CSIS warns of espionage from foreign adversaries on AI : In The News for Feb. 22

In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Feb. 22 ...

What we are watching in Canada ...

Canada's spy service warns that adversaries will turn to espionage and foreign interference tactics to target the country's increasingly important artificial-intelligence sector.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service says in a newly released analytical brief that countries including China and Russia can be expected to "pursue Canada's AI through all available vectors" — from state-sponsored investment to the use of covert operatives.

The analysis by the spy agency's intelligence assessments branch, marked CSIS Eyes Only, was completed in July 2021 but only recently released to The Canadian Press in response to an access-to-information request filed in October of that year.

It is the latest signal from the intelligence community that Canada's technological innovation and resulting economic advancement are vulnerable to foreign forces out to co-opt or pilfer valuable research.

CSIS says emerging artificial intelligence capabilities and machine-learning tools are seen as key to developing ways to reduce plastic in the oceans, find a vaccine to treat the next looming pandemic, stem emissions that cause climate change and find safe navigation methods for self-driving cars.

The analysis notes artificial intelligence is a priority for Canada, considered central to Ottawa's domestic innovation and prosperity goals.

"However, many other nations, including hostile state actors, have established their own national Al strategies and goals," the brief says. "Some of these countries, particularly China and Russia, will resort to espionage and foreign-influenced activity to advance their national interests, at Canada's expense."

As a result, artificial intelligence has been reflected in the federal government's intelligence priorities for several years, CSIS says.


Also this ...

Yuliia Kleban remembers waking up to a message from her manager on Feb. 24, 2022, telling her Russia had started invading her country.

A few minutes later, Kleban heard air-raid sirens go off in Lviv, the Ukrainian city where she used to live.

"It was a hard day," she said in a recent interview. "I started packing an emergency backpack. I started checking whether I can go in a walking distance to some shelter."

Kleban is among the more than 150,000 Ukrainians who made their way to Canada under a special program announced after the conflict began.

As the war enters a second year, many of those newcomers are assessing whether they should focus on establishing a life in Canada, hope to return to Ukraine one day, or move to another country entirely.

For Kleban, Canada holds the most appeal right now.

"For my future and for my family ... for my future kids, it is better to be in a safer country," she said. "Because in Ukraine we will always end up having a neighbour to the east that wants Ukrainians not to exist in this world."

The 37-year-old said she decided to apply to come to Canada to stay with extended family in Barrie, Ont., when Ottawa announced its special visa program for Ukrainians last March.

She spent about two months in the Czech Republic and four months in the United kingdom waiting for her Canadian visa before arriving in September. Her 40-year-old husband couldn't accompany her because of Ukraine's general mobilization law that bars men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country.


What we are watching in the U.S. ...

The Seattle City Council on Tuesday added caste to the city's anti-discrimination laws, becoming the first U.S. city to ban caste discrimination and the first in the world to pass such a law outside South Asia.

Calls to outlaw discrimination based on caste, a division of people based on birth or descent, have grown louder among South Asian diaspora communities in the United States. But the movement has been getting pushback from some Hindu Americans who argue that such legislation maligns a specific community.

Tensions within the community were visible at Seattle City Hall on Tuesday as a noisy hearing culminated with a 6-1 vote with a majority of the council agreeing that caste discrimination crosses national and religious boundaries and that without such laws, those facing caste discrimination in the U.S. will have no protections.

The packed room, which overflowed with activists from both sides bearing banners, chanting slogans, challenging speakers and city officials as they made their comments, laid bare stark divisions over this issue within the South Asian diaspora. A majority of those present in council chambers were supporters of the ordinance and those opposed were a vocal minority.

As council members voted in favor of the ordinance, the chamber erupted into cheers of ``Jai Bhim,'' which means ``victory for Bhim'' a rallying cry adopted by followers of B.R. Ambedkar, an Indian Dalit rights icon whose given name was Bhimrao. Dalit groups and their supporters say caste discrimination is prevalent in U.S. diaspora communities, manifesting itself in the form of social alienation and discrimination in housing, education and the tech sector where South Asians hold key roles.

