New report proposes solutions to major vulnerabilities in Canada's national security framework

MEDIA RELEASE

OTTAWA, February 29, 2012 - Canadians' daily lives depend on running water, electricity, safe roads, ready access to medical care, food, and the Internet. Yet a new report, released today by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, says we have no plans to protect these resources.

The report, "Solutions To Critical Infrastructure Problems", outlines how a lack of information sharing between jurisdictions, and no comprehensive national strategy, has left Canadians exposed to the kind of confusion and paralysis that leave people vulnerable after  natural and manmade disasters.

"Canadian lives are at risk because of a lack of any coherent, consistent national approach to dealing with threats like terrorism, natural disasters and cyber-attacks," says Brian Lee Crowley, Managing Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and co-editor of the report. "We believe the Government of Canada needs to take the reins and develop a national strategy that will encourage communities across the country to mitigate potential disasters."

Canadians continue to experience critical infrastructure problems that span both the national security and geographic spectrum. These range from flash flooding in Manitoba, to massive potholes and road collapses in Montreal, to terrorist attacks like the Air India bombing.

As one of the most wired countries in the world, the report notes Canadians need to be particularly wary of cyber attacks. Recently, China-based hackers infiltrated computer networks in Canada's finance ministry, Treasury Board and major law offices on Toronto's Bay Street looking for information to derail a potential $40 billion acquisition of the world's largest potash producer.

The report is a collection of analysis by five leading security experts offering their thoughts on how to better protect Canada's critical infrastructure. It is the second in a series on National Security Strategy in Canada by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

"What is remarkable about this report is that all of our experts agree: the current Canadian approach is inadequate," says Crowley. "While there is some disagreement on the nuts and bolts of the needed solutions, our experts uniformly condemn the tendency to silo information rather than share it. The result is today we have an environment where true risk analysis and prevention is essentially impossible."

With up to 85 per cent of Canada's critical infrastructure owned by the private sector, a key recommendation in the report is to increase intelligence sharing between the government and the private sector. When they fail to share intelligence effectively, industries and businesses do not have the right tools to assess and prevent potential threats, and the government is effectively blind to the majority of what is happening on the ground across the country.

"It's clear there needs to be a fundamental change in how the federal government approaches the security of Canada's critical infrastructure," says study contributor Andrew Graham. "We need to build a national solution, where the federal government takes a greater role in funding and coordinating protection strategies that integrate local police and security operators across the country."

Other recommendations suggested by experts in the report include:

- Creating a new federal agency that would take responsibility for assisting communities to prepare strategies to protect their critical infrastructure.

- Develop a formal structure of consultation between the public service and private sector, including emergency exercises and an information sharing network.

- A greater focus on fighting cyber-crime and meeting cyber-threats by the RCMP.

- Developing a more detailed and realistic system to assess risk, as opposed to the federal government's current focus on high-level, low-probability risk.

Solutions To Critical Infrastructure Problems: Essays on Protecting Canada's Infrastructure is part of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute's National Security Strategy for Canada series. It follows the release in December 2011 of Canada's Critical Infrastructure: When is Safe Enough Safe Enough? by Andrew Graham.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank based in Ottawa that focuses on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Tripti Saha at tripti.saha@macdonaldlaurier.ca or call (613) 482-8327, ext. 105.