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Experts call on Canadian universities to close off China's access to sensitive research – CBC.ca

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The U.S. State Department revealed last week that, over the past three months, it has expelled more than a thousand Chinese “high-risk graduate students and research scholars” who were working at American universities.

The State Department said their visas were revoked under Presidential Proclamation 10043, issued by President Donald Trump at the end of May to counter “a wide‑ranging and heavily resourced campaign to acquire sensitive United States technologies and intellectual property, in part to bolster the modernization and capability of its military, the People’s Liberation Army.”

The individuals whose visas were revoked represent only a small fraction of the 370,000 Chinese nationals studying in the U.S. — and a big escalation in Washington’s conflict with China over the control of the world’s most coveted technologies.

Washington is not alone in suggesting that the Chinese military has encouraged or even enlisted academics to collaborate with counterparts in the West, in person or remotely, while masking their affiliations with the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] or its institutes of learning, such as the National University of Defence Technology.

In Canada, the Commons Committee on Canada-China Relations heard similar allegations in testimony in the weeks leading up to prorogation — including the claim that some of the core technology behind China’s surveillance network was developed in Canadian universities.

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald documented a startling array of projects which saw Australian scientists collaborate with Chinese universities to carry out military research beneficial to the PLA — some of it funded by Australian taxpayers. Much of that research found its way into new Chinese weapons systems or the surveillance networks employed by the Chinese regime, the Herald said.

I think we’re a bit bonkers in that we don’t really restrict the areas in which Chinese students can study.​– Richard Fadden, former CSIS director

In 2018, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute published a study that looked at the number of peer-reviewed papers co-authored by PLA scientists and overseas researchers. It found that universities in Australia and Singapore had the highest level of collaboration.

But three Canadian universities also made the top ten ranking: the University of Toronto (10th place), McGill University (9th), and the University of Waterloo (4th).

There were just over 140,000 Chinese nationals studying in Canada before the pandemic hit. Waterloo’s vice-president of research Charmaine Dean said her university’s focus on science and engineering makes it naturally attractive to Chinese researchers, citing artificial intelligence and robotics as two areas of particularly strong cooperation.

She said science — not geopolitics — is front of mind for Waterloo researchers. “Individuals tend to work with other researchers that are brilliant around the world in order to advance an area,” she said.

Dean is one of a group of research VPs from Canada’s 15 main research universities who have met with officials from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to discuss their work with Chinese counterparts.

“I do reach out to them routinely,” she told CBC News. “I would say before the pandemic hit, we’re talking about every month, every other month, to identify whether there are any issues with any of our collaborations … And I will tell you that there has been no specific or general direction that I am expected to take in how I am approaching collaborations with China on the research file.”

Dean said the university is more than open to being given more direction by the federal government.

“If the government of Canada would like to provide universities as a whole advice on national security matters, or if there are any specific concerns with regards to the University of Waterloo, I think that is really important for us to hear that,” she said. “We can’t make assessments on issues of national security.”

If we’re partnering with China on these areas, our R&D … could be going directly to the Chinese military.– Researcher Margaret McCuaig-Johnston

But some in academia are pushing back on that viewpoint.

“I believe it’s up to every citizen of Canada to be defending national security,” said Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, who spent decades in some of the federal government’s top scientific posts and served on the Canada-China Joint Committee on Science & Technology before joining the University of Ottawa, where she researches China’s science and technology strategy.

She said AI and robotics are two areas of great interest to the Chinese military.

The U.S. Army’s new Crusher combat robotic vehicle rolls over a car on a test range Tuesday Feb. 19, 2008 at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The Chinese military is said to be actively pursuing cutting edge robotics and AI technology. (The Canadian Press/AP-Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency/Carnegie Mellon via The El Paso Times)

“They’re really putting a big focus on artificial intelligence and developing lethal autonomous weapons. So that would be robotics in the field of war,” she said.

“They’re looking for help from Canada in artificial intelligence, biotechnology, advanced materials, quantum computing, all areas that can help their military and help other aspects of their economy as well.

“And what it means for Canadians is, if we’re partnering with China on these areas, our R&D, government funded R&D often could be going directly to the Chinese military. And I’ve talked to scientists about that, including in artificial intelligence. And it’s quite concerning that they often say, ‘Well, I’ve been friends with these researchers for 20 years, they wouldn’t do that kind of thing.’

“But in China, it’s required that researchers partner with the military.”

‘Tip of the iceberg’

McCuaig-Johnston said Waterloo and other universities have received guidance from Canada’s security agencies and should be doing more to guard against rogue technology transfers to China — “particularly when your university has been identified as one of the top ten in the world partnering with Chinese military institutions. We need to get ourselves out of this top 10 list.

“In 2017, there were 84 co-publications between Canadian researchers and Chinese researchers with military technologies,” she said. “And this is just the tip of the iceberg, because those are the ones where there was collaboration that led to a publication. There’s all kinds of other collaboration going on that hasn’t yet led to publications.”

Dean said researchers can only assume that anyone granted a visa to study in Canada has been vetted already. “So that that assessment was already made by the government of Canada in allowing them to come in here. Same with our research visitors,” she said.

