With the US Intelligence Committee issuing a scathing report on Chinese technology giant, Huawei, and also warning Canadian companies and the Canadian government to avoid doing business with the state-controlled firm, the question is whether those warnings are being heeded or if they are being brushed off and ignored.
Seen as a national security threat, the Intelligence Committee recommended keeping Huawei as far away from vital technology infrastructure as possible, the fear being that information could be sent back to the Chinese Communist government by state-controlled Huawei. In Canada, Huawei has already gained a presence in Ontario, where Premier Dalton McGuinty actively wooed the company to set up shop. Those 400 jobs at the Huawei location seem to be something he is especially proud of. Huawei also has established a foothold with four Canadian telecom companies – Bell, Telus, the Telus subsidiary WindMobile, and our very own SaskTel. While Premier Wall insists that Huawei is providing infrastructure and services for non-critical components, SaskTel President and CEO Ron Styles was extremely uncomfortable when asked whether CSIS had been in contact with the company in regards to the SaskTel-Huawei partnership.
In the wake of the US report, the federal government has also come under scrutiny in regards to a new secure government communications network that Canada is looking to build. The previous one was completely destroyed by cyber-attacks, which have been speculated to have originated in China. So far it is unclear if the federal government will ban Huawei from bidding for this secure network or not. In the US and Australia, Huawei is banned from bidding for contracts or installing and operating any of its components on telecommunications networks.
Are the levels of government doing enough to protect us? Likely not. The Nexen oil company deal is still on the table and would give Chinese state-controlled China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) access to the Canadian oil sands in Alberta. That all levels of Canadian government are openly courting companies such as CNOOC and Huawei is by no means a secret. Yet, this strategy is a dangerous one. Beijing is an unpredictable partner and one who does not play by the rules. Western companies have suffered infringements of all types to intellectual property. Some industry specialists also speculate that former Canadian telecom giant Nortel was actively being attacked and infiltrated by Huawei in the early 2000s, just before the company collapsed.
Our governments should protect our personal information and us. The integrity of the Canadian state and its national security should be a top priority at all times. Too many of our leaders simply shrug off the possibility of a threat to our personal data, which we believe to be secure. When our national spy agency raises a concern that working with a company such as Huawei is not in the nation’s best interest, politicians and company executives should take note of that.. If our government is actively trying to recruit threats to do business in Canada instead of keeping them out, what type of government do we have? A rather poor one I would say. It is too bad that the Conservative government is more interested in helping its business buddies than in protecting Canadians and their personal information.