Yogesh Mane, a Seattle resident who grew up as an untouchable in India, broke into tears as he heard the council's decision.

``I'm emotional because this is the first time such an ordinance has been passed anywhere in the world outside of South Asia,'' he said. ``It's a historic moment.''

The origins of the caste system in India can be traced back 3,000 years as a social hierarchy based on one's occupation and birth. It is a system that has evolved over the centuries under Muslim and British rule.


What we are watching in the rest of the world ...

China on Wednesday sharply criticized a visit to Taiwan by a senior Pentagon official and reaffirmed it has sanctioned Lockheed Martin and a unit of Raytheon for supplying military equipment to the self-governing island democracy.

The comments from the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office underscore the dramatic deterioration in relations between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan, technology, spying allegations, and, increasingly, Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Asked about the reported visit by Michael Chase, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, office spokesperson Zhu Fenglian said China ``resolutely opposes any official interaction and military collaboration'' between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Efforts by Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party to cement the island's independence with foreign assistance are ``doomed to failure,'' Zhu told reporters.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary, and has been stepping up its military and diplomatic harassment. The sides split amid civil war in 1949, and China's authoritarian Communist Party has never held sway over the island.

A Pentagon spokesperson did not comment directly on Chase's visit, repeating that ``our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.'' Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said it had no information about any such visit.


On this day in 2007 ...

Justin Trudeau, son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, announced plans to run for the federal Liberals in the Montreal riding of Papineau in the next election. He won the nomination on the first ballot on April 29. He won the riding in the October 2008 federal election -- defeating a Bloc Quebecois incumbent. He was sworn in as an MP on Nov. 6, 2008. In April 2013, he was elected party leader and in 2015 became prime minister with a Liberal majority win in the general election.


In entertainment ...

A South Florida art dealer has pleaded guilty in federal court in connection with a scheme involving the sale of fake Andy Warhol paintings. Court records show that Daniel Elie Bouaziz pleaded Tuesday to money laundering. He faces up to 10 years at a May 30 sentencing hearing. Bouaziz is the owner of Danieli Fine Art and Galerie Danieli in Palm Beach County. Prosecutors say he sold counterfeit artwork to a customer in October 2021 including pieces purportedly by Warhol. Investigators say he told the customer that the works, which he was selling for between $75,000 and $240,000, were authentic originals and that some were signed by the artist.


Did you see this?

After demanding for months that Ottawa stop the flow of migrants into the country, Quebec's premier is making his pitch to English Canada for the closure of an irregular border crossing popular with asylum seekers _ and for their transfer outside his province.

The number of would-be refugees entering Quebec ``has exploded,'' Francois Legault wrote in an English-language letter published Tuesday in the Globe and Mail, adding that refugee claimants are pushing the province's social services to their limits. The sooner the federal government closes the Roxham Road irregular border crossing in southern Quebec, the better, the premier said.

``This situation even raises several humanitarian considerations, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive asylum seekers with dignity,'' Legault said.

The letter is similar to the one Legault wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday. But unlike the letter to Trudeau, Legault's message in the Globe does not include concerns that the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers is putting the survival of the French language in Montreal at risk. The premier also doesn't mention that he's asked Trudeau for more money to pay for the costs of caring for would-be refugees.

``We have therefore asked the federal government to settle new asylum seekers in other provinces that are capable of supporting them with dignity,'' Legault wrote in the Globe. The letter called for Ottawa to transfer to other provinces all new asylum seekers who enter irregularly, ``while Quebec catches its breath.'' Ottawa should issue work permits and process refugee applications faster, he added.

``In the meantime, Mr. Trudeau's government should send the message loud and clear to would-be migrants not to come via Roxham Road anymore.''

For months, the Legault government has been calling on Ottawa to close Roxham Road and to transfer asylum seekers to other provinces. The influx of would-be refugees in Quebec has put significant strain on the housing, education and social services sectors, the government says.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2023.

The Canadian Press