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An Interview with Dr. Chris Kilford on CSIS, Five Eyes, International Threats, Future Risks, and Technologies as Risks (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/04/15


Dr. Chris Kilford is the President of the Canadian International Council – Victoria Branch. He discusses: the CSIS and the Five Eyes; the international threats coming from Canada; the future risks; and future technologies as potential threats.

Keywords: Canadian Armed Forces, Canadian International Council, Chris Kilford, CSIS, humanitarian, president, risks, technologies, Victoria.

An Interview with Dr. Chris Kilford on CSIS, Five Eyes, International Threats, Future Risks, and Technologies as Risks: President, Canadian International Council – Victoria Branch (Part Two)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Interview conducted on February 3, 2020.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You also mentioned CSIS. In different countries, they have different levels and forms of secret service. That is a much more sensitive area, at least on the face of it. It is providing security. It is providing intelligence or sharing intelligence between different services that are, basically, in need of either tracking down particular individuals or finding networks of criminal organizations. Things of this nature one might expect. On the other hand, when one is contacted by these individuals from these organizations, including CSIS, it is bound to be a serious issue. There is one woman who I know in British Columbia who wrote a book about her own experience of getting out of an extremist (terrorist) marriage. Obviously, it was a situation to get out of. How does dealing with CSIS, and others, who are doing good work around the world for Canadian society and Canadian civilians differ from standard diplomatic work that you’re doing day-to-day, whether Turkey, Dubai, Iran, or elsewhere?

Dr. Chris Kilford: CSIS works with its partners. There are different kinds of partners. There are usually close relations between The Five Eyes (FVEY): Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. We share intelligence information. There are other special relationships out there for certain countries for certain things in certain areas, where they will have agreements to share intelligence. When you find a CSIS footprint out in the world, it is often in tandem with the RCMP who are interested too, e.g., in human trafficking or drugs, any illegal activities. But, from a CSIS perspective, they’re interested in people and who belong to various terrorist groups, where their funding is coming from, and what kind of threat is posed by them. The host country is interested too, because they are looking for Canadians moving through their countries. They say, “We have suspicions about this person too. What do you know?” For example, when I was Turkey, recently, I know with their military incursion into Syria – Peace Spring is the name of the operation –  they have their hands on about 1,500 people who were ISIS, Daesh, members.

Now, the Turks have them and they are working on repatriating fighters to their home countries. In the West, we often see them repatriated only to Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark for example. They are also being repatriated to other countries too, e.g., Kazakhstan and others. I haven’t seen any Canadians in that group. But if there were, then Canada would be saying to Turkey, “Okay, give us all the information that you have about these folks, including passports, can you tell us who they are? We need to establish that they are Canadian. Once we make this connection, we want to know. Who is this guy? How did he get there? Who helped him? What was his involvement? Are there any criminal charges that can be brought against them in a court of law when they get to Canada?” When you have that relationship with Turkey and MIT, which is the CSIS equivalent, you often get the answers that you need. But, it doesn’t happen automatically. It is something where it comes down to personal relations that you build while there. Your predecessors also build relationships. They get to know you, get to know your office, and are willing to share information. If it works well, then you get the answers that you need.

2. Jacobsen: When comes to international threats coming from Canada, in other words, individuals who are risks to others and even themselves around the world. What are the kinds of problems Canada is producing?

Kilford: For people heading overseas.

Jacobsen: Yes, the individuals who would be a concern to other governments.

Kilford: Historically, and going back to the Spanish Civil War and the international brigade with Canadians going to fight for causes that they think are worthy  – trying to stop that flow of people before the Second World War was an issue. Fast forward to today, some Canadians see what they see on social media or regular media and also say, “Okay, I am going to fight for this group or the other group.” Sometimes,  itis to fight for Daesh in some cases or, more recently, the Kurdish YPG forces in Syria. Or they go to Iraq and fight for the Iraqi-Kurdish forces there. When that sort of thing happens, the countries that the person transits through can, often, get very annoyed, especially if they capture someone, a Canadian, and say, “We got this guy who was planning to cross the border and join Daesh. Why didn’t you stop him?” From a Canadian perspective, “We were aware or weren’t aware but we can’t stop that person’s freedom of movement without reason.” Then you have someone who pops up in Syria. We had no idea because they told the family that they were going to Morocco or something. For the host countries, for the ones who have been imprisoned, more often than not, they just want to give them back to you, and get them out of their prisons.

