Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says he wants to “decouple” the idea that there are connections between China’s arbitrary detention of the two Michaels, and Canada’s delayed decision to ban Huawei.
At the same time, he acknowledged in an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson there were “geopolitical” questions that needed to be addressed before making a decision.
“We were always anxious to make it but it required taking a look at the technology, also assessing the geopolitical landscape, as you alluded to in your introduction,” he said, referring to Stephenson’s opening to the interview.
In that, she had noted the decision after years of “geopolitical maneuvering and delays because Beijing arbitrarily detained two Canadians for more than 1,000 days.”
She then asked why the decision was coming now, months after Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were freed in September 2021 in what was widely viewed as retaliation by China for Canada arresting Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of U.S. authorities.
“Well, I want to make sure that we decouple the situation with the two Michaels — and we’re obviously very pleased that they were released — with the review of these two particular actors,” Mendicino said.
“So there’s no relationship between the timing there?” Stephenson asked.
“No, there’s not. And what we used the time for was to review the technology, to review these two particular actors and their relationship with foreign governments,” he said.
“We took the time that was necessary to get the decision right.”
Canada has been probing Huawei equipment since roughly 2013 but in 2018 launched a national security review into how to secure the 5G network, which looked at Huawei as well.
In May 2019, former public safety minister Ralph Goodale had said a decision was likely before the federal election in September 2019, but by June of that year said it would be delayed.
Canada arrested Meng in December 2019 and within days, China had detained Kovrig and Spavor.
The two men were released on Sept. 25, 2021, and just three days later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he expected Canada’s decision on Huawei would be out “‘within coming weeks.”
Eight months later, Canadians now have an answer: Huawei and ZTE, a partially state-owned Chinese firm, will be barred from Canadian telecommunications networks.
That includes an order for telecommunications firms that already use Huawei in their 3G and 4G networks to rip it out and replace it, without government compensation.
As Global News has reported, Canadian telecom companies bought $700 million worth of Huawei gear between 2018 and 2020 even as the fate of the company remained unclear.
According to the Huawei/ZTE policy issued by the government on Thursday, Canadian telecom firms must stop buying Huawei or ZTE gear for their 4G or 5G networks by Sept. 1, 2022.
“The use of new 5G equipment and managed services from Huawei and ZTE will be prohibited and existing 5G equipment and managed services must be removed or terminated by June 28, 2024,” the policy states.
“Any use of new 4G equipment and managed services from Huawei and ZTE will be prohibited and any existing 4G equipment and managed services must be removed or terminated by December 31, 2027.”
In the meantime, any companies using that gear must comply with “any assurance requirements prescribed by the government, building from the Communications Security Establishment’s Security Review Program.”
The CSE is Canada’s signals intelligence agency responsible for the security of government networks and critical infrastructure.
Canada is the last of the Five Eyes allies to restrict or ban Huawei from its networks.
The Chinese embassy on Friday called the decision “erroneous.”