A safe and secure Canada through science and technology leadership

By: Colin Murray

The title of this article is the vision statement of the new Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP), which was announced in June 2012 by the Government of Canada.  The CSSP seeks to enhance the lives and livelihoods of Canadians by strengthening Canada’s ability to anticipate, prevent/mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism, crime, natural disasters, and serious accidents through the convergence of science and technology (S&T) with policy, operations and intelligence.

With a budget of approximately 43.5 million dollars annually, the CSSP is led by the Defence Research and Development Canada’s (DRDC) Centre for Security Science (CSS), a DRDC centre which operates in partnership with Public Safety Canada.  It builds on the successes, lessons learned and best practices of three former programs:

  • The Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear and Explosives Research and Technology Initiative(CRTI), which focused on chemical, biological, radiological-nuclear and explosives (CBRNE) counter-terrorism;
  • The Public Security Technical Program, which focused on critical infrastructure protection (physical and cyber), surveillance, intelligence, interdiction, border security, emergency management systems and interoperability; and
  • The Canadian Police Research Centre, which focused on harnessing S&T for the benefit of first responders across Canada.

Since its inception in 2006, DRDC CSS has established itself as a strong enabler of national and community resilience, collaborating across all levels of government as well as academia and industry to address some of Canada’s most pressing safety and security challenges.   Hundreds of projects are ongoing or completed, with examples that include research to inform federal policy decisions to dedicate bandwidth in support of future Responder interoperability.  Other projects address the domains of responder protective equipment, the use of firearm simulation for police, and the psychosocial dimensions of CBRNE and other hazardous events.

The CSSP has been described as attempting to address ‘wicked problems’ within a ‘meta-organizational’ environment. This means that the work is complex with many challenges; therefore, DRDC CSS is committed to be a ‘learning organization’, continually adapting to improve.  This is reflected in a recent initiative to establish three new Communities of Practice (CoPs) representing each of the Fire, Police and EMS communities.  Under the previous CRTI, these types of forums proved to be highly effective at bringing innovation and collaboration to the ‘problem space’.  This initiative will provide greater insight into responder domains and culture, which will prove invaluable in identifying the needs of this unique community.  Furthermore, investment decisions are informed by a new CSSP Advisory Board, whose membership includes non-federal partners from the responder community.

This collaborative model is a highly progressive step closer to ensuring that the best minds from all levels of government, industry, academia, responders and international organizations work together on the most pressing safety and security issues facing Canadians.

The CSSP is an exciting program.  It builds on best practices from previous programs and pursues innovation to enable practitioners across safety and security domains.  It is true to the vision statement:  “a safe and secure Canada through science and technology leadership”.