Espionage and Foreign Interference

Protecting Canadian Sovereignty

While counter-terrorism remains a priority for the Service, CSIS has continued to investigate and advise the government on other threats to the security of Canada, including espionage and foreign interference. An increasingly competitive global marketplace that has fostered evolving regional and transnational relationships has also resulted in a number of threats to Canadian economic and strategic interests and assets.

Espionage Threats

A number of foreign intelligence services continue to gather political, economic, and military information in Canada through clandestine means. The recent case of Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who plead guilty in October 2012 to spying for Russia and was later sentenced to 20 years in prison, is an example of such activity.

Canada’s advanced industrial and technological capabilities, combined with expertise in a number of sectors, make this country an attractive target for foreign intelligence services. Several sectors of the Canadian economy have been of particular interest to foreign agencies, including: aerospace, biotechnology, chemicals, communications, information technology, mining and metallurgy, nuclear energy, oil and gas, as well as the environment. The covert exploitation of these sectors by foreign powers as a means to advance their economic and strategic interests may come at the expense of Canada’s interests and objectives. Some ramifications of this activity include lost jobs, corporate and tax revenues, and a diminished competitive advantage.

Canada, with its economic wealth and advanced infrastructure, offers attractive prospects to foreign investors. Corporate acquisitions by some foreign entities can pose risks related to the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, control over strategic sectors, espionage and foreign interference activities, and transfer of technology. One risk relates to the consequences that may fall from foreign state control over strategic resources and their potential access to sensitive technology. CSIS assesses that national security concerns related to foreign investments in Canada will continue to materialize, owing to the prominent role of State Owned Enterprises in the economic strategies of some foreign governments.

Foreign Interference

Canada, as an open, multicultural society, has traditionally been vulnerable to foreign interference activities. When diaspora groups in Canada are subjected to clandestine and deceptive manipulation by a foreign power in order for it to garner support for its policies and values, these activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada. As boundaries between foreign state and non-state actors become increasingly blurred, it is particularly challenging for intelligence services to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate activities. Foreign interference in Canadian society – as a residual aspect of global or regional political and social conflicts, or divergent strategic and economic objectives – will continue in the coming years.

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