The Conservative Party is pressing the minority Liberal government to follow Canada’s allies in barring Huawei Technologies from 5G wireless networks and to take measures, such as a registry of foreign agents, to stop increasing foreign interference by China.
Members of Parliament will be asked to vote as early as Wednesday on a Conservative motion calling on Ottawa to make a decision within 30 days on whether to exclude Huawei gear from telecommunications networks. It also calls on the government to lay out a plan to combat China’s growing foreign interference in Canada, a matter addressed publicly last week by one of this country’s spy agencies.
The NDP said it plans to vote in support of the Conservative motion.
For more than two years, the Trudeau government has answered questions about the future of Huawei by saying it’s conducting a review of the cybersecurity risks. In mid-2019, the Liberal government said a decision on Huawei would be postponed until after the fall 2019 election.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said that more than a year has passed since the federal election and Ottawa has yet to decide on Huawei. He said that the number of Canada’s allies barring Huawei has been rising.
The United States and Australia have excluded the Chinese company’s equipment from their 5G networks. Last July, Britain ordered Huawei gear be removed from that country’s 5G networks by 2027. Sweden, in October, barred the equipment from its networks, a decision that is under a legal appeal from Huawei. Other countries building 5G networks without Huawei include Japan and Taiwan. India is reportedly phasing out Huawei gear as well amid a border dispute with China.
“We’re forcing the question," Mr. O’Toole said. “There’s no way Huawei can be in our 5G infrastructure. Anyone with a brain knows that.”
The U.S., Australia and former directors of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have warned that Huawei technology could be used to spy for China. Chinese law requires companies to “support, co-operate with and collaborate in national intelligence work” when requested by Beijing. Security experts in the U.S., Australia and Canada say equipment from manufacturers such as Huawei could be compromised.
The motion also asks Ottawa to take steps to protect people in Canada from Chinese state harassment and interference. CSIS told The Globe and Mail last week that national security and the safety of Canadians are being jeopardized by undercover Chinese state-security officials and others who are trying to silence critics using tactics that include threats of retribution against their families in China.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday that “recently we have seen an intensification of the aggressive and coercive diplomatic approach on the part of China."
Mr. O’Toole said it’s up to Canada to introduce new measures to protect Canadians from foreign interference.
“There are hundreds of families that have been pressured, threatened, that live in fear because of these operations in Canada. I think Canadians would expect a plan from their government to counter it.”
The motion will be debated in the Commons Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said the government welcomes the debate.
“As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly said, we continue to engage with China with eyes wide open while standing up for Canada’s principles and interests,” press secretary Syrine Khoury said in a statement.
“Our government has always been and will continue to be clear about our principles, our commitment to the rule of law, our deep concern for our citizens, who have been detained, and our famers and producers.”
NDP foreign affairs critic Jack Harris said that while dealing with the pandemic is top priority today, a strong government response is needed on Chinese state interference and threats. Concerning Huawei, the “time has come” for a decision, he said. “There has been enough opportunities to understand what is going on and to recognize that Huawei … is not something we really should be contemplating given the alternatives."
Michael Chong, the Conservative foreign affairs critic, called for an open national registry to keep track of retired senior public office holders, who do work for foreign governments and companies that are not independent of foreign states.
In the Commons Monday, Conservative national-security critic Shannon Stubbs pressed the government to stand up to China’s “state-sponsored bullies,” saying the “victims have sounded the alarm” and Ottawa must act to stop intimidation of Canadian citizens.
“Canadians are under threat and they deserve action and not just words,” she said.
Rob Oliphant, the parliamentary secretary at Foreign Affairs, insisted that the government has made “strong representation” to China about its activities.
“Reports of harassment and intimidation of individuals in Canada are deeply troubling,” he said. “Allegations of such acts being carried out by foreign agents are taken very seriously.”
Mr. Oliphant said Chinese representatives have a “duty under international law to respect the law and regulations of Canada.”
Ms. Stubbs pointed to the U.S., which recently charged eight people, including three Chinese citizens, with harassment and intimidation of a Chinese-American resident by threatening his family.
“It is happening to Canadians, so how many people have actually been charged in Canada for going after Canadians in Operation Fox Hunt?” she asked. CSIS said these illegal activities are part of a global campaign of intimidation. One of the most high-profile efforts is Operation Fox Hunt, directed by Beijing’s Ministry of Public Safety, which has been under way since 2014.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, reading from briefing notes, would only say the government does not tolerate “foreign actors threatening Canada’s security.”
The RCMP told The Globe last week that they are aware of Chinese operations in Canada but “at this time” no charges have been laid.
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