Canadian Security Magazine

Focus on Government Security: a recap

By Tristan Bronca   

News Public Sector

On June 19, security professionals came together for a Focus On Government Security event hosted by Canadian Security magazine.

The event was aimed at educating on issues that arise at the different levels of government security – from the RCMP at the federal level, to  safety planning for municipally-organized events.

Scott Foster from the RCMP’s Critical Infrastructure Intelligence team opened the day with a discussion on terrorism and internal threats. Foster specializes in the Energy and Transportation portfolios but beyond these titles, much of what he does is kept under wraps. Part of his mandate has to do with building partnerships with the private organizations that run much of the country’s infrastructure. He helps build awareness of the threats of extremist activity. His presentation pointed to a number of terrorist case studies and the unusual behaviour that marked them. He went on to offer some practical tips for spotting this kind of behaviour. 

Michelle Chibba spoke next on the controversial area of privacy. She and her team work with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario conducting research and analysis in this area. This body is responsible for balancing various security efforts by representing the privacy interests of Ontarians. But Chibba points out that this really doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. She offered examples of several surveillance technologies that are designed to protect the both the subject and their privacy. For example, she spoke about an algorithm for an encrypted camera that detects movement but must be decoded before it identifies the person who is moving. Chibba says that the commissioner hopes this “privacy by design” approach will become the norm in the near future.

After a lively question period and a break for lunch, The City of Toronto’s director of corporate security and 2008’s Canadian Security magazine’s Security Director of the Year for 2008, Dwaine Nichol, offered some insights on the scale of the effort required to secure the massive city. He emphasized a shift in paradigm for security professionals. Usually, when the “big bad” security guy shows up to install a camera people think, “uh oh, what have we done wrong.” Nichol talked about the little steps to take if companies want to change that thinking. So, rather than seeing security as a response to negative threats, it becomes a positive feature that adds value to a company.

The last speaker emphasized that this shift would be much more difficult in his line of work. Alain Normand is an expert in security management and the Emergency Manager for the City of Brampton. More than once, he’s been put in charge of ensuring the safe and smooth operation of large events like outdoor concerts. Often, this works in direct contrast to what the event planner – the person in charge of the “fun stuff” – is doing. If he sees a risk, or anything that makes an event unsafe, he’s the one who shuts it down. He’s also the person operating behind the scenes, helping to ensure that these “fun” events stay that way.

In between talks were networking opportunities and chances to chat with the event’s sponsors. Neil Sutton moderated a roundtable discussion on government security products with representatives from ASSA ABLOY, Axis Communications and Middle Atlantic Products. The conversation focused on the security needs of government end-users, RFPs, codes and standards, and green technology.

Video testimonials from speakers and sponsors will be available shortly at as well as details on upcoming Focus On events.

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