EDITORIAL: The right call on Huawei ban

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It finally happened. The federal Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has banned Huawei from our 5G network.

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This is the right call. The decision is a victory for Canada.

Both Huawei Technologies and ZTE (which is partially owned by the Chinese state) will soon be banned from participating in Canada’s 5G wireless networks.

The decision doesn’t come into effect immediately. Rather, companies must cease procurement of new equipment from Huawei and ZTE by this September, but they are only required to stop using their 5G equipment by June 2024.

They also must stop using Huawei or ZTE 4G equipment by the end of 2027.

“We took this decision to make sure that Canadians remain safe, that our telecommunication networks and our businesses remain secure, and it is the right decision to take for Canada’s interests,” Trudeau said on Friday.

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In these comments, the PM is acknowledging what a number of our allies — most vocally the United States — have been saying to us for the past couple of years: That Huawei technology could pose a security risk and a threat to Canadian interests (although the company denies it).

The concerns stem from the fact that a company so heavily connected to the authoritarian Chinese Communist regime should not have its technology so deeply embedded into Canada’s telecom system and into the daily lives of Canadians and Canadian businesses.

Trudeau acknowledged these concerns, saying at a press conference that: “One of the big preoccupations around this, is the coming in of 5G networks which will feature far more ubiquitous as connections to the internet… It’s moving towards the internet of things, and it makes it extremely important to ensure that as we start into this 5G world, we’re able to from the outset protect Canadian safety and security.”

The Internet of Things is the term used to describe what will happen when more of our electronics and basic appliances are online.

The notion of a microwave eavesdropping or sabotaging a homeowner sounds like a ridiculous science fiction plot device, but it’s also something that security analysts are reflecting seriously on as a potential future challenge.

Trudeau has rightly been criticized for being too soft on China in the past. Let’s hope this decision signals a change in broader policy.

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