Terrorism not biggest threat

Natural disasters, human error threaten critical infrastructure, says study

Canada’s critical infrastructure isn’t adequately safeguarded against terrorism and other threats, a Queen’s-affiliated study suggests.

Critical infrastructure refers to governmental assets including electricity generation, telecommunication and water supply, which have the opportunity to threaten or enhance the well- being of Canadians.

According to the collaborative study entitled ‘Canada’s Critical Infrastructure: When is Safe Enough Safe Enough?’ modern services and systems within Canada rely on critical infrastructure, which can be impacted by natural disasters, human malice and error.

Andrew Graham, adjunct professor in the School of Policy Studies, co-authored the national study with Douglas Bland, a Queen’s defense research fellow.

The collaborative study between Queen’s University, Simon Fraser University, the University of Calgary and the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy was released on December 2011.

Graham said he was asked by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, an Ottawa-based public policy think tank, to analyze the relative safety of Canada’s critical infrastructure.

“We’re talking about financial structure, electricity, our movement of oil, our bridges, our hospitals,” he said. “I was able to identify a couple of issues arising … there’s a huge interconnectivity among the various parts of the infrastructure.”

Graham said that

communication between government and industry is lacking and ways to strengthen Canada’s critical infrastructure include things like tax incentives and investment in research. He said initially the study’s main focus was terrorism in Canada.

But he said terrorism isn’t as big of a concern in Canada as it’s sometimes been made out to be.

“Between 9/11 and now, we’ve not [had] a lot of that kind of thing going on in this country,” he said.

What is more concerning, Graham said, is the concept of domestic terrorism, including organized crime.

“There’s a higher potential for domestic terrorism than there is for international terrorism,” he said.

Graham said the study combined interviews with government officials and literature reviews — the studying of past research analyses of similar topics.

At this point, Graham said he has no plans to follow up with officials on the research study findings or whether or not they will be influencing policy.

“I’m providing research, I don’t have to follow up with anything,” Graham said. “Our job is to put these ideas in front of leaders.”

— With files from Jake Edmiston and Katherine Fernandez-Blance

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