With the 21st century, our way of viewing national security has changed.
Discussions on national security are shifting to address a new vulnerability for Canada: our dependence on certain assets in our everyday lives!
For example, we expect continuous use of electricity for our appliances and buildings, we need telecommunications systems to email or call others and we depend on our hospitals to care for us whenever we get hurt or sick.
We assume that we can access each of these things, since we expect that Canada’s critical infrastructure (assets and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians) will always be functioning!
However, history has shown that critical infrastructure can fail. For example, the failure of a single Anik F2 satellite in 2011 paralyzed all of Nunavut by bringing down its telecommunications.
Over the day it took to restore the lost systems, flights were grounded, communications were cut off and people were left stranded without any means of even leaving the area!
While the Anik F2’s failure was an accident, it revealed a far more concerning issue: An enemy could do massive damage to Canada by targeting our critical infrastructure!
Telecommunications, the Internet, energy grids, our banks, our transportation and even the food that we eat are just a few examples of important areas that depend on critical infrastructure.
Losing any of them could easily result in the loss of life and in severe losses that would make Canada unsafe! We must not leave them unprotected.
Protecting critical infrastructure will mean accounting for each one of its ten types: health services, food, finance, water, information and communication technology, safety, energy, manufacturing, government and transportation.
Each of these categories has its own distinct issues, and needs a specialized strategy for its defence. This is especially true because each type of critical infrastructure relies on the others. If even one fails, the others will quickly follow- for example, if our energy grids were to fail, the equipment used for other types of critical infrastructure would become inoperable!
Given how much damage critical infrastructure failure can cause, I find it disconcerting that Canada’s most important critical infrastructure program, Action Plan for Critical infrastructure, is ending this year!
When the plan was ongoing, it rightly took decisive action to make each type of critical infrastructure more resilient against attacks or failure. However, the Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure lacks an effective review system that would let Canada keep protections up to date with advances in technology!
This is not good enough. We cannot settle on boosting protections once. Canada needs a plan for the future, which will ensure that our critical infrastructure is being seen as an ongoing priority and provide it with the attention it deserves.
Without such a plan, we risk being unprepared, which could lead to another incident like the Anik F2 failure.
Please read my next blog, where I will expand on this issue by discussing how cyber-defence is quickly becoming the biggest threat for Canada’s critical infrastructure, and what could happen if we are not prepared for a cyber-attack.