The decision follows years of geopolitical maneuvering and delays after Beijing arbitrarily detained two Canadians for more than 1,000 days. It ends a tumultuous waiting period over the fate of the Chinese company in the evolving Canadian 5G landscape.
Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne spoke about the decision alongside Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino after North American financial markets closed on Thursday.
Mendicino said the government will “prohibit the inclusion of products, and services from high-risk vendors in our telecommunications system,” and introduce new legislation to protect Canada’s critical telecommunications infrastructure.
“We are announcing our intention to prohibit the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE’s products and services in Canada’s telecommunications systems,” said Champagne.
“We’ll take any actions necessary to safeguard our telecommunications infrastructure.”
He said providers who already have equipment from the firms must remove it and replace it in keeping with timelines the government will be setting out.
Champagne was then asked whether the government will compensate firms for that removal.
“The simple answer is no,” he said.
The move comes amid deepening global concerns about Beijing’s disregard for international laws and human rights, and eight months after the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from Chinese prisons earlier this fall.
They had been detained in what is widely viewed as retaliation by Beijing for the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou by Canadian authorities in December 2018. That arrest came after American authorities sought her extradition on allegations of bank fraud and skirting sanctions.
In an interview with The Canadian Press on Nov. 8, 2021, Champagne had hinted at a decision on the file and said that Canada only wants to deal with “trusted partners” on the development of the technological networks that will power a looming shift towards artificial intelligence ventures.
What is 5G and who has access in Canada
5G technology will play a major role in that development, but repeated delays in a decision by the government led Canadian telecommunications players to ink deals with other technology companies over the last three years, effectively freezing Huawei out of the market in the absence of a formal government decision.
However, the question of whether to allow Huawei technology to be part of that network has centred on fears that the company could spy on Canadians and use its technology as a sort of back door to monitor and collect data on Canadians to hand back to the Chinese government.
That’s because the National Intelligence Law in China dictates that Chinese companies must comply if asked to spy by the state.
Huawei Canada officials have insisted they are independent. But they have not said how or why they believed Canadians should trust them to defy any order from the Chinese government.
China doesn’t ‘share our values’ NATO secretary-general says
Canada is the last member of the Five Eyes security alliance – which includes the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand – to either ban or restrict Huawei’s participation in next-generation wireless networks.
The issue became a source of friction between the Trudeau government and the Trump administration, who threatened to pull back from intelligence sharing with allies that allowed the Chinese telecom into their 5G networks.
But Huawei already has a significant presence in Canada’s wireless networks.
Global News reported last December that Canadian telecoms had spent upwards of $700 million on Huawei equipment while the Liberal government spent years mulling whether or not to ban the company from 5G networks.
There is growing movement among Western democracies and allies to shore up supply chains and critical infrastructure networks, shifting reliance away from countries that do not share common values.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has amplified those calls to build up critical supply chains domestically or among trusted partners, and to rely less on nations that do not share strategic values.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last year that China doesn’t “share our values,” a refrain that has taken on new prominence as the alliance bands together in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and puts pressure on China not to support the aggression of the regime.
More to come.
With files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson and Alex Boutilier.
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