and foremost, as David said, to truly understand the problem. Because we cannot increase our ability to fight and deradicalize if we have not understood the problem first and foremost. The centre itself does not provide advice, does not manage individual cases, but it supports interventions through the Community Resilience Fund, and this financial support is provided to initiatives that happen to aim to prevent radicalization leading to violence.

Thank you very much, Monik and David. We have a question from the audience. In the good, non-partisan tradition of the Canadian public service, you have worked closely, your organizations and other organizations with the minister responsible for democratic institutions, with the various political parties to prevent potential interference in the democratic process in Canada. An audience member is asking us the following: "What is the danger of cyber interference in Canada's elections?" 

Go ahead, I'll follow.

Do you want to go? Okay, perfect, thank you, Monik. I'll maybe start by telling you a little anecdote. When we were preparing for the 2019 elections, we obviously fully understood the lessons from what had happened in the United States when Russians interfered in the 2016 election that led to the election of Donald Trump. We tried to understand the threats here in Canada. What were the opportunities to prevent these threats, and so we, the anecdote is that, the little secret, is that for all us good civil servants there, in a bureaucracy, when we have a problem that is complex, that requires partnerships with different people, one of the good ways to do it, the tested ways, is to create a task force. So, an integrated team, and so, on a Friday afternoon, the head of the Communications Security Establishment and I, we asked ourselves, "What are we going to do? How will we organize ourselves to be able to give the right information to the government, to Canadians, political parties, etc.?" So, we created a good task force, so the Communications Security Establishment, the Intelligence Service, the RCMP, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Global Affairs, we got together to create what we called the Security and Intelligence Taskforce on Elections, and the goal was really to understand the issues. What is critical in a period of high intensity democratic activities such as pre-election, election, and what follows is that Canadians must remain confident in their institution, must remain confident in the results. So, for us, what was important was not to counter all the disinformation that was on the Internet, but to manage to, and if there was a critical activities vector, we were able to intervene. It was also about ensuring that foreign countries, diplomats posted here in Canada and other organizations did not use Canada's fundamental freedoms to have a negative impact on Canadian democracy. To make sure that the vote that is so important to each and every one of us is not perverted by the activities of a foreign power. So, in this case, we did different things that I cannot disclose on this platform, but that will eventually be published in the government's reports on the activities leading up to the elections. So, the goal here is to work with key players, once again, to make them aware of threats, to make sure that they also take the right measures. Once again, political parties are in the best position to take measures to protect themselves, but at that time, we're able to step in and intervene, and at an early stage, and during elections to prevent these threats. I must tell you that the Canadian system is the envy of many countries around the world and that what we're doing collectively to protect Canadian democracy is absolutely essential.

Thank you. Monik, you're on Mute, Monik.

Okay, okay, can you hear me? Perfect. What I would say to complement what David said is that we had the benefit of two analyses that were published by the CSE on cyber threats to democratic processes in Canada. One analysis was published in 2017, while the second one was published in early 2019. And in light of these reports, this is what enabled us to not only to become aware, the awareness was still there because, as David explained, when we saw what was happening abroad, but also a realization that there was a risk of foreign interference, particularly in the 2019 Canadian elections. So that, it really enabled us to develop a plan to protect the elections in 2019, and among other things, I would share a few, a few of the initiatives. First, there was really an educational component. So not only educating Canadians, but also educating political parties. And David, as well as Shelly Bruce, the head of the CSE, both did a lot, gave briefings, I think it was every week, David. You were giving briefings to political parties to inform them of certain threats, and it was individuals who had obtained their security clearance, so they were given some briefings so that they could have a clear picture of the cyber threats to the elections. The second initiative was the working group David referred to. And this working group was giving us paper briefings, but also verbal briefings, to a committee that was actually a committee of five deputy ministers and the court clerk, who was sort of implementing a public protocol in the event of a major election incident. So, the court clerk and the Deputy Minister of Public Safety, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Deputy Minister of Justice, and the Deputy Minister, I always forget one, Public Safety, Justice, Foreign Affairs, help me David, one is missing, basically. So, we met once a week as well to become aware of the intelligence reports that had been written by the working group David referred to, and to determine whether there had actually been interference or whether some of the events that we were seeing really had the potential to change the course of the elections, to change the course of the election results. And we also worked with social media platforms on misinformation, ads, etc. So, nonetheless very many initiatives that were put in place to protect the elections, and I echo what David said, which is that our allies were truly envious when they realized the range of measures that we put in place to protect the 2019 elections from foreign interference.

