OTTAWA (Reuters) – China poses a serious strategic threat to Canada, both through attempts to steal secrets and a campaign to intimidate the Chinese community, the head of Canada’s spy agency said on Tuesday in a rare public appearance.
The remarks by Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault mark the second time in a few months that Ottawa – mired in a broad diplomatic and trade dispute with Beijing – has identified China as a problem actor.
Vigneault told an online forum that hostile activity by state actors seeking among other things to purloin business secrets and sensitive data “represents a significant danger to Canada’s prosperity and sovereignty” and singled out China.
“The government of China … is pursuing a strategy for geopolitical advantage on all fronts – economic, technological, political, and military – and using all elements of state power to carry out activities that are a direct threat to our national security and sovereignty,” he said.
The biopharmaceutical and health, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, ocean technology and aerospace sectors were most at risk from state-sponsored hackers, he said.
China regularly denies it is trying to steal secrets.
Vigneault also said China had used its Operation Fox Hunt – a search for what Beijing says are corrupt officials and executives who have fled abroad with their assets – to routinely threaten and intimidate political opponents in Canada.
“These activities … cross the line by attempting to
undermine our democratic processes or threaten our citizens in a covert and clandestine manner,” he said.
Last November, the Communications Security Establishment signals intelligence agency identified state-sponsored programs in China, Russia, Iran and North Korea as major cyber crime threats for the first time.
The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa was not immediately available for comment.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Marguerita Choy)