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Feds giving CSIS millions to beef up presence in Toronto

CSIS coasters are pictured in Ottawa in a 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, CSIS CSIS coasters are pictured in Ottawa in a 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, CSIS
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The federal government says that it will be providing Canada's spy agency with hundreds of millions of dollars over the next eight years, including money to enhance its presence in Toronto in the face of mounting global threats.

In the budget announced by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland Tuesday, the government said that the country "continues to be targeted by hostile actors, which threaten our democratic institutions, diaspora communities, and economic prosperity."

To help combat such threats, as well as violent extremism and foreign interference, the federal government says it will spend $655.7 million over eight years to enhance its intelligence capabilities and its presence.

"To equip CSIS to combat emerging global threats and keep pace with technological developments, further investments in intelligence capabilities and infrastructure are needed," the government said. "These will ensure CSIS can continue to protect Canadians."

Part of the funding will enable CSIS "to enhance its intelligence capabilities, and its presence in Toronto," the budget says.

Speaking with CP24, former CSIS agent Andrew Kirsch said it makes sense for the agency to beef up its presence in the GTA, as the city often finds itself at the centre of various threats.

"In terms of the foreign interference inquiry, we saw that many of the ridings and areas that were known to be targeted were here in the GTA, not all but some," Kirsch said. "We had the notorious Toronto 18 case and Toronto's in the title."

"It's a large region. There's a lot of activity and it's important for CSIS to maintain a footprint here and as a whole. So it's maybe an acknowledgment that additional resources, capabilities are required to combat this, the growing and evolving threats that we face."

He added that staffing could be a particular challenge for the agency in Toronto where living costs are higher.

While foreign interference efforts from countries such as Russia and China have made headlines more recently, Kirsch said, other serious threats remain a concern.

"Just because foreign interference is in the news, currently it's very top of mind, doesn't mean the other threats aren't there, you know," Kirsch said. "CSIS has to keep its eye on the ball and make sure they're watching the threat of terrorism and espionage and sabotage. Obviously, it's urgent as well."

He noted that while people may not see constant headlines about those sort of threats, it doesn't mean they've "gone away."

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