Questions and answers following the joint press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
We have, for some time now, had two ships in the region, also some aerial surveillance that is part of, mostly, our focus on Iraq. But, of course, we are working with our allies as necessary, given the newer challenging context with Iran, which we are calling for de-escalation.
[Reporter] And about espionage, I want to ask you a question, that Canada is often mentioned as a target of industrial espionage, and we know there’s an aggressive effort around the world by China. We haven’t seen arrests in Canada. We haven’t seen a lot of public investigations. Why is that? And are we looking at a more aggressive effort to counter that?
I can assure you that our security and intelligence agencies work extremely hard and work extremely successfully in countering many threats to Canadians on an ongoing fashion. Perhaps they are not often as publicized as they are elsewhere around the world, but I can tell you that the work that the women and men in our security agencies are doing on an ongoing basis to keep both Canadians safe and our intellectual property and our economic interests safe is something we take very seriously.
[Reporter] Prime Minister, over the weekend, President Trump tweeted out that four women members of Congress should go back to the countries they came from. Your counterpart in the UK, Prime Minister May, has denounced them as being highly inappropriate. Wondering what you thought of the comments and whether you consider them to be racist.
I think Canadians and indeed people around the world know exactly what I think about those particular comments. That is not how we do things in Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and the diversity of our country is actually one of our greatest strengths and a source of tremendous resilience and pride for Canadians. And we will continue to defend that. Okay.
[Reporter] Secretary General, over the weekend here in Canada, in Winnipeg, we learned of an investigation into possible espionage at a level-4 virus laboratory, Chinese espionage. I wondered what threat Chinese spying presents to Western nations and their security.
It’s not for me to comment on that specific case, but what I can say in general is that we have seen increased efforts by other nations to try to spy on NATO allies in different ways. This is partly about industrial espionage, something which is dealt with partly also by civilian intelligence, but also, of course, it affects our military forces and also military intelligence. So, this is something we take very seriously. That’s also the reason why we have strengthened the cooperation within NATO when it comes to intelligence and how to also counter efforts to try to undermine our democratic processes and conduct espionage against our nations. We have established a new intelligence division. We have improved the way we share intelligence and the way we understand and analyze intelligence. And we also increased awareness among allies, especially, for instance, when it comes to cyber, where we have, also with the support of Canada, significantly stepped up our cyber defenses, and the way we are improving our ability to react when we see attempts to interfere in our cyber networks. So, we do a lot to help to improve the resilience of NATO allies when it comes to cyber espionage and other efforts to meddle in our domestic processes.
[Mike] Yeah, hi, Mike Blanchfield, Canadian Press. For Secretary General and the Prime Minister, following on cyber and NATO’s well-documented research on Russia’s threats of hybrid war, what assistance is NATO able to offer Canada as it heads into a federal election to ward off cyber threats and meddling in Canadian democracy? And to the Prime Minister, what are you learning from NATO about the latest threats and getting Canadians safely through this next period?
So, what we do is that partly we increase awareness among NATO allies and we share experiences. We share information. So, we help each other, NATO allies, to understand the threats and how to react and how to protect our democratic processes, our institutions, and also, of course, our cyber networks. Because we have seen many attempts to try to meddle in democratic processes, not least by different ways of going into our cyber networks. We have conducted big exercises. We have a Centre of Excellence where, again, we share knowledge, experience, best practices, but also where we have conducted the biggest exercises in the world when it comes to how to protect ourselves against different attempts to go into our networks and to meddle in our democratic institutions. This is also about attempts to spread disinformation. There are many ways to protect ourselves against that. Again, awareness is one part of it, but I think that the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we have a free and independent press that is able to understand when there are attempts to spread disinformation, to check that. So, what we need is critical journalists who ask the difficult questions, who check their sources. And that’s the best way to be able to protect free and open and democratic processes. The best response to propaganda is not propaganda, but the best response to propaganda is the truth, and a free and independent press is an extremely important part of that.
We have, over the past years, engaged strongly with all of our allies, particularly NATO allies, on the issue of foreign interference in our electoral processes. That is one of the reasons why our Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, has come forward with significant measures to counter interference in our elections. At the same time as we rely on and support an independent free press to continue to inform Canadians on the truth, we have also put in place a commission of top civil servants who will be charged with overseeing that our country is not subject to foreign interference during the election process. In terms of what we’ve learned from NATO, other than the excellent collaboration, cooperation with NATO and its member allies, there have been significant conversations with countries like the Baltic states, that have been subject to significant amounts of foreign propaganda in their communities, in their electoral processes, and some of the things that they’ve done to counter foreign propaganda is certainly things that we’ve learned from.
