In a letter to members of parliament, obtained by Global News, Blair said China is the most robust foreign interference actor in Canada, while Russia and several other countries are behind similar activities.
“Through investigations and monitoring, we continue to identify and shed light on the multiple ways foreign interference manifests itself in Canada, allowing us to be well-armed with the knowledge needed to deploy our tools to counter it,” Blair wrote in the letter.
“This was intended to raise public awareness of the threats posed by these countries,” Blair wrote.
His letter came as a follow-up of a motion put forth in November 2020 by the Conservative Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Chong, who called on the Liberal government to develop a stronger foreign affairs strategy to counter China’s growing operations.
The Liberal government is failing to uphold democratic norms and defend Canada’s sovereignty by failing to comply with the motion on China adopted on November 18th.
— Michael Chong 🇨🇦 (@MichaelChongMP) December 21, 2020
The motion also urged the government to ban Chinese telecom company Huawei from Canada’s 5G network construction.
“The Trudeau government’s failure to comply with the motion undermines democratic norms, while failing to address threats to Canada from Communist China,” Chong wrote in a statement.
While Blair did not address Huawei in the letter, he said the government was “particularly concerned” about foreign adversaries gaining control over the country’s critical infrastructure and Canadians’ personal data.
In addition, Blair stated that Beijing has been threatening and intimidating residents in countries around the world, often through state entities and non-state proxies. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would justify its infringement of other countries’ sovereignty and its violation of human rights by tactfully portraying itself as fighting against crime and corruption.
“However, we are aware that these tactics can also be used as cover for silencing dissent, including on university campuses, pressuring political opponents and instilling general fear of state power, no matter where a person is located,” the letter said.
The minister also cited the House committee testimony of Scott Jones, the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, who had stated that it was a difficult decision to publicly attribute the countries working within Canada, but “ultimately we need to acknowledge that these countries pose a risk.”
“When we do an attribution [of the countries interfering in Canada] it tends to get organizations to take seriously the alerts we put out,” Jones said in his testimony in December 2020.
In the 2020 cyber threat assessment report (pdf), the Cyber Centre acknowledged that state-sponsored threat actors would continue to steal intellectual property and commercial information from Canadian government agencies and enterprises. In particular, they would target public health technologies related to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the context of the pandemic, Canada’s security and intelligence agencies moved quickly to work with the life sciences sectors involved in Canada’s response to COVID-19 to help protect them from foreign interference activities,” Blair wrote.
Blair said the government is aware of “ongoing attempts by some foreign states to undermine our economy for their own benefit,” and is now taking “enhanced scrutiny” of investments by foreign state-owned enterprises and private investors.
“Whenever malign foreign states seek to harm our communities, undermine our values, or jeopardize the very institutions on which our country is built, we will take action,” Blair wrote.