Canada bans Chinese tech giant Huawei from 5G network | CBC News

The federal government has banned Huawei from working on Canada’s fifth-generation networks, government ministers announced today.

The move puts Canada in line with key intelligence allies like the United States which have expressed concerns about the national security implications of giving the Chinese tech giant access to key infrastructure.

The government’s decision has been a long time coming. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government launched a review of the companies that would be permitted to service 5G networks during its first mandate.

Then-public safety minister Ralph Goodale promised to release a decision on Huawei before the 2019 federal election.

The development of 5G networks promises to give people speedier online connections and provide the greater data capacity required to allow more people, and things, to connect online.

While the federal government’s review of its 5G policy has taken a broad look at which companies can service the new, faster online networks, most of the attention has focused on whether Huawei would be allowed in — and the possible national security implications of giving it access.

The government largely went silent on the 5G review’s progress after China imprisoned Michael Kovrig, right, and Michael Spavor, left, nearly three years ago. (Colin Hall/CBC, Chris Helgren/Reuters)

The government went largely silent on the review’s progress after China imprisoned Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor nearly three years ago — an apparent act of retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

The two Canadians returned home last fall, hours after Meng reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government.

What’s the issue?

Critics have warned that Huawei’s participation in Canada’s 5G networks could give the company an inside look at how, when and where Canadians use internet-connected devices — and that the Chinese government could force the company to hand over that personal information.

China’s National Intelligence Law says Chinese organizations and citizens must support, assist and co-operate with state intelligence work.

The opposition Conservatives have been pushing the Liberals to bar Huawei from Canada’s 5G infrastructure, saying it would allow Beijing to spy on Canadians more easily.

Huawei insists it is a fiercely independent company that does not engage in espionage for anyone, including Beijing.

How might this affect the Canada-China relationship?

Various European nations and Canada’s allies in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group — including the U.S., U.K. and Australia — have made aggressive moves against Huawei, either by barring it from their networks or by restricting their use of Huawei equipment.

Late last year, China’s foreign ministry warned that Beijing’s relations with Canada stood “at a crossroads.”

Earlier in December, China’s ambassador to Canada signalled that keeping Huawei out would send a “very wrong signal.”

China’s President Xi Jinping, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attend a session at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019. (Kazuhiro Nogi/pool via Reuters)

Huawei already supplies some Canadian telecommunications firms with 4G equipment.

As Global News has reported, telecommunication companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Huawei equipment while the federal government’s review of 5G was ongoing — although that number has waned over the years.

It’s not clear whether Ottawa’s decision to bar Huawei from 5G will require those companies to rip out existing Huawei equipment, or whether compensation would be provided.

The government also risks a lawsuit under the terms of a foreign investor protection agreement signed by the government of Stephen Harper with China.

Under that agreement, Huawei Canada — as an existing investor with assets — could bring a claim against Canada.

“It’s no secret that, you know, we have hired lawyers in the past. I myself am a lawyer. And so we’re aware of our legal rights,” said Alykhan Velshi, Huawei Canada’s vice president of corporate affairs, in an interivew with CBC earlier this year.

“I assume they’re aware of their legal rights, but it’s not for me to speculate on that.”

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