Foreign nations have stepped up their efforts to infiltrate Canada and steal valuable industrial, military and commercial secrets, the Canadian spy agency said in its latest annual report.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) also expressed concern about foreign interference in the country’s domestic affairs, given Canada’s multicultural makeup and large immigrant communities.
The report for the year 2007 to last year was quietly posted on the agency’s Web site earlier this month with no publicity. No one at the agency was immediately available for comment.
“Foreign espionage — the primary preoccupation of intelligence agencies right up until the 1990s — continued unabated after [the] 9/11 [attacks on the US]. It is in fact growing and becoming even more sophisticated and aggressive through the application of new technologies,” the report said.
Foreign spies are interested in sectors such as agriculture, biotechnology, communications, oil exploitation, mining, aerospace and control systems engineering, it said.
CSIS also noted that Canada — as a member of NATO and the signatory to numerous defense agreements — had access to military technologies through its allies.
“The advantages found in our open and prosperous industrial and private sectors that attract business and investment opportunities are also the same attractive attributes sought by foreign intelligence agencies, international criminal gangs and global terrorist organizations,” it said.
Although the CSIS report did not name any countries trying to steal secrets, officials at the agency have said in the past that China is a prime suspect.
In 2006, the Conservative government announced it was very worried by the extent of Chinese industrial espionage. Beijing dismissed the charge as baseless.
In 2005, a Chinese defector alleged Beijing had more than 1,000 spies in Canada, in part to keep an eye on the large expatriate community.
“Foreign interference in domestic affairs, especially in multicultural societies with large immigrant communities such as ours, also remains an issue of concern,” the report said.
CSIS said foreign agents used forged and false documentation as well as fake companies to enter the country, where they engage in “covert theft, source recruitment and handling, and intimidation of immigrant communities.”
Meanwhile, a German arms dealer on Tuesday told a public inquiry that a failed deal for light armored vehicles with former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney had cost the lives of Canadian troops.
Karlheinz Schreiber said initial negotiations back in the late 1980s with Mulroney’s government to build a Thyssen light armored vehicle plant in eastern Nova Scotia Province with a first order of 250 vehicles “went very well.”
But he said he was stymied by Canadian generals and then deputy defense chief Robert Fowler and the plant was never built.
Schreiber said he hoped to establish Thyssen in Canada in order to pitch its new light armored vehicle to Washington to replace M113 armored personnel carriers.
He estimated the global market for light armored vehicles at US$360 billion.
He said his main concern was the loss of lives in war zones after the nixed purchase of what he described as a superior vehicle with better armor.
“I’m frustrated today, because this is the reason why our soldiers are [being] killed in Afghanistan,” he said. “It is not about a few bucks of commission. This is about lives. I knew [the fleet] had a lack of protection that you could shoot with a Kalashnikov through the armored vehicles and this gentleman [Fowler] cared nothing about the protection of his soldiers.”