Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been sent a letter from American politicians urging Canada to ban equipment from Chinese company Huawei from Canadian wireless networks.
Senators Marco Rubio (a Republican) and Mark Warner (a Democrat) co-authored the letter, obtained by Global News, which cites “grave concerns” about the possibility of Chinese government interference.
Security experts have previously raised concerns in recent years that Beijing could order the firm to spy on the communications of people using the company’s devices in other countries. Another concern is that the Chinese government could order Huawaei to disable the devices entirely.
The company has become increasingly entwined with telecom network development in Canada as a key supplier of parts to Bell, Telus and Rogers.
But Rubio and Warner are asking Canada to make sure the company’s equipment isn’t part of the country’s plan to update its wireless network.
“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party,” they wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by The Globe and Mail.
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“We are concerned about the impact that any decision to include Huawei in Canada’s 5G networks will have on both Canadian national security and ‘Five Eyes’ joint intelligence cooperation among the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.”
Australia banned Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE, from building their 5G network in August, citing security concerns. China responded by banning the Australia national broadcaster, ABC, from airing in the country.
The U.S. banned the sale of Huawei and ZTE phones on military bases.
That move came earlier this year, after Congress heard from the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency that Americans should not use phones by the brands because of the risk they could be spied on by the Chinese.
The pair also cited Scott Jones, the designated new head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security, who told the House of Commons that banning Huawei is not necessary.
“In contrast to Mr. Scott’s comments, however, three former senior Canadian national security officials warned earlier this year against the inclusion of Huawei in Canada’s 5G network,” they wrote.
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Neither Huawei nor the Prime Minister’s Office has responded to a request for comment from Global News as of time of publication.
Asked about the issue in August, Trudeau said decisions would be made on the available evidence.
“We will make decisions based on the facts, on evidence and what is in the best interests of Canadians,” Trudeau said at the time.
Canada’s 5G network has not yet been built. Innovation minister Navdeep Bains has said the country will auction off wireless spectrum for the 5G network in 2020, which would imply it will be up and running by then.
— with files from Amanda Connolly