BY: LEO KNIGHT
The federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said this week that he expected a decision on whether the government will allow the Huawei Chinese tech giant to provide the 5G technology to Canada to be made before the next federal election.
At first blush one would wonder what the heck is the hold up?
In July 2018, a meeting was held in Canada between the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ partners in sharing intelligence. The Five Eyes are the U.S., the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada who collect and share raw intelligence, primarily signals intelligence or SIGINT.
The group had its genesis in the wake of the Second World War when it became apparent that the then Soviet Union would be an adversary of the West. While there is some intelligence sharing with other countries like France, Germany and Japan and NATO in general, SIGINT developed by the Five Eyes is largely kept within the group.
The intelligence chiefs of the Five Eyes attended this meeting last July and the principle piece of the discussion was Huawei and how they might contain its growth. Principally, not to let them provide the 5G infrastructure technology to their countries.
While there are varying levels of concern in these countries about the risk Huawei poses, there is consensus about the ties to the government of the People’s Republic of China. Chief among them is the possibility that a firm tied to the PRC could threaten infrastructure grids.
In a report in the Wall Street Journal the Australian Signals Intelligence Director General Michael Burgess warned that the entire transport and utility grids were vulnerable to attack if a company like Huawei had access to the networks.
This is not pie-in-the-sky stuff. There has been concerns among western governments about Huawei for more than a decade. In 2012, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the U.S. Congress held hearings about Huawei and another Chinese tech company ZTE to try and understand the potential threat.
A couple of key findings of that committee’s report stand out.
1) “the Committee finds that Huawei did not fully cooperate with the investigation and was unwilling to explain its relationship with the Chinese government or the Chinese Communist Party.
2) Huawei admits that the Chinese Communist Party maintains a Party Committee within the company.
There’s more in the 52 page report from the Committee, but that alone raised the red flags. Huawei for its part claims independence from the Chinese state, but anyone with a knowledge of China and how it operates knows that is highly unlikely.
The chief concern about the provision of 5G network technology is the potential for so-called backdoors that could allow Chinese cyber geeks to spy on the west or in the extreme situation to attack networks and, for example, take down the hydro grid or all air traffic communications.
So, with that as a possibility, or perhaps even probability, that exists, why would a decision by the Public Safety Minister be so difficult?
Now, I expect little from Goodale. He has been an MP since he was first elected in 1974 at the age of 24 when Trudeau The Elder was the Prime Minister. He has never held a job in his life. He has been ensconced in Liberal politics his whole adult life.
But even his current job title as the Public Safety Minister should tell him that his role is to look after the security of the nation. How then can he even consider Huawei as the supplier of 5G technology given the risks as stated by the Five Eyes and investigated by the U.S. Congress? Especially when there are other more palatable options.
Why would he risk our relationship with the member nations of the Five Eyes or indeed, would they consider cutting Canada out of that group if he decides to accept Huawei?
The risks of allowing Huawei to control our 5G networks are too great.
This should be a no-brainer.