Canada’s Slow Huawei 5G Decision Not Related to Detained Michaels, Says Minister

Canada’s Public Safety Minister said during a recent interview the government’s decision to ban Huawei from 5G networks was delayed due to the political and technological implications of the move–and not because of China’s previous detainment of Canadian journalists Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig (via CTV News).

Spavor and Kovrig were detained by Chinese authorities after Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the Vancouver International Airport in December 2018 pending extradition to the U.S.

The journalists remained incarcerated for more than 1,000 days. The two men were released in September 2021 after Meng struck a deal with the U.S. to drop the bank fraud charges against her.

When asked if the negotiations to free the two Michaels contributed to the delay, the minister Marco Mendicino said simply, “no.”

“This is sophisticated technology and it is a very complex geopolitical environment in which we live… We had to get it right. We were anxious, we were eager to make sure that we could communicate what that statement of intent was,” he said.

Mendicino and Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne last week announced a ban on Huawei and ZTE gear in Canada’s 5G network.

Ottawa dragged its feet on a definitive decision for about three years, falling well behind its Five Eyes allies in restricting the Chinese equipment manufacturer’s access to its wireless networks.

The federal government’s “policy statement” outlines national security concerns associated with network gear from Chinese manufacturers.

“The Government of Canada has conducted an extensive examination of 5G wireless technology and the various technical, economic and national security aspects of 5G implementation. The examination made clear that while this technology will bring significant benefits and economic opportunities, the technology will also introduce new security concerns that malicious actors could exploit,” it reads.

Canadian telecommunications companies are now barred from purchasing new 4G or 5G network equipment from Huawei and ZTE beyond September 2022.

Telcos have until June 2024 to decommission and remove gear from either manufacturer from their 5G networks, which according to Ottawa there isn’t a lot of. Canadian operators have until December 2027 to pull Huawei/ZTE equipment out of their 4G infrastructure.

Telus and Bell have Huawei 4G hardware installed and have reportedly asked for taxpayer compensation for the equipment removal. However, the minister said last week that won’t happen.

Mendicino added that while the government has issued deadlines, the work “can be done more quickly.”

China blasted the federal government’s decision in a series of tweets on Friday, saying it “fragrantly” overstretches the concept of national security.

“China will evaluate this development in a comprehensive and serious manner and take all necessary measures to protect the legitimate and legal rights and interests of Chinese enterprises,” reads one of the tweets.

On the threat of Chinese retaliation, the public safety minister said the government is always on “high alert.”