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RCMP scraps tech contract worth $550K with firm tied to China after outcry

Click to play video: 'Poilievre ridicules recent reports of RCMP contract being awarded to company with alleged Chinese ties'
Poilievre ridicules recent reports of RCMP contract being awarded to company with alleged Chinese ties
WATCH: Poilievre ridicules recent reports of RCMP contract being awarded to company with alleged Chinese ties – Dec 7, 2022

The RCMP says it is suspending a radio communications contract with an Ontario-based company that has ties to China amid concerns of foreign interference.

A spokesperson for the police force confirmed to Global News late Thursday it has suspended the Oct. 2021 contract with Sinclair Technologies, which designs and manufactures communications products for radio frequency equipment, “until further notice” pending a review of installed equipment.

A statement from Cpl. Kim Chamberland said while RCMP radio communications “are protected by end-to-end encryption” and radio frequency filtration equipment “poses no security concerns” or allows access to those communications, the equipment will be reviewed “to determine if any further action is required.”

The suspension of the contract was confirmed earlier Thursday by Pam Damoff, who serves as parliamentary secretary to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, during question period in the House of Commons.

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“The RCMP have confirmed that the contract with Sinclair Technologies has been suspended and that they’re conducting further reviews to ensure that the integrity of our infrastructure is in place,” Damoff said.

Read more: National Defence to probe past contracts awarded to firm now tied to China

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Public Services and Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek also said during question period that her ministry will “look very closely” at its procedures for awarding contracts “with the greatest intensity to ensure (the) security of our infrastructure.”

Protecting the RCMP’s land-based radio communications from eavesdropping was one of the system’s purposes. The $549,637 contract was valid until March 31, 2024.

Sinclair’s parent company, Norsat International, was purchased by Hytera Communications in 2017. The Chinese government owns about 10 per cent of Hytera through an investment fund, Radio-Canada reported on Dec. 7. That firm is blacklisted over national security concerns by the United States Federal Communications Commission.

Hytera faces 21 charges related to espionage in the United States for allegedly stealing technology from Motorola Solutions. The company was charged in February. It was blacklisted in 2021 alongside ZTE and Huawei. Those two companies were banned from participating in the development of the Canada’s 5G telecommunications network in May.

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Click to play video: 'Feds will ‘absolutely follow up’ after RCMP equipment installed by Chinese company with ties to CCP: Trudeau'
Feds will ‘absolutely follow up’ after RCMP equipment installed by Chinese company with ties to CCP: Trudeau

The ministry of public services and procurement told Radio-Canada it did not take security concerns and Sinclair’s ownership into consideration during the bidding process.

That revelation drew criticism in Ottawa, and a promised review by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose government recently unveiled a policy reset on how Canada handles investment, co-operation, competition and strategic challenges posed by China.

Damoff and Jaczek on Thursday were both responding to questions from Conservative MPs who hammered the government over the contract’s national security implications.

Those criticisms continued after the cabinet officials’ confirmations.

“Why is (our prime minister) always so feeble when it comes to standing up to the regime in China?” Luc Berthold asked in French.

Click to play video: 'Poilievre ridicules recent reports of RCMP contract being awarded to company with alleged Chinese ties'
Poilievre ridicules recent reports of RCMP contract being awarded to company with alleged Chinese ties

Sinclair Technologies has been awarded 24 government contracts by Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) since 2009. Sinclair has done work for the RCMP, the Department of National Defence (DND) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

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The majority of the 11 RCMP contracts awarded to Sinclair over the years were for “antennas, waveguides and related equipment.” Two contracts were given for “radio and television communications equipment, except airborne.” While some RCMP contracts have no value associated with them, one contract that was awarded in 2013 and expired in 2018 was worth $1.5 million.

Sinclair was awarded a contract for Fisheries and Ocean in 2019 to do structural and prefabricated work. The contract was worth $93,020 and expired in 2020.

Meanwhile, Sinclair was given 12 contracts worth a total of $252,296 for work between 2009 and 2013. National Defence headquarters, Maritime Forces Atlantic, Canadian Special Operations Forces Command headquarters and CFB Esquimalt were listed as the primary end users.

A department official told Global News the contracts appeared to be mainly for antenna devices that amplify and receive but don’t transmit information. DND has launched an investigation into the contracts.

“We are aware of the concerns surrounding Sinclair Technologies. We are investigating these procurements and the way in which this equipment is used, alongside counterparts in other government departments,” a DND spokesperson said Thursday.

“The government will take all measures necessary to ensure the security of our infrastructure.”

— with files from The Associated Press

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