TORONTO — Before the arrest of Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last weekend, the Chinese company wasn’t a household name in Canada — certainly not in the league of an Apple, Samsung or BlackBerry.
However, the Chinese tech giant considered by several of Canada’s allies as a security threat has quietly established itself as an important provider of technology essential to Canada’s telecom infrastructure, a situation that is not likely to change any time soon.
Huawei’s share of the Canadian smartphone market has been tiny — about 3.8 per cent, according to market research from IDC Canada — but outside of Canada the company is a juggernaut, overtaking Apple earlier this year in smartphone sales and employing more than 170,000 people around the world.
Founded in 1987 by a former officer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, the company has grown at an explosive rate over the past ten years and is projected to post sales of more than US$102 billion in 2018.
For Canada’s telecom industry and the federal government in Ottawa, Huawei has long been known as an important equipment supplier — one that U.S. officials consider a significant threat to national security.
That’s largely because Huawei is a major supplier of the equipment needed for wireless networks that could potentially be used to gather sensitive information for the Chinese government.
“There is ample evidence to suggest that no major Chinese company is independent of the Chinese government and Communist Party — and Huawei, which China’s government and military tout as a ‘national champion’ is no exception,” U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio wrote in October in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
However, Canadian officials and representatives of major telecom companies have maintained that they have put safeguards in place — long ago, and before the American alarm — to ensure Huawei isn’t a security or privacy threat.
Like Canada, the United Kingdom hasn’t moved to ban Huawei from doing business with their networks — despite U.S. warnings that they may be jeopardizing the “Five Eyes” intelligence gathering partnership.
Lawrence Surtees, vice-president for communications research at IDC Canada, says Britain and Canada are the second and third most important Five Eyes partners after the United States and ahead of Australia and New Zealand.
“My take is, both Ottawa and London are in a position to say … we do lots with you in the intelligence sharing and we’re not going to jeopardize our networks. We know what to do.”
Surtees says Huawei equipment has already been used in at least five Canadian wireless networks that use fourth-generation LTE technology, and it would be expensive to replace.
Huawei is also working with Bell and Telus to develop equipment for 5G wireless networks that are expected to become increasingly vital to carriers and their customers over the next decade.
“The magnitude of the contracts that Huawei has here would be a factor, with the Canadian carriers saying to Ottawa that it’s kind of too late now,” Surtees says.
There are very few alternative suppliers of 5G network equipment to chose from, he adds.
Ericsson of Sweden, the main equipment supplier for the Rogers wireless networks, and Nokia of Finland are also global players in Canada but Surtees considers Huawei to be the market leader.
It has been in operation in Canada since 2008, and currently employs about 960 people in this country — about 600 in research and development.
Huawei’s Canadian head office is in the Toronto area in Markham, Ont. while its Canada Research Centre is based in Ottawa. The company also has research facilities in Markham, Waterloo, Ont., Montreal, Vancouver and Edmonton.
Huawei also makes smartphones for current wireless networks, sold in Canada by Bell, Rogers, Telus, and Videotron under their main brands as well as some secondary brands such as Virgin Mobile, Fido and Koodo.
David Paddon, The Canadian Press
Military faces calls to train soldiers to identify neo-Nazis, hate-group members
OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is facing calls to train its recruiters and other service members to identify and screen out members of hate groups.
The military is also being accused of failing to take the issue seriously by adopting what several experts say is a wait-and-see approach rather than actively weeding out such individuals.
The criticism follows an internal military report and several high-profile incidents linking some service members to right-wing extremists and hate groups.
That includes an investigation this week into a reservist in Manitoba who is suspected of being a recruiter for a neo-Nazi group.
The Defence Department says the military already uses interviews and background checks to screen recruits for hateful beliefs and behaviour and takes very seriously any reported incidents by current personnel.
But several experts tell The Canadian Press that is not good enough, and that the military must launch a campaign similar to efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct to truly root out extremist beliefs and behaviour.
