Is there a relationship between Canada’s national security and healthy communities?

A review of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway’s Maritime Security Operations Centre (MSOC) shows how it serves as a bridge between the ‘navy on patrol’ and the ‘police on the beat’. Offshore threats, like transnational organized crime and global acts of violence, are influencing relationships between national security and local law enforcement.

The relationship between the navy and the police has been a theme of inquiries published by this author in: Canada, US/Canada, India, Mexico, Malaysia, and in interviews with maritime security knowledge opinion leaders, while noting that navies are adopting a constabulary role and militaries are being trained to win over ‘hearts and minds’.

The concept of a peace of mind continuum between ‘gated’ and ‘open’ communities, as illustrated in Figure 1 (click on hypertext), evolved from feedback at these interviews. It depicts the policy complexities between securing national borders and building healthy communities in Canada. A security ‘continuum’ is identified from living in a gated community to an open healthy community. The community ‘mindset’ perceived as rationalizing these two polarities is referred to as the Community Peace of Mind (CPOM) continuum.

Hard and soft services. The CPOM concept was conceived when Canadians were debating differences between ‘peace keepers’ and ‘peace makers’. Around that time, innocent people were murdered in Vancouver as a consequence of transnational organized crime. Comments were made that Canadians vote for ‘soft services’ like healthcare rather than the ‘hard services’ like military and law enforcement. Comparing Canada with the U.S. was unavoidable. Rather than defining these services as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ interviews explored whether resources allocated for such policy fields complemented each other.

The military/civilian interface. Administration of justice, internationally and domestically, was identified as the operational link between national security and healthy communities. Increasingly, Canadian police are being called upon to perform military-style duties; as was evident during the Toronto G20 Summit meetings. Additionally, police routinely perform health-related duties when dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, mental health, and drug addiction, etc. Trust in such services contributes to secure, healthy communities.

Canadian Intelligence adaptation to a post 9/11 world. Discussions around the CPOM concept occurred in the shadow of the 2010 Commission of Inquiry into the Air India bombing, which determined CSIS was incompetent in dealing with the RCMP, and the 2006 Maher Arar affair, which reprimanded CSIS and the RCMP for supporting the U.S. authorities in deporting Mr. Arar to Syria. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics security arrangements were said to integrate military and civilian forces; the management of the Toronto G20 Summit later in 2010 showed no evidence of such insights.

Following 9/11 the U.S. created the umbrella Homeland Security Department to secure the nation against terrorist attacks. The Canadian response to 9/11 has been to work with the existing structures as described in the Great Lakes’ MSOC article. When discussing the CPOM concept with people inside government the comment was made: “if the system isn’t broken don’t fix it.” The informal view, however, is that a Canadian 9/11-like terrorist attack would precipitate a more integrated US-style approach.

Community terrorism – the modern day war. Irrational acts of violence have occurred globally in communities over the past half century: Bologna, 1980; Air India, 1985; Lockerbie,1988; Oklahoma City, 1995; New York City and Washington DC, 2001; Bali, 2002; Madrid, 2004; London, 2005; Glasgow, 2007; Mumbai 2008; Oslo, 2011; Boston, April 2013; Woolwich, April 2013; Nairobi, August 2013; and Volgograd, December 2013.

It has recently been acknowledged that the 1985 Air India Bombing was a Canadian act of terrorism. The absence of Canada on the above list of countries experiencing acts of terrorism generated much comment in the development of the CPOM concept. A common response was that Canadians take their security for granted. Discussing Figure 1 during Toronto G20 it was commented that Canadians expect ‘law and order’, but are not comfortable with ‘law enforcement’. Frequently it was stated that Canadians do not believe a terrorist attack could happen in Canada; Canadians were described as complacent and contented about security. This perception of Canadians was challenged during the Great Lakes MSOC interview.

Intelligence web policing. A recent article on the Toronto Police Marine Unit noted that policing observation skills were being used in developing ‘intelligence web policing’. This involves police at all levels and jurisdictions working together with communities to establish actionable community intelligence. Canadian intelligence and policing have had successes over the recent past: the “Toronto 18” in 2006 likely stopped Canada’s 9/11 terrorist attack; the prevention of a Via Rail train bombing in Toronto April 2013, and 2013 Canada Day arrests of the B.C. Legislature bombers prevented other potential terror incidents.

The B.C. Legislature bombing attempt suggests that if you have a criminal record and clandestinely convert to Islam, you will raise a ‘red flag’ in the Canadian intelligence community. However, when Lebanese, Greek and Korean Canadian high school friends from London Ontario became radicalized and traveled abroad in search of Jihad, the system was not sensitive enough to ‘flag’ such activities.

Applications of CPOM – community threat/risk assessment. CPOM is seen as a community-based intelligence philosophy based on a socioeconomic dimension. With such a system, there would not be any need for a ‘reporting relationship’ between the community and the national security system. Concerns about lifestyle choices and cultural adjustments within Canadian communities are handled by family members and local community leaders from schools, youth clubs, places of worship and possibly the local police. The involvement of intelligence professionals at this level, unless invited, would suggest that the community has been ‘red flagged’.

The primary application of a CPOM instrument would be in resource optimization between national security (hard services) and community healthcare (soft services). Seeing security as a determinant of health would increase the sensitivity in connecting community data points.

Canadians are very proud of their health system. The concept of being secure needs to become more of a social value that is nurtured and resourced, rather than taken for granted.

Tim Lynch is a Toronto based freelance journalist who writes about maritime security. His email address is