For one, they just don’t have the resources to support them. Turkey is the first to complain that we in the West broadly speaking let people travel who then joined ISIS. We should have stopped them and known. Look, we are not a police state. We do not keep tabs one everyone who we might suspect of being involved in something or other.

3. Jacobsen: You mentioned some of the work before in some of the earlier responses based on looking to the future and what would be the future threats to Canadian society. What are those risks? Those that are emerging and those that have not come forward to this date.

Kilford: Yes, I started the group in 2006 with a bunch of civilians and a few military staff. The idea was to look 20 years in the future. So, we’re talking 2025/26, which is not far off now. In asking the bigger question of what kind of military do we need in that period to deal with the potential threats we’re going to see, we first looked to the past 20 years. We quickly realized that predicting events 20 years into the future is not easy because many of the events that unfolded before 2006 were unforeseen, even by experts. It is the little things that change everything. “Little things” isn’t the right term but you get these moments that can change the course of where we think things are going. But back in 2006, I remember one of the things that we agreed on was that the Middle East would continue to pull us in, because so many issues exist that haven’t been resolved: Cyprus is one with peacekeeping troops there since 1964, and Israel-Palestine endless plans for peace that seem to go nowhere.  Today, there are rising birth rates with a youth bubble, and also very large numbers of people who are discontent with the political systems that they live in. We have the Arab Spring. We saw that and said, “This is a flashpoint.” We can forget the pivot to Asia because, yes, China will be powerful. But we didn’t expect to have a lot of security issues in Asia. Generally, we haven’t. We were also looking at things like climate change. It has been unfolding as we have seen.  But when it comes to people literally dying by the hundreds of thousands and displaced by the millions, we kept coming back to the Middle East. Yes, we got that one right. In 20 years, if you ask me, I think the focal point will be the Middle East. There’s still too much going on there and too much foreign meddling, especially by the West.  There’s no clear path forward for any kind of resolution.

4. Jacobsen: What technologies are threats, whether informational or chemical or biological?

Kilford: There’s every chance that Iran might have a nuclear weapon one day. When it comes to chemical weapons, especially chemical weapons, they are used constantly in that region. The best examples are Saddam Hussein using them against the Kurds in Iraq in 1988 and the Iranians in the 1980-1988 war. We have seen other instances since. I’m not so sure that it will get totally out of hand. The incidents that we have seen recently are fairly isolated. People do die, don’t get me wrong. But once the Syrian government re-establishes control of their country, then we almost won’t see this sort of thing happen there. I think social media is important, but when I give talks on the region today I always say that although, “we think that we are well-connected these days and know everything it is not much different from when Ernest Hemingway was in Constantinople in 1922 and was reporting about the Turks advancing towards the capital and about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his forces, and the demise of the Sultan. Canadians were getting that in the  Toronto Star. They’d have an afternoon and an evening edition. They were getting information pretty quickly. I think social media has its place. But as we have also seen in that region, countries are also able to turn off the internet with the flick of a switch.

Turkey is a good example. Egypt is one. Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia will be taken down as necessary. I think the change in the region is going to have to be from the bottom up. Interventions from the United States will not be effective. I say this optimistically because education levels have risen with highly educated Gulf populations but then again, poorly educated populations in Egypt, even Turkey still exist.. Still, young people in the region are going to school more and more, travelling more and more, seeing how other countries operate, and are asking questions as to why they are in the situations that they are in. Eventually, the hope is that their dinosaurs currently holding power will be pushed aside by younger, pragmatic people. Even within Turkey, the birth rates in the Kurdish-Turkish population are very high. They are going to be the majority in that country in 50 to 60 years. We see other demographic changes going on now, which will create changes. Still, the region is going to be in turmoil for another 100 years I would think, before we see things potentially beginning to settle.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] President, Canadian International Council – Victoria Branch.

[2] Individual Publication Date: April 15, 2020:; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2020:


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