Canada adds security checks to academic research grant bids

Trudeau creates mandatory review ahead of grant awards, aligning nation closer to US in suspicion of China

July 14, 2021
Victoria BC,Canada,June 10th 2014. RCMP police stand at attention as they honour fellow officers who gave their lives while on duty.
Source: iStock

Canada is adding new requirements for academic researchers to face security reviews as part of their funding applications, amid growing concern over potential threats from China.

The change announced by the Trudeau administration creates a risk assessment process for any private-sector grant application to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, one of the nation’s three main science funding agencies.

The research council will work with national security agencies and reject applications “that are deemed high risk”, Canada’s innovation minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, said in announcing the initiative.

Universities Canada, the nation’s main higher education association, said it worked with government officials to create the new requirements and gave its endorsement to the final product.

Through the consultations, Universities Canada said, it sought rules “that are feasible for researchers and institutions to implement, respectful of the core principles of universities, and contribute to a more secure national research environment”.

The requirements, said the group’s president, Paul Davidson, “are an important step in enabling Canadian researchers to work with international partners to advance research in Canada’s interest”.

The government’s action brings Canada more in line with the US and Australia in subjecting researchers to tougher scrutiny aimed largely at espionage threats they see from China.

Mr Champagne did not directly name China in outlining the new security process, although prime minister Justin Trudeau has faced sustained criticism from his Conservative opposition over a 2019 case in which two Chinese researchers were fired from the government’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has been warning that foreign governments have been trying to steal patents and other sensitive information from companies and universities. The agency’s director, David Vigneault, has made clear that China is a chief concern.

Mr Champagne said he understood that the new process could hinder academic research work but said that the government “will not take chances with Canada’s national and economic security”.

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Reader's comments (1)

Good. It is about time that Canada realized the socio-economic threat from China.


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