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Liberals unhurt, Tories not helped by scathing SNC-Lavalin report: Poll
OTTAWA — A new poll suggests a scathing ethics report on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall — and it hasn’t helped the Conservatives.
Indeed, the Leger poll suggests the two parties were locked in a dead heat, with the support of 33 per cent of voters, as they jockey for position at the starting gate for the Oct. 21 vote.
Liberal support was unchanged from last month, despite last week’s damning report from federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion, who concluded that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by pressuring his former attorney general to halt a criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.
Conservative support was down three percentage points from last month, despite the party’s best efforts to re-ignite public outrage over the SNC affair, which propelled the Tories into a commanding 13-point lead over the Grits at the height of the controversy last April.
The poll put support for the Green party at 13 per cent, up one point and ahead of the NDP at 11 per cent. Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party of Canada stood at four per cent.
The online survey of 1,535 eligible voters was conducted Aug. 16-19 for The Canadian Press and weighted to reflect the makeup of Canada’s population. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.
Leger executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the latest results suggest voters have largely put the SNC-Lavalin affair behind them and moved on to issues that affect them more directly — at least for now.
The two main parties are back in a “neck-and-neck race,” which is where things stood in February before the SNC controversy rocked the Liberal government, costing Trudeau two cabinet ministers, his most trusted aide and the country’s top public servant.
“I think that those who changed their mind on the PM and turned their backs on him did that in the spring already,” Bourque said in an interview.
But he said other Canadians appear to be fatigued with the issue and may be thinking “regardless of what I think of the behaviour of the PM, at the end of the day how does this change my life and that of my children, which is nil.”
Still, Bourque warned that “doesn’t mean that it won’t come back to haunt the prime minister” during the campaign, particularly should the RCMP decide to investigate, as Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has repeatedly pressed the Mounties to do.
The Conservatives and New Democrats tried to revive the controversy at a meeting Wednesday of the House of Commons ethics committee, where they moved to invite Dion, Trudeau and others to testify about the ethics report.
However, the Liberals used their majority on the committee to block the bid to magnify the report just a couple of weeks before Trudeau officially fires the starting gun for the election.
The poll put the Liberals back into a solid lead in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. The Conservatives enjoyed a commanding lead in Alberta and Manitoba/Saskatchewan, with 55 per cent support in both regions.
The Liberals had the advantage in the two most populous provinces, where more than half of the country’s 338 seats will be up for grabs.
In Ontario, home to more than one-third of the seats, the Conservatives appear to be suffering a “spillover effect” from the unpopularity of Doug Ford’s provincial Progressive Conservative government, Bourque said. The Liberals enjoyed the support of 38 per cent of Ontarians, compared to the Conservatives’ 30 per cent, the Green’s 14 per cent, the NDP’s 13 per cent and the People’s party’s three per cent.
In Quebec, home to SNC-Lavalin, the Liberals stood at 34 per cent, compared to the Tories’ 27, the Bloc Quebecois’ 18, the Greens’ nine, the NDP’s eight and the People’s party’s four per cent.
Dion concluded that Trudeau broke ethics law by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene to stop the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin on corruption charges related to contracts in Libya.
Trudeau has acknowledged that he wanted Wilson-Raybould to reconsider her refusal to overturn a decision by the director of public prosecutions, who decided last fall not to invite the Montreal-based engineering and construction giant to negotiate a remediation agreement. Such an agreement would have allowed the company to avoid the risk of a criminal conviction, which would result in it being barred from federal contracts for 10 years.
While he has taken full responsibility for the mistakes that were made, Trudeau has refused to apologize. He has insisted that he was only standing up for the interests of SNC-Lavalin’s 9,000 employees, pensioners and suppliers, who stood to be negatively affected by the potentially crippling cost of a conviction.
Scheer maintains Dion’s report suggests the prime minister’s conduct went beyond a violation of ethics law and warrants a criminal investigation into possible obstruction of justice.
Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet over the affair in late February, followed shortly by cabinet ally Jane Philpott. Both women were subsequently booted out of the Liberal caucus and are running for re-election as Independent candidates.
Joan Bryden , The Canadian Press
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