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Canada’s spy agency is warning that our vaccine supply could be targeted
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is warning companies in the vaccine supply chain that malicious foreign actors could threaten the largest inoculation program in the country’s history — by targeting their workers, among other tactics. Just before the arrival of hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses in Canada, the spy agency offered a briefing to industry players about the emerging threat.
“We’ve been told that the Canada supply chain in particular has been the interest of many foreign actors, and perhaps bad actors in that respect,” said Pina Melchionna, president of the Canadian Institute of Traffic and Transportation. “I think … my takeaway from that session was definitely that this isn’t like TV, where spies are coming over to get our data. They are targeting people already working within companies who either have vulnerabilities, or who may be sloppy because of the tight deadlines we have in getting the vaccine to market.”
Many foreign intelligence agencies are known to manipulate individuals abroad — often through threats, harassment or the detention of family members. It’s an old-school espionage tactic described in a landmark intelligence report earlier this year. But the threat is more alarming now, as Canadian government officials and distributors prepare to vaccinate millions of people against COVID-19 by the end of next year.
A spokesperson for CSIS said the agency has reached out to supply chain associations and industry to tell them what to look out for as they brace for threats to the vaccine rollout. When asked which foreign actors might be targeting Canada’s vaccine rollout, John Townsend pointed to a July briefing CSIS gave to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce that flagged China and Russia as countries actively involved in commercial espionage.
Earlier this summer, intelligence agencies warned that a hacker group “almost certainly” backed by Russia was trying to steal COVID-19-related vaccine research in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. And the United States recently confirmed that hackers — widely believed to be backed by Moscow — hit multiple federal departments in a months-long operation.
Jessica Davis, head of the consulting firm Insight Threat Intelligence, says state-sponsored actors have a number of motivations for interfering in Canada’s vaccine rollout strategy. “Perhaps to again gain access to the vaccine, or also to prevent adversaries from gaining access to the vaccine or a fully vaccinated population. There are economic and security benefits from being the first, or among the first countries to achieve that status,” she said.
The non-stop struggle of COVID-19
There should be enough COVID-19 doses next year to vaccinate every Canadian who wants a shot by the end of September, the Public Health Agency of Canada says. There had been conflicting reports in government documents and from government officials about whether September or the end of 2021 is more likely. “Based on current data, by the end of Q3 2021, Canada projects having a sufficient number [of] doses to be able to offer a vaccination to every Canadian,” a spokesperson for PHAC said in a statement to CBC News. The “Q3” refers to the third quarter of the calendar year — July, August and September. Canada has signed purchase agreements with seven different pharmaceutical companies for up to 418 million doses of the various shots under development — an insurance policy against the possibility that some of the vaccines in development prove to be ineffective in clinical trials. Meanwhile, the U.S. says it hopes to have its inoculation program completed by June. Read more about the expected timelines here.
A B.C. ski resort has fired some workers after dozens of COVID-19 cases linked to parties and shared housing. Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, B.C., fired an unknown number of employees for breaking a social responsibility contract, after health officials announced 60 confirmed cases connected to the resort. The contract includes clauses about reporting symptoms of illness to managers, as well as following public health orders around social gatherings, management said Wednesday. “Big White Ski Resort Ltd has a zero tolerance policy with any employees who are found to be in breach of these documents,” a company statement reads. “To that end, we have had to let go some of our employees.” Read more about the firings here.
