Beijing’s Technology Theft in Canada Grows by the Day as the Feds Sit on Their Hands

Chinese theft of Canadian technology goes on and on and on and our government does not care at all about the damage done

This piece first appeared in The Epoch Times Canada on May 2, 2024.

What will it take for the federal government to deal seriously with Chinese technology theft?

I imagine everyone has heard the phrase “shooting the messenger.” This refers to a tactic where a person who receives bad news, or information that is unwelcome, decides to take his frustration and anger out on the individual who brought it to his attention in the first place. In other words, rather that deal with the consequences of the data and figure out mitigating strategies, just harangue the bearer of bad news. Not a great strategy in all honesty, but one that is used all too frequently.

This piece reflects that practice. Here, the messenger is CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and the recipients are the government of Canada led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. CSIS has been delivering intelligence for decades on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) because of several actions it has been carrying out in our country—election interference, harassment of dissidents and those critical of the regime, technology theft, etc.—and in fact the spy agency was doing its job in accordance with its mandate. It provided ample, accurate, corroborated intelligence to the government on all this and was ignored—repeatedly. Meanwhile, China keeps on going and going and going, much like the Energizer rabbit.

The most recent disclosure was made by CSIS Director David Vigneault who told MPs on the Canada-China Committee that the PRC’s efforts to steal our cutting-edge technology is “mind-boggling,” and has been on overdrive since the current Chinese leader Xi Jinping took over in 2012.

The director added: “PRC hacking groups are not just going after government institutions but are going after the private sector and academia to be able to acquire information and data that they need to pursue their objective.” There are far too many instances to list here, but the egregious theft of biotechnology at the Level 4 lab in Winnipeg is a good case to cite. In response to CSIS warnings that two scientists were actually working for the People’s Liberation Army, the feds still took two and a half years to ask them to leave (without charge or consequences of course!).

And if this is not bad enough, our American friends at the FBI passed on information in 2022 that 18 legislators in Canada were targeted in 2021 by hackers linked to Beijing for their positions critical of the PRC. None of the MPs were aware of this: i.e., the feds did not pass the information on (undoubtedly citing “national security,” an issue the current government could not give a fig about, ironically).

What is it going to take for this government to take these threats seriously (aside from bromides and “talking points” that the necessary steps are being planned)? Is intimidating Canadians of Chinese origin who came here for a better life, stealing highly sensitive and dangerous technology with potential military application, and undermining our elections not enough? Does someone have to die for the governing Liberals to notice?

I almost hesitate to read the news every morning to see what else has been made public about Chinese interference in Canada (not that any of this is of surprise, however, having worked at CSIS for 15 years, albeit not on the PRC desk itself). What I do know, alas, is that the government response to any given disclosure will be anodyne and completely ineffective. More than a decade and a half of warnings have been set aside, not given credence (even the PM said CSIS intelligence wasn’t good enough), and clearly not used to take appropriate action and make better decisions.

China’s “rise” (a term I really don’t like but everyone seems to use it) and its influence peddling around the world are very worrisome. Full stop. We in Canada, as part of the broader Western alliance, really need to take this much more strongly, support our allies, listen to what our spies are telling us, and recognize the PRC for the menace it is. One could argue, not wisely to my mind, that Chinese control of a port in Greece is of little importance to Canada, but that same argument cannot be used to wish away what the PRC is doing in our back (and front) yards.

That China is a rival, and not a friend, of Canada should seem obvious to anyone: clearly not to the current bunch in power.

Instead, expect more deflection, more buck-passing, more empty promises of action, and more whistling past the graveyard. Canadians, and our closest allies, have grave concerns over all this and it is time for a real response from our leader.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.