‘Significant and clear’ threat: What Canada’s spy chief says about China behind closed doors

Douglas QuanDouglas Quan

Vigneault identified China and Russia among the countries seeking to exploit universities’ ‘culture of openness’ to acquire knowledge and technology

In his first public speech last December, before a crowd of business leaders, the chief of Canada’s spy agency identified foreign interference and state-sponsored espionage as being the “greatest threat to our prosperity and national interest” — but stopped short of pointing the finger at any one country.

Behind closed doors, however, David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, has not shied away from singling out China, according to copies of other speeches he has delivered that were obtained by the National Post.

In a presentation to Canada’s top university administrators in the spring of 2018, Vigneault said China represents “the most significant and clear” challenge when it comes to espionage targeting Canadian campuses.

Vigneault warned in the same speech that certain foreign intelligence services, “especially those in China and Russia” were engaged in the “monitoring and/or coercion” of students, faculty and university officials in an effort to further their political influence.

Later in the fall, Vigneault warned attendees of an international cyber security workshop in Ottawa that China’s building of 5G networks around the world was giving rise to “new espionage and disruption risks.” The text of his speech described China as “one of the biggest threats facing our countries” because of the wide range of its cyber targets — except the words “one of” were crossed out.

Asked if Vigneault said in his actual speech that China posed “the” biggest cyber threat, CSIS spokesman John Townsend declined to say.

“Canadian industry and academic institutions are world leaders in various economic, technological and research sectors that are of interest to multiple foreign states,” he wrote in an email.

“These states seek to acquire Canadian technology and expertise by utilizing a range of traditional and non-traditional intelligence collection tradecraft.”

Invited to respond to the allegations, the press office of the Chinese embassy in Ottawa told the Post in a statement: “If some Canadian individuals try to accuse China of (conducting) espionage activities or cyber attacks against Canada, they should produce tangible evidence, rather than making malicious attacks out of nothing.”

full story at https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/significant-and-clear-threat-what-canadas-spy-chief-says-about-china-behind-closed-doors

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