DND News

DND looks to enhance cyber security

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Feb. 28 that a commitment of “more than $750 million” to enhanced cybersecurity, announced the previous day in the Liberal government’s third budget, is among “the early steps towards making sure that Canadians are protected” by a suite of federal agencies.                

Meeting with reporters after the daily House of Commons question period, he rebuffed suggestions that existing protections put in place by the former Conservative government were inadequate and that changes within the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) were needed.

Sajjan cited the government’s Bill C-59, an omnibus security package referred Nov. 17 to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for detailed review. He said the former government’s Bill C-51 “didn’t actually do anything to give CSE any more ability to be able to protect Canadians” whereas “C-59 does just that.”

The Conservatives introduced their bill in January 2015 in what was described as an attempt to counter the international jihadist movement by expanding the powers of the intelligence agencies and police. It immediately sparked criticism by groups such as Amnesty International as well as civil libertarians, privacy advocates and several former prime ministers who wanted more civilian oversight.

The Conservatives eventually agreed to amend their package, after public consultations, to ensure that civil disobedience was not included as a threat against the country, to remove arrest authority from the CSIS mandate, and to restrict information-sharing to within the government. However, they blocked all other parties’ proposed changes to the bill, which received royal assent in June 2015 – only a few weeks before Parliament was dissolved for the general election that October.

Sajjan said the Liberals’ bill “is about putting the right legislation in place, putting the right resources in play, the right government structure but making sure that not only Canadians are going to be protected from cyber threats but also how we are going to make sure that we have the right investments so that we can evolve.”

He added that national security is not just about protecting institutions but also the private sector. “C-59 is going to allow us to do that more as well to making sure that we can work together to making sure that key institutions that Canadians rely upon are going to be protected as well.”

Asked where the lines of responsibility might be drawn between the CSE and the RCMP, he replied that it was “about bringing departments together to making sure we have the right expertise, providing support for the various departments – and we’re going to get that piece right – to making sure that we put the right emphasis for protecting Canadians.”

Ken Pole