Mr Chair, thank you for the opportunity to present to you and committee members today.
I would like to begin by commending the committee for studying the so-called police stations, which are a suspected vector of foreign activities steered by the People's Republic of China and operate in Canada as well as other democracies around the world.
The reports of the PRC attempting to enhance its clandestine footprint on Canadian soil reflect two incontrovertible trends. First is that the geopolitical landscape is increasingly complex, with hostile actors looking to disrupt the international rules-based order that has been in place since the end of the Second World War; and, second, like other democracies, Canada has increasingly become a target of foreign interference, which is a direct by-product of the agenda driven by hostile actors whose objective is to undermine our national interests.
Today, I will outline the concrete steps the federal government is taking to mitigate the threat of foreign interference. Before I do so, let me emphasize that Canada has a strong and resilient democracy that is bolstered by a community of national security and public safety agencies that work around the clock to protect our institutions. These agencies have important resources, technologies and tools at their disposal to ensure national security.
The federal government does not undertake this work alone. Rather, we work collaboratively with other levels of government, as well as key allies in the Five Eyes, G7 and NATO. Together, the whole of government is positioned to assess, mitigate, investigate, prosecute and report on threats to Canadian national security.
We need to be always vigilant, because those threats are constantly evolving and manifesting in different ways, including through state and non-state hostile activities, foreign interference, cyber-attacks and threats to the security of our democratic, economic, academic, environmental and public health institutions.
In the face of these threats, the federal government is vigilant, and we are acting. I'd like to highlight five priority areas of our work.
First, we have put into place robust measures to protect our democratic institutions, including our elections.
We introduced Bill C-76 to crack down on foreign funding from third parties to federal campaigns and candidates. We created the security and intelligence threats to elections task force, or SITE. We created the critical incident reporting protocol to communicate transparently and impartially with Canadians during elections in the event that there is a threat to the integrity of a federal election. We also introduced the digital citizen initiative to promote democracy and social inclusion by building resilience against online disinformation and building partnerships to support a healthy information ecosystem.
The SITE task force looked at the federal elections of 2019 and 2021 and independently concluded that in both cases the integrity of the election was not compromised.
Second, we implemented a national cybersecurity strategy and action plan, which resulted in the launch of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.
In budget 2022, we allocated more than $850 million to enhance the Communications Security Establishment's ability to conduct cyber operations and better protect the privacy of Canadians.
Moreover, last spring, I introduced Bill C‑26, our new legislation on cybersecurity, which prioritizes critical infrastructure protection as it relates to the financial, telecommunications, transportation and innovation sectors.
Third, we have introduced national security guidelines for research partnerships that are backed by a research security centre and a $12.6-million investment, in order to protect the integrity of our academic institutions. The purpose of these guidelines is to integrate national security considerations into the overall assessment of research partnerships. Among other things, the guidelines require clear information about who researchers intend to partner with, what researchers intend to research and what additional due diligence will be taken to mitigate if the subject of research involves a sensitive area. In addition to the guidelines, research partnerships are subject to rigorous admissibility screening and required to comply with existing authorities that regulate exports and imports.
Fourth, when it comes to protecting our economy, the government vets foreign investments under the Investment Canada Act and has the capacity to reject those deals when they are contrary to our national security. The government, as you know, is proposing to further augment the authorities under the ICA.
We also have a new national critical minerals strategy in place. It will help leverage Canada's national resources in a sustainable way, in partnership with indigenous peoples.
Fifth, and finally, we've also modernized our foreign policy with the Indo-Pacific strategy. This strategy calls for the strengthening of our intelligence capabilities in the region, in order to enhance our cyber-diplomacy and deepen our partnership with allies. It is supported by an investment of over $100 million for these particular areas. Within the Indo-Pacific strategy, vis-à-vis our relationship with China, Canada states its commitment to challenge, compete, co-operate and coexist. Put simply, we will never apologize for defending our national interest.
Taken together, these give the committee an overview of the government's approach to managing threats, including foreign interference.
In closing, I would like to say a few words about the activities of foreign governments in Canada. Under international law, all foreign government representatives have a duty to respect our laws and regulations. Any foreign state that threatens, harasses or intimidates Canadians and Canadian residents is in violation of these international agreements.
I assure you that the RCMP is working with the intelligence community and our law enforcement partners to address these so‑called police stations that appear to be operating in the greater Toronto area. Its goal is to ensure that the public feels safe in its own communities. It's about building trust and, where possible, enforcing the law or disrupting activities.
The only way to build trust, Mr. Chair, is by being transparent. That is why we have grown the arsenal of national security tools. However, we have simultaneously raised the bar of transparency through the creation of NSIRA, NSICOP and more frequent public reporting by our intelligence agencies. In a similar vein, we have expressed that we will explore ways to further enhance transparency with regard to our fight against foreign interference. All options are on the table. These could include requiring foreign agents to be properly registered.
However, we must bring all Canadians into this discussion as we reform our institutions so they are more diverse, inclusive and free from systemic discrimination, biases and racism.
The objective of these and other ongoing efforts is to recognize that the threat of foreign interference is not static and that we must continue to develop the tools available to Canada to deal with this evolving threat.
Colleagues, as I close, I will underline that our national security and intelligence agencies continue to investigate and monitor reports of Chinese overseas police stations in Canada. There will be no tolerance for this or any other form of intimidation, harassment or harmful targeting of Canadians or individuals within Canada.
Canada will continue to stand for its interests and values, both at home and abroad.