After more than 25 years in politics, Wayne Easter knows the political journalists on Parliament Hill well.
So it’s probably no coincidence that Easter’s recent criticism of a federal research partnership with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei caught the attention of Robert Fife and Steven Chase, two prominent political journalists for The Globe and Mail.
In an article published by the Globe on Tuesday at Easter, the MP for Malpeque, Prince Edward Island, said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had advised universities against collaborating with Huawei, which is said to have links close with the Chinese government.
Easter said the research partnership with Huawei could pose a risk to Canadian security.
“Maybe I was a little aggressive in my comments. But it’s good, it goes with the territory, ”Easter told The Guardian Thursday.
The Federal Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is currently partnering with Huawei to fund research projects in computer and electrical engineering.
The partnership would involve Canadian universities. The Globe reported that NSERC provided $ 4.8 million for the partnership.
Easter said intelligence agencies in other countries, including the rest of the “Five Eyes” – an intelligence collaboration involving Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States – have banned the use of Huawei technology in its 5G networks.
“Huawei has successfully embarked on academic research programs through some national agencies,” Easter said.
“Look, the rest of our five eye partners are turning away from Huawei. And we better give this approach some serious thought. “
Security officials have feared for years that Huawei phones and gear could be used for espionage. The company’s ties to the Chinese government have also come under scrutiny.
Huawei CEO Meng Wanzhou was detained in 2018 in Richmond, B.C. She is currently fighting an extradition order to the United States linked to fraud and conspiracy charges.
Easter said he was not the only member of the Liberal caucus who was concerned about the NSERC-Huawei partnership or Canada’s ties to China.
The Federal Standing Committee on Finance, chaired by Easter, also recommended that Canada withdraw from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The recommendation was one of 145 recommendations included in a recent report to the federal government.
The bank finances infrastructure projects in many countries. France, Australia and Germany are also members, as is China.
Federal conservatives took a firm stand on the AIIB and argued that the bank was being used to expand China’s economic influence in the South.
“Opinions are divided on this,” Easter said of the AIIB recommendation in the finance committee report.
“Its initial objective was to help economic development by financing infrastructure in Asia as a whole.”
But Easter acknowledged that China had a significant influence on the AIIB.
“He is believed to be using his influence for geopolitical purposes,” Easter said.
The committee’s recommendations come as parliamentarians were due to vote on a motion to declare China’s persecution of the Uyghur people in Xinjiang as genocide.
The vote, introduced by the federal conservatives, was to be debated on Monday.
Amnesty International said the Chinese government is detaining up to one million members of the Muslim minority in transformation through education camps.
The human rights group says the camps are part of an effort to “eradicate religious beliefs” from the Uyghur population.
Stu Neatby is the Guardian political reporter