Madam Speaker, not only would Bill C-26 introduce the new critical cyber systems protection act, or CCSPA, to legally compel designated operators to protect their cyber systems, but it would also amend the Telecommunications Act to enshrine security as a policy objective and bring the sector in line with other critical infrastructure sectors.
Being online and connected is essential to all Canadians. Now more than ever, Canadians rely on the Internet for their daily lives, but it is about more than just conducting business and paying bills. It is also about staying in touch and connected with loved ones from coast to coast to coast and, indeed, around the world. That is also why the Government of Canada is connecting 98% of Canadians to high-speed Internet by 2026 and 100% of Canadians by 2030.
Our critical infrastructure is becoming increasingly interconnected, interdependent and integrated with cyber systems, particularly with the emergence of new technologies such as 5G, which will operate at significantly higher speeds and will provide greater versatility, capability and complexity than previous generations. These technologies certainly create significant economic benefits and opportunities, but they also bring with them new security vulnerabilities that some may be tempted to prey on.
At this time, I want to bring the perspective of my constituents in the riding of Fredericton to this important debate today. Fredericton is home to the Canadian Institute for Cybersecurity at the University of New Brunswick, with a focus on disruptive technology and groundbreaking research. The institute provides hands-on support for community and industry partners as they face emerging threats, with company-specific, cross-disciplinary research.
Led by Dr. Ali Ghorbani, Canada's research chair in cybersecurity, the institute generates datasets to help thwart malicious cyber-attacks and works in tandem with the National Research Council of Canada in an innovative hub model that will lead to discoveries and advancements in cybersecurity, including publications, patents and the commercialization of technology, as well as provide training opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.
Innovative cybersecurity research is conducted with a focus on Internet security, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction and natural-language processing. I was honoured to welcome many ministers to my riding and to connect them with researchers and leaders in the industry to showcase how my community distinguishes itself in this sector. Fredericton is at the forefront of this new age and the challenges it presents, and I could not be more proud.
Even if there is enormous potential for Canadian digital innovation and expertise in cybersecurity, and I am witnessing it every day at home, we also need to face the fact that cyber-threats are growing in sophistication and magnitude. In 2021, close to 200,000 businesses across the country were affected by cybersecurity incidents, and this number continues to grow. Each of those businesses is not merely a business. It is comprises hard-working owners and employees, with families to feed and bills to pay. It is all the more maddening that many of these businesses must spend precious amounts of time and money preventing or fighting back against these incidents, many of which involve stealing money or demanding ransoms.
Canadian businesses have spent billions of dollars over the last years to detect and prevent cybersecurity incidents and, consequently, they have been experiencing downtime and a loss in revenue. Cybercrime is costly, and those who are bearing the brunt of it are Canadian businesses.
We also know that at all levels of government, we have not been immune from these kinds of attacks, even, horribly, hospitals. Earlier this year, the Toronto SickKids hospital was targeted by a ransomware attack affecting its operations. Closer to home, in Atlantic Canada, a ransomware group was behind the 2021 cyber-attack that paralyzed the Newfoundland and Labrador health care system.
Beyond the monetary implications, attacks like these have the real-life potential of impacting the health and safety of the ones we love, and we must do everything in our power as legislators to put in place effective safeguards. The effects on Canadians demonstrate beyond a doubt why we need to strengthen Canada's cybersecurity systems. As lawmakers, the least we can do is ensure that Canada and its institutions and businesses can continue to thrive in the digital economy and that our banks and telecommunications providers can continue to provide Canadians with reliable services.
Bill C-26 would modernize existing legislation to add security to the nine other policy objectives in the act, bringing telecommunications in line with other critical sectors. The bill would also add new authorities to the Telecommunications Act, which would enable the government to take action to promote the security of the Canadian telecommunications system.
As mentioned, in recent years, Canada's cybersecurity status has been tested by a variety of threat campaigns targeting critical infrastructure, businesses and individuals. The increase in digitization has led to the weaponization of digital tools and processes. This results in the disruption of critical systems and causes a lack of confidence in physical, psychological and economic well-being.
I am proud of all the work that has been done to secure Canada's critical telecommunications infrastructure, but I do not want us to lose sight of the work still to be done. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for bolstering national and international cyber-defence practices, requiring improved policies, guidance and cyber-intel.
Furthermore, given what is happening in Ukraine with the Russian invasion, we know that there are still military threats in the 21st century. However, we are also dealing with the emergence of new technologies that pose non-military threats.
With rising geopolitical tensions, government-driven hostile cyber-operations are more prevalent now than ever, posing an increased threat level to Canada's national security, economic prosperity and public safety.
In the 21st century, cybersecurity is national security, and it is our government's responsibility to protect Canadians from growing cyber-threats. That is exactly why we have developed Bill C-26.
It contains a multitude of important measures to protect Canadians and Canadian businesses. It is a carefully designed, multipronged approach. Part 2 of this act would enact the critical cyber systems protection act to provide a framework for the protection of the critical cyber systems that are vital to national security and public safety.
It also authorizes the Governor in Council to designate any service or system as a vital service or vital system, and requires designated operators to establish and implement cybersecurity programs, mitigate supply chain and third party risks, report cybersecurity incidents and comply with cybersecurity directions.
Introducing the new critical cyber systems protection act would strengthen baseline cybersecurity and provide a framework for the government to respond to emerging cyber-threats.
It is essential that we keep pace with the rapidly evolving cyber-environment by ensuring we have a robust, legislative framework in place.
In short, Bill C-26 is essential to helping keep Canadians and their data safe. In a world as connected as ours, we cannot take that for granted. Once again, cybersecurity is national security.
I am looking forward to this bill being sent to committee, and I encourage all members to join me in supporting Bill C-26 in subsequent readings.