Canadian Telecommunications Association Welcomes Proposed Changes to Criminal Code under new Foreign Interference Legislation, Bill C-70

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Association urges government to further strengthen Criminal Code to help combat increasing acts of theft and vandalism against communications networks

OTTAWA – May 13, 2024 – The Canadian Telecommunications Association welcomes new legislation that would help safeguard Canada’s communications networks by imposing new offences in the Criminal Code for sabotaging essential infrastructure.

Tabled in the House of Commons on May 6th, Bill C-70, An Act respecting countering foreign interference, addresses a significant gap in our legal framework by explicitly criminalizing acts of sabotage against essential infrastructure, including the telecommunications network equipment that Canadians rely on to stay connected.

As a national organization representing Canadian telecommunications service providers, the Canadian Telecommunications Association commends this initial step, but emphasizes that more work still needs to be done. While Bill C-70 addresses acts of sabotage that are intended to endanger the safety, security or defence of Canada, it does not address the rapidly increasing frequency of vandalism and theft that are disrupting telecommunications services in communities across the country.

Whether it is stealing copper wires for resale as scrap metal, or deliberate attempts to damage telecommunications equipment, this rise in incidents of vandalism and theft demands further action. These acts cause major disruptions to affected Canadians and can have a serious impact on public health and safety.

“Telecommunications networks are the lifelines connecting communities, businesses, and emergency services. Just as we cannot afford disruptions due to sabotage, Canadians’ safety should not be put at risk because of acts of theft and vandalism,” said Canadian Telecommunications Association President and CEO, Robert Ghiz. “Network operators are spending more to increase security and protect their network infrastructure, but this alone will not halt these destructive acts. Strengthening the Criminal Code will send a clear message that these actions will not be tolerated.”

Quick Facts

  • Canadian telecommunications service providers have reported that acts of thefts and/or vandalism of telecommunications sites have increased by more than 400% since 2022. Incidents of copper theft are responsible for the majority of physical security incidents affecting telecommunications infrastructure.
  • Service outages caused by theft or damage to telecommunications sites has resulted in tens of millions of customer outage minutes each year in communities across Canada.
  • Service providers collectively spend millions of dollars annually to repair or replace network equipment effected by theft or vandalism.
  • Outages caused by theft or vandalism frequently take longer to repair than other types of outages due to the nature and extent of the damage. On average, it takes 8 to 12 hours for telecommunications providers to restore service to their customers – though in some cases it takes much longer.

Call for Additional Amendments to Criminal Code:
The Canadian Telecommunications Association is calling for additional amendments to the Criminal Code to ensure that those who intentionally damage or steal from telecom infrastructure face severe consequences. Specifically, the Association is asking the federal government to implement the recommendation of the Canadian Telecommunications Network Resiliency Working Group, a sub-committee of the Canadian Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (CSTAC) made up of telecommunications and public safety experts from the public and private sectors, which has asked the government for legislation that protects telecommunications infrastructure by maximizing criminal penalties “in the event of willful or negligent damage to, and/or acts of vandalism or theft of critical network infrastructure.”

“As an industry, we are committed to ensuring the resilience and reliability of our networks. But without robust legal deterrents in place, our efforts can only go so far,” Ghiz said. “We implore policymakers to act decisively to enhance the Criminal Code and safeguard our vital communications infrastructure to preserve the safety and security of all Canadians.”

About the Canadian Telecommunications Association
The Canadian Telecommunications Association is dedicated to building a better future for Canadians through connectivity. Our members include service providers, equipment manufacturers, and other organizations in the telecommunications ecosystem, that invest in, build, maintain and operate Canada’s world-class telecommunications networks. Through our advocacy initiatives, research, and events, we work to promote the importance of telecommunications to Canada’s economic growth and social development and advocate for policies that foster investment, innovation, and positive outcomes for consumers. We also facilitate industry initiatives, such as the Mobile Giving Foundation CanadaCanadian Common Short CodesSTAC and

Media Inquiries:
Canadian Telecommunications Association
Nick Kyonka
[email protected]