Thank you very much, Monik. Thank you, David. We have five minutes left. I want to ask you one last question, and then we're going to wrap things up. Over the last few years, Parliament has confirmed several of the authorities needed to be able to do the work you do in terms of prevention and preventing threats from appearing, but at the same time, it has introduced a lot, many more monitoring mechanisms, I would say. So, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians was created. In the National Security Act, a new role for the Security Intelligence Service. Also, a new role for the Intelligence Commissioner. It has now been a little over a year, regarding the committee, a little over two years since these mechanisms were implemented. What is your experience to date? How is the security and intelligence community adapting to these monitoring mechanisms, and why do you think they're important?

Monik, I'll perhaps begin, given that the service, it has been since the service was created in 1984 that an oversight body for intelligence activities. So, again, as I said earlier, an intelligence agency in a democratic country, it's very different from many of our, the agencies we work against. It's important that Canadians have confidence, that parliamentarians have confidence in the work we do. By nature, our work must be extensive, elements must be secret, but many other things where we're able to say publicly. That is why we have our annual report, which is made public. I encourage you to read it. But again, in a democracy, it's essential that people have that confidence. So, the government realized that there was a need for an organization to review the activities of all the agencies that are involved, so the 17 government agencies that are involved in national security, to review the activities at the Top Secret level, to be able to understand what is going on. For us, sometimes, it's a little, it's a lesson in humility. We realize that we did things for the right reasons, but we may realize that the way we did it, or the authorities, or that impact was not what we had in mind. So, having someone who we, who works with us and reports publicly, and, again, a matter of humility, and that is what makes our agencies better, we learn. I can tell you that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which has been around for 35 years, is a better service because of that. The creation of the parliamentary security service, therefore, they are parliamentarians with a Top Secret clearance, elected members of the House of Commons and senators who have gone through the process to get a Top Secret clearance, so they have access to our information. >And to us, that is very important because an agency like ours, and I'm not revealing anything you may find earthshattering, but maybe you're going to see some things in the media in the coming days, but to us, it's important that our authorities keep track of the changing threat. And so it's the Canadian Parliament's role to grant authority, so to have a service where parliamentarians are represented, understand the challenges, understand that what we're doing is very, very important to us, so that Canadians are well protected, that the government has the right information, and that the service works with the right authorities.So, in a democracy, it's essential, and we're happy to have these organizations that work with us.

Thank you, David. Monik.

So, everything David said, and in addition what I would say is that yes, it's imperative to protect Canadians from a national security perspective, but it's also necessary to protect their rights, their right to privacy and laws, and to ensure that national intelligence and security agencies comply with Canadian laws. So, accountability of agencies and accountability measures are absolutely necessary. And whenever new powers are given to these agencies, it's also necessary to increase the scope of oversight and accountability offices at the same time. So, this is not necessarily new, I think that really what is new is the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, this is really the new entity. The National Security and Intelligence Review Agency is new in its scope, that is, the former CESAR that was reworked, and what it gives us, is that it now enables us to expand the range of departments that are, that are open to accountability.In other words, in the past, CESAR focused primarily on service. There was also an agency that was concerned with RCMP investigations, but there was no connection between those investigations, and when a particular investigation included other government departments, such as Foreign Affairs or Justice, or the Canada Border Services Agency, they were more or less cut off from this review. What the oversight officer now offers us is to be able to track a case from A to Z through all the agencies that are involved in that case, and so it enables us to conduct much more in-depth surveillance, much more enhanced surveillance, and so really we can, we can reassure Canadians, indeed, that it's not only an intelligence agency that complies with the laws and that respects the rights and privacy of Canadians, but it's really the totality of agencies that work in national intelligence and security in Canada. And also, there is the Office of the Privacy Commissioner that is still very present and with which we work, and with which we worked on Bill C-59, to ensure that the new measures we wanted to include in Bill C-59 were approved.

Thank you very much, David. Thank you very much, Monik. A rich, captivating discussion. For me, it was a real pleasure to meet you. I would like to tell our audience members that another virtual café is going to be held this Thursday, July 16, on the topic of Canada by the Numbers with our Chief Statistician Anil Arora of Statistics Canada and Nik Nanos from Nanos Research. We hope that you will also join us on this occasion. Thank you very much, have a nice day and stay healthy. Goodbye.


Complete your census today!

Help your community make choices about education, employment, transportation, health care and housing services.

COVID-19: Learning resourcesNew

Consult learning resources for public servants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This website is continually being updated in response to your feedback.

Let us know what you think of it.
Which platform is your comment about:

Date modified: