Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada took longer that its allies did to ban Chinese firms Huawei Technologies and ZTE from Canada’s 5G networks because the government wanted to make sure it was making the right move.
Speaking in Sept-Îles Que. on Friday, Trudeau said the decision will serve to “ensure the safety of Canadians” online.
“We took the time to carefully analyze the situation, look at all sorts of factors, to look very closely at what our allies and partners were doing around the world in regards to telecommunications safety,” he said.
The ban puts Canada in line with key intelligence allies like the United States, which have expressed concerns about the national security implications of giving the Chinese tech giant access to key infrastructure.
Canada is the last member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance — which includes the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand — to impose the ban.
Critics warned that Huawei’s participation in Canada’s 5G networks could give the company an inside look at how, when and where Canadians use internet-connected devices — and that the Chinese government could force the company to hand over that personal information.
The government is also banning ZTE, another Chinese state-backed telecommunications firm. Companies will have until June 28, 2024 to remove or terminate 5G equipment from Huawei and ZTE.
They’ll also have to remove or terminate any existing 4G equipment provided by the companies by Dec. 31, 2027. A government policy statement says Ottawa expects companies to stop purchasing new 4G or 5G equipment from the companies by September of this year.
More cyber security initiatives coming: PM
Trudeau said that to ensure Canada’s economy and telecommunications networks are safe, his government is working with financial institutions and companies across the country to boost cybersecurity.
“We’ve continued to invest more and more in cyber defence, in cyber capabilities and we will do more, whether it’s legislation or further investments or better and stronger partnerships,” he said.
The U.S. State Department said Friday it welcomes Canada’s decision to ban Huawei Technologies and ZTE from its next-generation mobile networks.
In a statement, the State Department said it supports efforts around the world to ensure consumers and customers can trust their wireless networks and providers. It said it will continue to collaborate with Canada and other allies to ensure shared security in the 5G era.
The U.S. first began restricting domestic firms from doing business with Huawei back in 2019 and has been waiting for Canada to follow suit ever since.
During his confirmation hearing in September, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen suggested Washington was growing impatient with the delay.
“We are all waiting for Canada to release its framework for its overall China policy,” Cohen said last year before he was confirmed.