Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains says China is “applying pressure” on Canada to integrate Huawei technology into its 5G network, as it remains the only Five Eyes nation yet to make a decision about the scope of its involvement.
The other four members of the global intelligence alliance — Australia, the United States, New Zealand and most recently the United Kingdom — have all made some indication about whether they will outright ban China’s Huawei’s technology or apply it in a some capacity.
“Clearly they are applying pressure, and they recognize that they need to get ahead of this technology and this is, in a geopolitical context, a very important issue and there are many factors that we’re taking into consideration,” said Bains in an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday.
The Liberal government has maintained that security of Canadians is of upmost importance when deciding on who will provide 5G telecom infrastructure.
Bains said Canada won’t be “bullied or pressured” by other countries on this issue.
“We’re an independent, sovereign country, We will decide on our own terms when we want to move forward and proceed with this decision, and we will share that with Canadians. But make no mistake and when it comes to the safety and security of Canadians, that’s going to be the central deciding component of how we move forward on rolling out 5G,” he said.
Tensions between Canada and China grow more tense by the day, complicating an already fraught decision.
Late May, Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou lost a major court battle when a B.C. judged ruled her extradition case should proceed, meaning she wasn’t allowed to return to China.
On Friday, Chinese prosecutors formally laid spying charges against two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — who have been detained in a Chinese jail for more than 550 days. The arrest of Spavor and Kovrig is widely seen as a retaliatory move by the Chinese following Meng’s arrest just days prior.
The two Michaels have had no access to lawyers or their families as of May, with the exception of a phone call the Chinese embassy said Kovrig was allowed to make to his sick father in mid-March. Consular visits have also been suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reflected on the situation of the Canadian detainees later on Friday, saying he was “disappointed” by the charges laid.
“I can assure you that we have developed a certain expertise in what has worked to get Canadians home in very difficult circumstances over the past year,” said the prime minister during his daily press briefing.
“In the case of the two Michaels, I can say that we are using a wide range of public and private measures to ensure that everything is being done to get these Michaels home.”
Bains echoed these remarks.
“We’ve been applying a lot of pressure and we’re going to continue to advocate for the immediate release,” he said. “Bottom line we will do whatever it takes to make sure we get those Canadians back home safely.”