[Mike] And just a follow-up. Secretary General, what’s at stake if Canada doesn’t get this right? They’re a major NATO contributor, as you’ve just said today. Please discuss that, and Prime Minister, if you want to weigh in.
Well, NATO is an alliance based on some core values: democracy, the rule of law. And, of course, to protect democracy and the rule of law, we need strong democratic institutions. But I’m very confident that Canada is able to do that, to protect these institutions. You are one of the founding members. You have a strong democratic institution. You have a free and independent press. But to make sure that you are able to protect that also in the future, we have to be aware of the challenges and the threats, and Canada is aware of that. And Canada is taking the necessary measures to be able to protect your institutions. And actually, Canada is also helping other allies. You help other allies with improving and strengthening their cyber defenses, with sharing your experiences, so Canada is contributing to the protection of the whole of NATO with your expertise, with your knowledge also when it comes to cyber.
On top of our institutional protections of our democracy from foreign interference, there is one element that I have tremendous confidence in and that is Canadians themselves. We are a country of thoughtful, reasonable, positive people who are always there to lean on each other and work hard, and we’re deeply committed in our values to democracy and to democratic processes. We know there are people out there who want to break down our democratic systems and our confidence, collectively and individually, in those democratic systems. And I know that trusting Canadians and empowering Canadians with the tools they need to continue to have confidence in our institutions is going to be an important part of keeping our elections, and indeed our democracies, strong.
[Tony] Tony Grace with Pure Country 96.7 and CTV here in the Upper Ottawa Valley, locally. Welcome to where we live. First of all, Secretary General and Prime Minister, what is your message to the troops from here in Petawawa, who certainly did play a heavy role in Latvia in one of the most recent rotations, about why you chose to hold your meeting here today and what the roadmap ahead looks like for that bigger job of monitoring aggression in Eastern Europe? I mean, is this going to be a multigenerational thing?
Well, I think one of the things that we saw and we see from Canadians right across the country when we talk about our military is, first of all, the deep gratitude that all Canadians feel towards the women and men who serve in our armed forces and put their lives on the line and make tremendous sacrifices to defend the values that we hold dear. And that is certainly something that, across political lines, I can say is very, very clear, that we will always support the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces. Canadians also expect Canada to be playing a positive role on the world stage, to make a difference where we can make a difference and to do the work that we can and should be doing to keep the world safe and make it a better place. And obviously, our role in Latvia, our role in Iraq, our leadership role in various places around the world are examples of Canadians stepping up to ensure the kind of stability, peace, and prosperity that we are tremendously grateful for here at home. We will always look to how Canadians can best help around the world. And that’s why working with NATO leadership, working with multilateral leadership around the world to look at how Canadians can help bring about better outcomes for people around the world is something we’re always going to do. Now, the nature of the missions will change over the long term, as the nature of peacekeeping has changed, as the nature of NATO operations have changed. But as we change towards more training, towards better targeted interventions and operations, you can be assured that Canadian leadership will be at the heart of thinking about how we can best help in the world. Okay.
[Moderator] Last question.
[Tony] What might be some concrete signs that this mission would shift from monitoring aggression into something else? And that we’re making progress in some way with it?
The main purpose of that mission is to deter conflict, is to deter any attack, and NATO has been extremely successful in doing exactly that for 70 years by sending a clear message to any potential adversary that if one ally is attacked, the whole alliance will respond. And by doing that, we are able to prevent conflict, to prevent an attack. So we are not there to provoke conflict, but we are there to prevent conflict. And the strength of the NATO presence in the Baltic countries, and then the presence in Latvia led by Canada, is that it’s a multinational presence. So we have many different nations and also North America, Canada in Latvia, United States in Poland, and by having a multinational presence, we are sending the message that if Latvia is attacked, then the whole NATO alliance will be there, and by sending that clear message, we deter, and deterrence is the best way to prevent any conflict.
[Tony] Thank you.
And I am certainly looking forward to going to talk with some of the troops who came back from Latvia here in Petawawa. I look forward to a little bit of lunch and some moment to thank them personally for their extraordinary service.
Thank you. Thank you.