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CGI Group is launching a Canadian defence, public safety and intelligence unit based on similar efforts in the United States.

Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, who retired earlier this month after a 30-year career with the Canadian Forces, will head the unit.

The unit is intended to serve Canada's defence and security needs around the world.

Despite a 35-year history of working with nearly 100 Canadian government civilian agencies, CGI's work in the defence and intelligence sector has remained limited.

The Montreal-based company has said it viewed this untapped area as a prime target for growth in Canada.

With more than 7,500 specialists around the world, CGI will offer services such as advanced analytics, biometrics and cybersecurity, operational logistics, systems engineering and training.

Last year, the company purchased Stanley Inc. for $1-billion (U.S.), giving it an entry into the defence and intelligence side of the U.S. government with about 75 per cent of its work being of a sensitive nature including processing and doing security checks for visa applicants on behalf of the U.S. State Department.

Earlier this year, CGI chief executive Michael Roach said the Canadian work likely wouldn't involve visa applications, but rather other IT services.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, CGI's shares gained 51 cents at $20.01 in morning trading.

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