OTTAWA -- A Winnipeg biopharmaceutical company that provides antidotes for bioterrorism to the United States is one of dozens of Canadian sites included in a WikiLeaks release as critical to the health and security of the United States.

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The plasma pharmaceutical manufacturing area at Cangene is seen in a file photo.

WAYNE.GLOWACKI@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

The plasma pharmaceutical manufacturing area at Cangene is seen in a file photo.

OTTAWA -- A Winnipeg biopharmaceutical company that provides antidotes for bioterrorism to the United States is one of dozens of Canadian sites included in a WikiLeaks release as critical to the health and security of the United States.

Cangene Corp. is one of two locations in Manitoba appearing on a list of international locations making up the Critical Foreign Dependencies Initiative of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The list was one of the latest diplomatic cables released over the weekend by WikiLeaks.

It was contained in a cable from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton seeking input from diplomats to update the list of foreign sites "whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States."

The cable, classified as secret and created in January 2009, includes a list of sites in the 2008 version of the Critical Foreign Dependences Initiative.

Canada had several dozen sites on the list, including nuclear power plants and hydro dams. None of Manitoba Hydro's infrastructure, which exports power to the midwestern U.S., was listed but Hydro Quebec was there and identified as a "critical irreplaceable source of power to portions of Northeast U.S."

There were also a dozen border crossings, including the one at Emerson, Man./Pembina, N.D. According to the province's website, the crossing processed $16 billion in trade traffic in 2008, more than any other border crossing in Western Canada. It is the fifth-largest in the country. Almost two-thirds of Manitoba exports to the United States and Mexico flow across that crossing. There were also several companies that manufacture everything from biopharmacueticals to military electronics. Among that group was Cangene, whose head offices are on the campus of the University of Manitoba. It manufactures vaccines and immune therapy drugs.

Three of its products -- hyperimmunes for smallpox, botulism and anthrax -- are part of the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile, a national inventory of life-supporting medications and equipment, including antibiotics and chemical antidotes that are deployed in the event of an emergency such as a natural disaster or terrorist attack.

A phone call to the company was not returned Monday.

A Pentagon spokesman told The Associated Press the cable was "damaging," and was another reason WikiLeaks' action to release the thousands of classified documents was "irresponsible and dangerous."

The cable from Clinton asked foreign-posted diplomats not to consult with local governments on the request, suggesting how keen the U.S. was to keep the list secret. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews appeared unconcerned or unaware of the cable leak Monday at an appearance at an Ottawa conference addressing homegrown terrorism.

"I don't follow gossip very much, so I don't really know the impact of WikiLeaks, but I can assure you that the security agencies in Canada are following it very closely and to the extent that I need to be involved and address those issues, they will brief me on the issues," he said after his speech.

He used the speech to urge Canadians to remain "vigilant" against the threat of youth radicalization and homegrown terrorism.

 

-- with files from PostMedia News

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca