Federal Budget 2023: Millions to fight foreign interference, threats and covert activities

The federal government’s proposed budget includes over $61 million for fighting foreign interference, threats, and covert activities, although it isn’t clear how much of the effort will combat online activity.

Announced Tuesday, the proposed budget includes giving Public Safety Canada $13.5 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, and then $3.1 million a year after that, to establish a National Counter-Foreign Interference Office.

The budget doesn’t detail how that office will work, such as whether it will look at online disinformation and misinformation.

The country has been rocked in recent weeks with news stories from the Globe and Mail and Global News on efforts by China to interfere in Canadian elections.

The budget also proposes giving the RCMP $48.9 million over three years, starting in this fiscal year, to protect Canadians from harassment and intimidation, increase its investigative capacity, and more proactively engage with communities at greater risk of being targeted.

The budget doesn’t say specifically how that money will be spent. The Mounties have the fledgling National Cybercrime Co-ordination Centre (NC3), which won’t be fully operational until next year. It includes RCMP officers and civilians who work with law enforcement and other partners to help reduce the threat, impact, and victimization of cybercrime in Canada.

Canada is a target for hostile states seeking to acquire information and technology, intelligence, and influence, to advance their own interests, the budget document says.

“This can include foreign actors working to steal information from Canadian companies to benefit their domestic industries, hostile proxies intimidating diaspora communities in Canada because of their beliefs and values, or intelligence officers seeking to infiltrate Canada’s public and research institutions.

“Authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, China, and Iran, believe they can act with impunity and meddle in the affairs of democracies — and democracies must act to defend ourselves. No one in Canada should ever be threatened by foreign actors, and Canadian businesses and Canada’s public institutions must be free of foreign interference.”

Separately, the budget proposes more efforts domestically to fight money laundering. These include yet-to-be-seen changes to the Criminal Code and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) to strengthen the ability of federal and provincial agencies to investigate suspicious activity as well as share information.

Among other things, the planned changes will give prosecutors and police the ability to freeze and seize virtual assets with suspected links to crime; improve financial intelligence information sharing between law enforcement and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and law enforcement and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC); introduce a new offence around the structuring of financial transactions to avoid FINTRAC reporting; and set obligations of the financial sector to report sanctions-related information to FINTRAC.

In keeping with the requirements of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), the federal government will launch a parliamentary review of this act this year. It will look at how different levels of government can collaborate more closely and close regulatory gaps.

Last year, the government provided $2 million to Public Safety Canada to establish a new Canada Financial Crimes Agency (CFCA). It will become the country’s lead enforcement agency against financial crime. Public Safety Canada is working on its outline with the provinces and territories. The budget promises more details in the fall economic and fiscal update.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer. Former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, Howard has written for several of ITWC's sister publications, including ITBusiness.ca. Before arriving at ITWC he served as a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times.

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