Parliament Passes Motion to Force Government's Hand on Huawei, Beijing Interference

Parliament Passes Motion to Force Government's Hand on Huawei, Beijing Interference
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau answers a question during question period in the House ofd Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 21, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Justina Wheale

The federal government will need to decide within 30 days whether Huawei should be banned from participating in Canada's 5G networks, as a vote passed in Parliament on Wednesday requiring the Liberals to declare their position on the matter.

The Tories introduced a motion on Nov. 17 that would require the government to make the long-awaited decision on Huawei, while also calling on the government to follow its allies to develop a plan to combat China’s growing foreign interference operations in Canada.

The non-binding motion passed in Parliament on Nov. 18 with 179 MPs voting in favour and 146 against. The motion was supported by the majority of MPs in all opposition parties as well as five Liberal MPs, while the majority of Liberals, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, voted against it.

Conservative opposition leader Erin O'Toole said his party raised the motion because Canada needs a new strategy for relations with China and the Liberals have not done enough to stand up to its intimidation of Canada.

China has imprisoned two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in apparent retaliation for the RCMP arresting Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou nearly two years ago on a U.S. extradition warrant.

The United States is pressuring Canada and its allies in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network to ban Huawei because it views the company as an espionage arm of the Chinese state. Huawei was founded by a former officer of the People’s Liberation Army and has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Canada is the only country out of the members of the Five Eyes not to ban or plan to ban the company from its 5G networks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was noncommittal Tuesday on the timing of his government's long-awaited 5G decision. He reiterated his government's position that it is relying on the advice of security and intelligence agencies, is consulting with allies, and is committed to keeping Canadians and their businesses safe.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said during question period on Nov. 17 that he is open to working with the Conservatives on national security and foreign policy and would be prepared to propose constructive amendments moving forward.

Champagne said the government is working on a new plan to deal with China because China is not the same country it was four years ago and Canada needs a plan to respond to the “new reality.''

In addition to the decision on Huawei, Canada must develop a “robust plan” to counter China’s subversive operations in Canada “through its agents and foreign operations here on our soil,” said Michael Chong, Conservative shadow minister for foreign affairs, in a speech in the House of Commons on Nov. 17.

He said a new framework for dealing with China is required in light of competing and urgent risks: China is failing to uphold its responsibility to the rules-based international system by ignoring its condition of entry into the World Trade Organization, manipulating its currency using state-owned enterprises to interfere in other countries’ economies, and infringing on intellectual property.

The Chinese regime is also “violating international law” in its treatment of Kovrig and Spavor and other imprisoned Canadians, and in its treatment of the people of Hong Kong and religious and ethnic minorities, he said.

With files from The Canadian Press