“Of course, with all the heat on the China file, there’s been a strong interest in making sure that we have all the legal aspects of our agreements in place, with T’s crossed and I’s dotted. And of course we are looking at security and security risks.”

But Dean said her role is to facilitate contacts, not to erect barriers.

“If a vice president research starts interfering with individual collaborations to say, ‘Yes, you may do this research, no, you may not do this research,’ without some mechanism of providing due rationale to a researcher, then I think we’d be starting to walk down a path that would tread on the freedom of individuals to conduct research and also tread on due justice,” she said.

Richard Fadden, then the director of CSIS, waits to testify at the Commons public safety committee on Parliament Hill in 2013. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Richard Fadden headed CSIS from 2009 to 2013 and was the first director to go public with concerns about influence campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party. He triggered a furor in 2010 when he said that CSIS knew of prominent Canadian politicians under the influence of Beijing.

Fadden said he disputes the claim that the agency he once headed hasn’t provided guidance and advice to universities. He also said that if universities won’t act on their own, the government should block off whole areas of research rather than trying to vet thousands of individuals.

“I think we’re a bit bonkers in that we don’t really restrict the areas in which Chinese students can study,” he said.

While Fadden said that “we mustn’t go down the rabbit hole” of suspecting every Chinese student coming to Canada of working for Chinese state security — and that it would be a mistake to consider China the only problem nation — he does view Beijing as the most active and aggressive state player in the acquisition of other countries’ intellectual property and technical secrets.

Seal off some areas of research: Fadden

“I think there are probably … ten or so areas of study that have national security implications,” he said, citing the high value of optics research to maintaining NATO’s technical edge over its rivals.

“There are some areas where we should simply say, ‘You can’t study in those areas. You can’t invest in those areas, you can’t buy in those areas.’ And for the life of me, I don’t understand why with the Five Eyes or the United States or NATO … couldn’t come up with [a] commonly accepted list of areas and say, ‘We, as NATO, are not going to allow work in this area.’

“Will the Chinese be annoyed? Absolutely. But they don’t allow us to do any of this in their country. So, you know, reciprocity is an important principle of international relations.”

Fadden said that if western countries act in unison to stop the bleeding of military technology to China, there will be less blowback for any individual nation.

Right now, he said, the U.S. is actively hunting spies in a way that Canada is not.

“We don’t worry as much about national security as does the United States,” he said. “So I think, from that perspective, we’re viewed as an easier target.”

A spokesperson for CSIS, meanwhile, disputed the suggestion that the agency hasn’t given universities enough guidance.

“CSIS provides regular unclassified briefings to many stakeholders including universities so that they are fully aware of the threat environment around them,” said John Townsend. “These threats can include attempts of espionage to steal privileged information and research as well as the manipulation of students through foreign interference …”

Mary-Liz Power, spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, also said that the government had “actively engaged” universities and researchers through the Safeguarding Science Initiative, which “provides workshops featuring experts from several federal departments and agencies, and equips participants with the base knowledge they need to better protect and secure their research and data.”

McCuaig-Johnston said that while the government needs to take a more active role, “it’s still up to [Canadian universities] to be looking at where Chinese universities may be a problem.

“There’s a list of 160 Chinese universities and labs that are focused on defence purposes, and that list of 160 should be being given by each university to their researchers in natural sciences and engineering so that they can check themselves as to whether they’re partnering with those institutions,” she said. “And if they are partnering, they should stop.”

Dean said that the University of Waterloo is always open about its research and publishes it as widely as possible.

“Pretty much everything that we do has to be disseminated in venues that are open to the general scientific community to utilize,” she said. “So even if we did it with Germany, it would still be available publicly to anybody in China to use because of that open, transparent research process.”

But there’s a difference between merely reading about research and taking part in it, said McCuaig-Johnston.

“When you collaborate with China, the Chinese scientists and engineers can actually shape the research as it’s being done and direct it as it’s evolving …” she said.

“What China is doing is it’s developing new technologies that wouldn’t exist at all. It’s force-feeding the military apparatus of China. And we don’t want Canadian researchers or Canadian tax dollars to be going into that kind of R&D.”

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Canada reports more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases, 7 deaths – Global News

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Winnipeg police say a woman has died and several other people have been injured in a collision involving a vehicle that was fleeing police.

The crash happened at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the area of Salter Street and Boyd Avenue, police said in a statement.

According to police, officers tried to pull over a vehicle for a traffic stop but the driver “took off at a high rate of speed.”

Read more:
Vehicle-pedestrian collision on Portage Ave. leaves one person in critical condition

Seconds later, the vehicle hit another car in the nearby intersection of Andrews Street and Boyd Avenue.

Four people in the vehicle that was struck — including an infant and a child — were sent to hospital.  A woman who was in that vehicle has died from her injuries, police said.

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Two people from the vehicle that had fled police were also transported to hospital.

Police said most of the victims are in critical or serious condition.

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which investigates serious incidents involving police, has been called to investigate.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada's death toll could hit 16000 by the end of 2020, new modelling warns – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Canada could see as many as 16,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year if current public safety measures don’t change, according to new modelling from the United States that has provided accurate assessments of the American death toll.

