Canada to ban China’s Huawei, ZTE from 5G networks over national security concerns
The Canadian government announced on Thursday that it is banning Chinese telecommunications firms Huawei and ZTE from its fifth generation (5G) infrastructure to protect national security.
Announcing the ban in a statement, the minister of innovation, science and industry François-Philippe Champagne said, “Today, the Government of Canada is ensuring the long term safety of our telecommunications infrastructure. As part of that, the government intends to prohibit the inclusion of Huawei and ZTE products and services in Canada’s telecommunications systems.”
He said the decision followed a review by Canadian security agencies and in consultation with its closest allies.
As a result, he added, telecommunications companies operating in Canada will “no longer be permitted to make use of designated equipment or services provided by Huawei and ZTE.
“And, companies that already use this equipment installed in their networks will be “required to cease its use and remove it.”
After an extensive review, Ottawa was “taking the necessary steps to protect Canadians and our telecommunications infrastructure,” minister of public safety Marco Mendocino said in a post on Twitter.
“In the 21st century, cybersecurity is national security. And it’s our government’s responsibility to protect Canadians from growing cyber threats,” he added.
Of the Five Eyes group of nations - US, UK, Australia and New Zealand - Canada was the last one to announce restrictions on Huawei.
A statement issued by Champagne’s department - innovation, science and economic development Canada - noted that given the greater interconnectedness and interdependence of 5G networks, “a breach or exploitation in this environment would have a more significant impact on the safety and security of Canadians and Canadian critical infrastructure than in previous network generations.”
The optimise economic and social benefits of 5G technology, Canada “must continue to secure the foundation of its telecommunications system and adapt to the changing technological and threat environment.”
The review found that 5G technology would “introduce new security concerns that malicious actors could exploit.”
Without naming China, the statement said, “The Government of Canada has serious concerns about suppliers such as Huawei and ZTE who could be compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws or would be detrimental to Canadian interests.”
Consequently, 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 same conditions will apply to 4G, though the deadline for that is December 31, 2027. It expects telecom service providers to stop procurement of equipment and services from these companies by September 1, 2022.
“These measures will be implemented as part of a new telecommunications security framework,” the statement said.
The announcement was long expected as Ottawa had been reviewing the matter for over three years.
Relations between Canada and China have deteriorated in recent times, since senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver in 2018 on charges of allegedly defrauding a financial institution to bypass sanctions upon the Iranian regime.
Days later, two Canadians, including a former diplomat was arrested by China. Trudeau described that as “hostage diplomacy”. After more than 1000 days in captivity and being charged with spying, the two were released in September last year in what was seen as an exchange of prisoners and Meng also flew back to China after agreeing to a plea deal with American prosecutors.
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