Canadian Security Magazine

Lack of clarity in governance is Canada’s greatest security threat: report

By Canadian Security   

News Public Sector

Canadian security experts believe the greatest threat to national security and public safety is the lack of clear governance when responding to a threat, according to a Conference Board report.
“The greatest security threat is not natural disasters, terrorism, cyber-attacks or pandemics. It is establishing direction and control when the response to a disaster requires a wide range of public and private-sector organizations,” says Trefor Munn-Venn, Associate Director, National Security and Public Safety with the Conference Board of Canada. “If the relationships between these organizations fail, the human suffering and property damage due to an emergency could be prolonged and even exacerbated.”

The report, A Resilient Canada: Governance for National Security and Public Safety,
is funded by the Conference Board’s Centre for National Security, which
brings together senior executives from public and private-sector
organizations. As the owners of the vast majority of critical
infrastructure, the private sector has an increasingly important role
to play in preventing and responding to security threats.
report’s conclusions are based on research and interviews with
individuals who played key roles in the responses to eight disasters
over the past decade: the 1997 Red River flood, the 1998 ice storm in
Eastern Canada, the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in
Toronto in 2003, the 2003 blackout in Ontario and the north-eastern
United States, the effects of Hurricane Juan on Atlantic Canada in
2003, the 2005 London transit bombings, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Establishing an effective governance structure requires focus on six key principles:
Leadership and accountability
Cooperation and coordination
Mandate and resources
Communications and transparency
Continuous learning
threats—like the Red River flooding and hurricanes in New Orleans— can
be predicted. Other threats, such as the 9/11 attacks, are much more
difficult to anticipate. In all of these circumstances, the governance
principles provide the foundation for an effective response.
the case of a predictable threat, the governance principles should be
used to formulate a response plan well in advance. Where incidents
cannot be easily anticipated, these principles enable organizations to
rapidly establish an effective response.
The opportunities for
action include: recognizing governance problems in Canada; taking a
principle-based approach to prepare us for the unexpected; establishing
clear governance structures for high probability threats; and
practicing regularly, with both public and private-sector participants
involved in these training exercises.
The report is publicly
available at It is the first of a series of reports,
each of which will focus on one of the six governance principles.

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