But a Canadian pandemic modelling expert says that, while anything is possible, the American model may not be capturing the whole picture in Canada.

The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington suggests Canada could see 16,214 deaths by Jan. 1 based on the current situation. If public safety mandates are loosened, such as physical distancing, the death toll could be even higher, hitting a projected 16,743 lives lost.

Universal masking in public spaces could curb those numbers and save thousands of lives, the model suggests, pointing to countries like Singapore that have successfully put in place masking protocols that are 95 per cent effective. Singapore has reported 27 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

If Canada were to successfully implement similar rules, the modelling predicts a death toll of 12,053.

So far Canada has reported 9,256 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 150,000 cases. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned earlier this week that the country is at the beginning of a second wave of infections as he urged Canadians to take public health guidance seriously.

Quebec is leading the country with new cases of COVID-19. On Saturday, the province reported another 698 cases, the highest daily infection numbers since May.

Dionne Aleman, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who specializes in mathematical models for pandemic prediction, said the IHME model is “simplistic” and does not account for regional differences across the country.

While a second wave of COVID-19 infections has started, Aleman points out that deaths are not in a second wave. COVID-19 deaths in Canada peaked in April and May, when more than 100 people died in connection with the virus daily. Those numbers have remained much lower in recent months, with five deaths reported on Friday.

“The fact that deaths are not tracking with infections as they did in the first wave indicates that vulnerable individuals are taking more precautions to protect themselves now, and it is reasonable to assume those precautions will continue as the second wave gets worse. This model does not account for the fact that some people are behaving differently from others, and thus, the projected deaths are likely overstated,” Aleman told CTVNews.ca on Saturday over email.

The latest modelling by the Public Health Agency of Canada does not offer predictions to the end of the year, but suggests that, based on current rates, the death toll could steadily rise to 9,300 lives lost by Oct. 2.

The IMHE modelling has proven to be accurate. Earlier this year, the model predicted that the U.S. would hit 200,000 deaths in September, a grim milestone that happened earlier this week. Now, the model predicts the U.S. death toll will nearly double by the end of the year, reaching 371,509 by Jan. 1.

The IMHE model also predicts daily infections — a number that includes people who aren’t tested for COVID-19 — could hit more than 19,000 by the end of the year.

Aleman said it’s important to remember that, even if a person doesn’t die from COVID-19, the consequences of getting sick can be serious.

“There are numerous examples of otherwise healthy individuals with severe reactions to COVID taking several weeks and even months to recover, and there are indications that there could be long-term health consequences,” she said.

“We should view these projections of exponential infection increase with great concern, and we as individuals should take every reasonable precaution to stem this increase before it is too far out of control. Wearing masks is easy and effective, and we should do it.”

Infections may be on the upswing, but Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Saturday that limiting personal contacts as much as possible can help once again flatten the curve. She encouraged Canadians to take time this weekend to chat with loved ones about how to keep their bubbles safer.

“Even if people attending an event are part of your extended family, as has been the case with some of these private gathering outbreaks, it doesn’t mean they are not infected, even if no one appears to be unwell,” Tam said in a statement.

“Despite the very real concern of a large resurgence in areas where the virus is escalating, there is still reason to be optimistic that we can get things back to the slow burn.”

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B.C. university launches 1st peace and reconciliation centre in Canada – CBC.ca

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The University of the Fraser Valley hopes its new Peace and Reconciliation Centre (PARC) — which the school says is the first of its kind in Canada — will help contribute to a more equitable society.

Professor Keith Carlson, the centre’s chair, said institutions like universities and governments can often reinforce unequal power structures by excluding knowledge and experience from historically-marginalized communities.

The PARC was established to counter that by “bringing new voices to the table,” he told Margaret Gallagher, guest host of CBC’s On the Coast on Thursday. 

Aside from collaborating with academic departments like Peace and Conflict Studies, the PARC will offer funding and scholarships to students and faculty, as well as community members not affiliated with UFV “who are looking for partners and allies to change the world,” said Carlson. 

The Abbotsford-based university says it has received substantial funding from the Oikodome Foundation, a local Christian charity.

UFV launched the PARC Thursday with a virtual event featuring speeches from Steven Point, the first-ever Indigenous chancellor of UBC, and former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, now Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.

‘Deep listening’

Jacqueline Nolte, dean of UFV’s college of arts, said the university envisions the PARC as a hub for constructive dialogue, research and creative expression aimed at building trust among diverse communities. 

“We will facilitate deep listening and mediation such that all people will feel heard and acknowledged,” she said in a news release. 

The scope of the centre won’t be narrow.

Along with relations between Indigenous people and settlers, Carlson said the centre could address everything from domestic violence to interfaith conflicts in the Middle East and Ireland. 

Carlson, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous and community-engaged history, echoed Nolte’s words.

“What we’re saying [is] that we value Indigenous ways of knowing,” Carlson said.

“The structures that underlie racism need to be dismantled so that everybody in this country […] will be able to enjoy all the privileges that anybody who’s of European descent [has].”

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