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Canada’s new research security rules target institutions in China, Iran, Russia

January 17, 2024  By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

The federal government will not bankroll sensitive scientific research tied to dozens of schools, institutes and labs in China, Iran and Russia under new restrictions announced Tuesday.

Among the 11 strategically important research areas are artificial intelligence and big data technology, quantum science and aerospace and satellite systems.

Ottawa is concerned that foreign adversaries are determined to acquire sensitive Canadian research and intellectual property by partnering on projects with academics in Canada.

The announcement builds on a federal statement issued Feb. 14, 2023, that research in key fields will not be funded if those involved are affiliated with institutions linked to military, defence or state security organizations of counties deemed a risk to Canada.


The government has published a list of the sensitive technology research areas and a complementary list of named research organizations with which researchers should avoid ties if they’re seeking federal funding.

The lists will be reviewed regularly to ensure they are current.

Among the listed organizations are the China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology, Iran’s Sharif University of Technology and the 33rd Scientific Research and Testing Institute.

Researchers should be mindful that institutions not currently on the list of flagged research organizations may still pose a risk, the government says.

Under the rules, applicants applying for a grant in a sensitive research field must attest that they are not affiliated with or in receipt of funding or in-kind support from a listed institution.

Following the attestation, a researcher must comply with the policy for the duration of the grant, the government says.

“No researcher linked to a listed organization can be involved in any research activities — including collaborations and co-publications — supported by the grant,” says briefing material on the system.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa immediately called out the policy in a statement that said Canada is using unfounded concerns to politicize and undermine scientific exchanges that benefit both countries.

The Russian Embassy and Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The federal government stresses in its background materials that the new policy was developed in consultation with the research community.

While the rules will take effect soon, institutions and researchers will be given “sufficient time” to understand and implement the measures, the government says.

In crafting the new rules, federal officials appeared to be mindful of balancing the benefits of open and collaborative research with a need to protect cutting-edge advances from hostile powers that could undermine Canada’s national security.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers said it worries Ottawa might have gone too far.

“While clarity is appreciated and legitimate security risks may exist, CAUT remains concerned about limiting the global exchange of scientific research, negative impacts on academic freedom and an overall chilling effect on certain research areas of import to Canadians,” the group’s executive director David Robinson said in a statement.

“Moreover, serious concerns remain about security agencies targeting academics from or of descent from the countries of concern.”

The group of large Canadian research universities known as the U15 said the lists “will provide an additional resource to inform the actions already being taken by research universities” and that the large universities will comply with the federal regulations.

“U15 universities remain committed to being internationally engaged research partners and fostering campuses (that) are welcoming and inclusive for people of all backgrounds,” the group’s head, Chad Gaffield, said in a written statement. “Promoting a secure and open research environment will be vital to this goal.”

Federal officials were wary of creating a chill within ethnic communities and rattling Canada’s bilateral relations as they fleshed out the policy, documents released through the Access to Information Act show.

With files from Dylan Robertson.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2023


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