Members of a First Nation that has been under a boil-water advisory for longer than any other in Canada are hoping to return home before Christmas to clean running water for the first time in 25 years. Neskantaga is about 450 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont., where nearly 300 of its members have been living in a hotel since an oily sheen in the reserve’s reservoir on Oct. 19 triggered their evacuation. Now, final tests are taking place to determine whether Neskantaga’s water is safe enough for the community to use, weeks after members originally were scheduled to fly back and two years after the reserve’s water treatment plant was supposed to start producing clean drinking water. The federal government is finalizing plans for the community to fly back as early as tomorrow. Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias said the community’s perpetual crisis is the result not only of faulty machinery but of a bureaucracy that maintains the status quo of misery and marginalization in First Nations. “The system needs to be fixed,” Moonias said of the policies in place to lift boil-water advisories. “It’s designed the way it’s supposed to be running — to oppress First Nations in the country.” Read more about Neskantaga here.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is walking back comments he made to Ryerson University students claiming the residential school system was designed to “provide education” to Indigenous children before it went wrong. “The very existence of residential schools is a terrible stain on Canada’s history that has had sweeping impacts on generations of Indigenous Canadians,” O’Toole said in a statement released Wednesday. “I speak about the harm caused by residential schools regularly. In my comments to Ryerson students, I said that the residential school system was intended to try and ‘provide education.’ It was not. The system was intended to remove children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures.” O’Toole has been under pressure to retract his statement about residential schools ever since Press Progress — a publication of the Broadbent Institute — and Global News first reported the contents of a Zoom call O’Toole held with the Toronto university’s Campus Conservative club earlier this month. Read more about O’Toole’s statements here.
Honda is recalling more than 100,000 vehicles in Canada. The Canadian Press reports the company will recall 130,000 vehicles in the country, including certain Fit, Civic, Accord, Insight and Acura ILX models. The automaker says 96,761 recalled vehicles need repairs for drive shafts that can break due to corrosion from winter road salt. That recall covers Honda Fits from 2007 to 2014, Accords made from 2013 to 2015, 2012 Civic hybrids, 2013 Acura ILX hybrids, and Acura ILX vehicles from 2013 to 2015. An additional recall covers 33,150 Canadian vehicles that have a software error causing the rear camera, turn signals and windshield wipers to malfunction. The software bug is in Honda Accord and Accord Hybrids from 2018 to 2020, and Honda Insight vehicles from 2019 and 2020. Honda and Acura owners can enter their vehicle identification number into Honda Canada’s recall website. Read CBC’s business coverage here.
The president of France has tested positive for coronavirus. The presidential Élysée Palace announced today that Emmanuel Macron took a test “as soon as the first symptoms appeared.” The brief statement did not say what symptoms Macron experienced. It said he would isolate himself for seven days. “He will continue to work and take care of his activities at a distance,” it added. It was not immediately clear what contact tracing efforts were in progress. Macron attended a European Union summit at the end of last week, and he met Wednesday with the prime minister of Portugal. Read more about Macron’s positive test here.
Now for some good news to start your Thursday: Major League Baseball has reclassified the Negro Leagues as a major league and will count the statistics and records of its 3,400 players as part of its history. The league said Wednesday it was “correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history” by elevating the Negro Leagues on the centennial of its founding. The Negro Leagues consisted of seven leagues, and MLB will include records from those circuits between 1920-48. The Negro Leagues began to dissolve one year after Jackie Robinson became MLB’s first Black player with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Those leagues were excluded in 1969 when the Special Committee on Baseball Records identified six official “major leagues” dating to 1876. “It is MLB’s view that the Committee’s 1969 omission of the Negro Leagues from consideration was clearly an error that demands today’s designation,” the league said in a statement. The league will work with the Elias Sports Bureau to review Negro Leagues statistics and records and figure out how to incorporate them into MLB’s history. Read more about the decision here.
Front Burner: A conversation with Canada’s environment minister
The Liberals released a new, long-awaited climate change plan last week that they say will meet Canada’s commitments under the Paris Agreement and cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030. The plan includes $15 billion in federal investment and a gradual tripling of the carbon tax.
Today on Front Burner, host Jayme Poisson asks Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson about the plan, whether it goes far enough and who it risks leaving behind.
Front Burner20:23A conversation with Canada’s environment minister
Today in history: December 17
1903: Orville and Wilbur Wright fly their first airplane at Kitty Hawk, N.C.
1924: The legislature of British Columbia adopts a resolution opposing further immigration of Asians to Canada.
1996: Vancouver nurse Nancy Malloy, 51, is slain, along with five other aid workers, as they sleep at a hospital in Chechnya, Russia. She is the first Canadian Red Cross worker ever killed in the field.
2003: The British government announces the first reported case of a person dying from the human form of mad cow disease after a blood transfusion from an infected donor.
2011: Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s mercurial and enigmatic leader whose iron rule and nuclear ambitions for his isolated communist nation dominated world security fears during his 17 years in power, dies of a heart attack. He was 69.