The federal government will soon release a list of “high risk” organizations suspected of stealing Canadian research and intellectual property, according to Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne.
Speaking to a House of Commons committee Monday, Champagne said the government is working with “security partners” to draft a list of entities it advises against getting research funding or grants. While he could not provide a specific date, Champagne promised the list “very soon.”
The threat of foreign states stealing Canadian research and development has increased in recent years, Champagne said, mirroring previous statements by Canada’s national security and intelligence community.
“It’s not only people trying to get our knowledge, it’s people trying to get our data and eventually our (intellectual property),” Champagne told the committee.
“(But) in a complex matter such as this involving national security, yes, we want to go quickly but we want to do it right. You have to combine these two factors.”
The federal government issued new national security guidelines for federal research granting councils – including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – in July 2021.
Under the guidelines, funding applications in “sensitive research areas” will not be approved if a person connected to the project is affiliated with an organization with ties to foreign militaries, national defence or state security entities.
Champagne told the committee that since the guidelines were released, those granting councils received 1,743 applications for funding. Just eight per cent, or 36 applications, were rejected on national security grounds.
The industry minister said Canada is not singling out any one country or company for increased national security scrutiny, although China has long been accused of stealing research and technology from Western democracies.
“We have decided to have a country and company agnostic approach when we put the guidelines (out) initially … Threats can come from anywhere at any time,” Champagne said.
“What we’ve been working with our intelligence agencies (on) is to make sure we are as specific as can be.”
Canada’s domestic intelligence service, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has for years warned that hostile countries were attempting to steal research and development from Canadian universities and private companies.
Since roughly 2018, CSIS has stepped up its outreach efforts to both universities and the private sector to better inform them of the potential threat.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Canada’s electronic intelligence agency, the Communications Security Establishment, warned that attempts to steal Canadian research into the disease had increased sharply.
Champagne noted that listing an organization as “high risk” is a “serious matter,” and said the government was attempting to avoid any “racial profiling” in drafting its list.
— with files from the Canadian Press.
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