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ARCHIVED - Security science and technology for the next decade

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It's about more than scientific discoveries and cutting-edge technologies.

By Anthony Ashley, PhD, Director General, Defence Research and Development Canada ' Centre for Security Science

The events of September 11, 2001 highlighted that free and open democratic societies are vulnerable to attacks. It brought home the pressing need to find more effective ways of protecting North America and its allies. In Canada, a group of innovative federal scientists led a unique effort to build previously non-existent capabilities (knowledge, tools, methods and experts) to counter new domestic terrorist threats, especially potential weapons of mass destruction, including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. Recognizing that no single player could address these threats alone, the government established a collaborative, nationwide approach shepherded by the CBRNE Research and Technology Initiative, which later became a program under the Defence R&D Canada ' Centre for Security Science.

Experts from Defence R&D Canada set up their radiological-nuclear mobile lab during a technology demonstration.
During a training exercise National CBRNE response team (RCMP and Canadian Forces), wearing bomb suits, investigate a container after the detection of a possible radiological dispersal device.

This approach was based on the fact that Canadian expertise in areas like emergency and specialized response, defence, public and animal health, food safety, domestic radiological protection, environmental response, intelligence, law enforcement and other public safety fields, were spread across government, universities and industry. This meant that scientists and technical experts from these different backgrounds would have to work together to ensure the best minds were tackling Canada's security challenges.

As the global media shone its spotlight on epidemics, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, cyber-attacks, criminal activity, environmental accidents and foreign radiological events, it became clear that the dangers to domestic security went well beyond terrorist threats. Efforts were expanded to focus on issues like critical infrastructure protection, cyber-security, surveillance, intelligence, border security, and emergency management systems (people, tools and processes), while broadening the scope to all types of hazards, including terrorism, criminal activities, accidents and natural disasters.

Experts from Defence R&D Canada set up their radiological-nuclear mobile lab during a technology demonstration.
Members of the British Columbia Ambulance Service check a simulated casualty with radiological contamination meters.

The impact of these efforts was highlighted in the years leading up to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and the G8 and G20 Summits in June 2010 when the federal S&T community played a critical role in supporting security partners, ensuring that they had access to the appropriate scientific advice and support for event planning and during the events themselves. This included the co-location of scientific advisors in operations centres, as well as the equipping and manning of mobile nuclear, biological, forensics and chemical labs. (See Science on call: Mobile labs safeguard high-profile events)

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In the 10 years since 9/11, the global and domestic security landscape has evolved significantly. Keeping pace with this evolution, the Canadian security S&T community has worked hard to strengthen the nation's ability to weather all types of natural and man-made hazards.
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Looking ahead, we need to continue nurturing and sustaining the S&T expertise that has been developed in the past 10 years and continues to be created. With our security S&T personnel distributed across the federal government, industry and other sectors ? and already engaged in their “day jobs” ' we need to further link policy-makers, planners, operators and intelligence experts from across multiple fields and departments with the appropriate scientific know-how and advice when it is required.

More on this subject

Centre for Security Science

In 2006, the federal government created the Defence Research and Development Canada ' Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) as a joint endeavor between the Department of National Defence and Public Safety Canada. More

We must also continue to expand the membership of our security S&T community, which was initially focused on building up a knowledge base in the federal, academic and industrial sectors but clearly requires the participation of many more players. We’ve learned that provincial, municipal and First Nations entities, as well as non-governmental organizations and other agencies, are all critical to public safety and security planning and operations. We’ve also found that it is essential to consult the emergency responder community to ensure that S&T solutions truly meet their needs on the front lines. The global nature of security issues has taught us that allied nations must work together to avoid duplication, maximize investments through jointly funded activities, and to ensure interoperability across borders.

In addition, we’ve learned that there is an ongoing need to go beyond commercialization when transferring knowledge and technology from the laboratories into the hands of those who need to use them in the real world. Finally, we need to continue to refine our approach to ensure that security S&T is strategically integrated into all facets of Canada’s safety and security efforts, from research and development to planning, operations, decision-making and policy development. 

In the 10 years since 9/11, the global and domestic security landscape has evolved significantly. Keeping pace with this evolution, the Canadian security S&T community has worked hard to strengthen the nation’s ability to weather all types of natural and man-made hazards. Looking into the future, these developments will ultimately serve to enhance public confidence and ensure that the men and women who contribute to our safety and security are equipped with the cutting-edge knowledge, tools and processes they need to protect us. end


ISSN 1927-0275 = Dimensions (Ottawa. Online)