Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to review a contract awarded to a company whose parent company has ties to China and has been accused of espionage in the United States. The half-a-million dollar contract was to maintain police radio equipment for a frequency filtering system in order to prevent eavesdropping.
The contract was reported to Canada’s Sinclair Technologies, which is managed by China’s Hytera Communications and is partially owned by the Chinese Government.
Hytera technology was banned in the United States in 2021 for “unacceptable risk” to national security over fears the Chinese Government could be using the companies to spy on Americans.
The company, Hytera Communications, faces accusations of conspiring to steal trade secrets from the American communications company Motorola Solutions, but has denied the accusations.
The chairwoman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Jessica Rosenworcel, said at the time: “These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications.”
There are now concerns about the potential access China could have to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) communication lines.
In a news conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he found the Chinese ties to the Canadian company “disconcerting”.
The Canadian leader also acknowledged that Canadian security agencies have warned about “foreign interference in our institutions and our structures” and now there is a case of officials “signing contracts that have questionable levels of security for our operations and our national security institutions like the RCMP.”
Prime Minister Trudeau promised: “We’re going to be following up on this” and said he will ensure communication technology used by government agencies is secure.
He also said that the Canadian government must “make sure that Canada is not signing contracts with the lowest bidder that then turn around and leave us exposed to security flaws”
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The RCMP has said their radio communications are protected with encryption, and that the radio frequency filtration equipment provided by Sinclair Technologies “poses no security concerns nor does it allow access to radio communications.”
In a statement to CTV News, the RCMP said: “The contract was awarded in accordance with federal government procurement policies and regulations, and in accordance with the Trade Agreements.
“PSPC (Public Services and Procurement Canada) acted as the Contracting Authority for the Standing Offer Arrangement. The RCMP supported PSPC to ensure operational requirements were met.”
Radio-Canada has reported that a PSPC spokesperson said the department did not take security concerns and the concerns about Sinclair Technologies’ parent company into consideration during the bidding process.
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Pierre Poilievre, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and the official opposition, said it was “astonishing” that the contract took place and added the deal needed to be cancelled.
On Wednesday, he spoke outside the House of Commons and said: “Justin Trudeau’s contracting system would have allowed a company whose parent owner in the United States is charged with 21 different espionage offences, to install technology on our police force’s system in order to block espionage.”
He added: “I mean, it’s almost something that you’d expect to be out of a spy novel, but characters in spy novels would never be that incompetent.
“So the prime minister has to take the responsibility for his own government, rather than trying to blame everyone else all the time, and explain why he has put in place a system that allowed this contract to go ahead.”