Federal MPs say Canada should exercise caution with Huawei, ‘put a pause’ on 5G plans

New Zealand is the third country to ban Huawei from 5G, following the U.S. and Australia

Echoing the sentiments of several of his colleagues, Conservative Member of Parliament Peter Kent says Canada should “put a pause” on Huawei’s efforts to provide 5G mobile network equipment to the country’s carriers.

After learning that New Zealand, another member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance of which Canada is a part of, announced it’s barring one of the country’s national carriers from acquiring 5G network from Huawei, Kent said to MobileSyrup it’s another reason that “Canada should act.”

The Five Eyes are a group of countries that share information and intelligence with regards to terrorism, security and espionage. It consists of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Kent said that U.S. officials did not approach him to ask Canada to take action on Huawei, but said, “I know that colleagues have on the appropriate committees.”

“I know some of my colleagues who are regularly in the United States doing meetings with members of the House and the Senate on a wide range of issues have had this mentioned to them,” Kent said, referring to a recent Wall Street Journal article that says the U.S. government is reaching out to its foreign allies, urging them to avoid using telecommunications equipment from Huawei.

“The Liberals should listen to the logic of our U.S., Australian, and New Zealand allies,” Kent said in a November 29th, 2018 email to MobileSyrup.

New Zealand follows Australia, which itself followed the U.S., in banning the telecommunications giant from supplying equipment for the nation’s first 5G network out of fear of a national security breach.

According to a draft of China’s national intelligence law that was quietly released, all Chinese companies “shall support, cooperate with and collaborate in national intelligence work, and maintain the secrecy of national intelligence work they are aware of.”

Conservative MP and national security critic Pierre Paul-Hus’ office told MobileSyrup that U.S. officials did not approach him. His office said however that he was approached by Huawei officials for a meeting, but Paul-Hus refused “because we made up our mind about how we feel about Huawei.”

“Most of our allies have made it very clear that [they] see Huawei as a threat, whether it’s financial or otherwise, and [Paul-Hus] has the feeling that we need to pay close attention to this when it comes to information sharing. We need to work with our allies and we need to work as a team,” his office said in a November 23rd, 2018 phone call. “You have a majority of our allies telling us this is a threat, then we need to do our homework and until we feel there is no more threat, but until then we made taking the position that we are not going deal with them.”

Paul-Hus is also a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) and a member of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group.

In response to the developing situation, Scott Bradley, vice-president of Huawei Canada, said: “Huawei Canada will continue to work collaboratively with the Canadian government, carriers and other domestic stakeholders to take whatever steps are needed to ensure and protect the integrity of Canada’s national telecommunications infrastructure, including the rollout of 5G technology. Our highest priority is – and always has been – the security and privacy of the networks that we help to equip here in Canada.”

MPs say a ban might be good, others say more research needed

Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, taking the side of Paul-Hus and Kent, said in a November 29th, 2018 email: “Peter is a close colleague and I would agree with him.”

Zimmer, who is a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Group, said officials did not approach him.

NDP MP Matthew Dubé, also a member of the group and member of SECU, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale should take comments coming from Canada’s allies seriously.

He added that he was not convinced with Scott Jones, the head of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), who provided information on the government having testing facilities for Huawei technology.

However, Dubé said that banning might not be the right approach.

“We have other allies like the U.K…. that have seemed to find a way to work with them in a constructive way that ensures security. That’s why my response has been on the fence on this. I haven’t been convinced one way or another,” Dubé said.

Dubé added: “I certainly understand why these concerns exist and I don’t want to give Huawei a blank cheque, but I think at the same time if the government wants to give the benefit of the doubt and have us believe that the proper security protocols are in place then they need to do more to convince us as parliamentarians to reassure us and they haven’t done that.”

John McKay, the chair of SECU and a member of the group, said U.S. officials did not approach him.

He noted that it would be important to study 5G more to determine if the decision the majority of the Five Eyes countries came to is the right approach.

“I’m prepared to take that [Huawei] at face value until I have any evidence to the contrary. I’m not privy to the conversations that the minister might be having with CSE or any other security provider, so at this point, I would not diverge from the government’s approach,” McKay said to MobileSyrup in a November 23, 2018 phone call.

Telecom service providers stay quiet on ban, being approached by U.S.

All of Canada’s ‘Big Three’ carriers — Rogers, Bell and Telus — use, to some extent, Huawei equipment as part of their networking infrastructure.

On November 27th, 2018 the Globe and Mail reported that Bell and Telus were declining to comment if any U.S. officials have approached them to avoid using Huawei telecommunications equipment.

Rogers said to the Globe and Mail that U.S. officials had not been in touch with its executive team.

In October, following Australia and the U.S.’s decisions to ban Huawei, officials from Huawei Canada lobbied multiple Canadian MPs.

According to the federal lobbyists’ registry, the company lobbied NDP MP Matthew Dubé, Liberal MPs Dan Ruimy, Bryan May, Sukh Dhaliwal, John McKay and Raj Grewal, and Conservative MP Peter Kent.

On November 23rd, 2018, Kent said he felt Bradley and Jake Enwright, director of corporate affairs at Huawei Canada, approached him “because they were concerned.”

“They were trying to, I guess, protect the company’s continued work on the 5G network,” Kent said. “I wasn’t convinced because I take precautions offered by the world’s leading national security agencies.”

Bradley worked in the health minister’s office from 1994 to 1996 and later in the public services and procurement minister from 1996 to 1997. Enwright most recently was Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer’s director of media relations and issues management and has worked for the federal government since 2013.

“The gentlemen who came to my office are honourable Canadians. They said, quite passionately, ‘We would not work for a company if we thought it was a threat to Canada’s national security,’” Kent said. “I believe that they believe that, but I also believe the security cautions offered by the top intelligence agencies in the world.”

“It would be absolutely disastrous if Canada were to be sidelined in terms of working with our allies in areas of national security going ahead knowing the challenges we know today,” Kent said.

Goodale’s office, CSE, stay mum on U.S. officials

Huawei has operated in Canada since 2008 and employs nearly 1,000 individuals. It told MobileSyrup during its 10-year anniversary celebration in October that it is currently working with 13 universities across Canada and plans on investing $37-million into research partnerships with its universities.

But Canada has not allowed Huawei to bid on any federal government contracts, and in September 2018, the CSE confirmed that it tests and evaluates “designated equipment and services considered for use on Canadian 3G and 4G/LTE networks, including Huawei.”

“As part of its cybersecurity mandate, CSE works with telecommunications service providers representing over 99 percent of Canadian subscribers,” a CSE spokesperson told MobileSyrup at the time. “In this role, CSE provides advice and guidance to mitigate supply chain risks in telecommunications infrastructures which Canadians rely on.”

MobileSyrup asked CSE if any U.S. officials have cautioned the committee, but it did not directly respond to the question and added that the federal government plans to undertake a review of 5G technology.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that the government plans to review 5G communications and technology.

Goodale’s office did not respond if U.S. officials approached him.

His office said, “the government continues to work closely with a wide range of partners and stakeholders… and will continue to contribute to the development of cybersecurity best practices that can be promoted in the interests of Canada’s national security.”

“While we cannot provide details on specific companies, products or providers, we are of course following developments on this issue,” a spokesperson from Goodale’s office said in a November 28th, 2018 email.

Correction 29/11/2018 8:27pm: A previous version of this article indicated that Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus was approached by U.S. officials. His office corrected the statement to reflect that he was approached by Huawei officials, and never was approached by U.S. officials.