Canadian Universities Persist in Collaboration With Huawei Despite Security Concerns, House Committee Hears

Canadian Universities Persist in Collaboration With Huawei Despite Security Concerns, House Committee Hears - Canadian universities are continuing research collaborations with Chinese institutions despite government efforts to impose stronger measures against potential technology transfer to the regime and address related national security concerns, the House of Commons science committee heard.

Canadian Universities Persist in Collaboration With Huawei Despite Security Concerns, House Committee Hears

Canadian Universities Persist in Collaboration With Huawei Despite Security Concerns, House Committee Hears

Canadian universities are continuing research collaborations with Chinese institutions despite government efforts to impose stronger measures against potential technology transfer to the regime and address related national security concerns, the House of Commons science committee heard.

Jim Hinton, an intellectual property lawyer and assistant professor at Western University, emphasized this finding during his testimony at the House Standing Committee on Science and Research on Oct. 4.

"I discovered that as recently as a few weeks ago, there have been new patent applications published, listing Huawei as owner, with Canadian university researchers as inventors, including those from the University of Toronto, UBC, Queens, Ottawa, McMaster, and Western," he said.

He noted that while several Canadian universities have publicly announced their intentions to terminate or phase out research collaborations with the Chinese tech giant, the filing dates of patents, many of which date back to early 2022, suggest that they are still "very actively building and transferring intellectual property to Huawei."

Bans

In 2022, the federal government banned Huawei from participating in Canada's 5G network development over security concerns related to its alleged ties to the Chinese military. Despite Huawei's denials, Chinese law compels all entities, including those in the private sector, to aid in intelligence collection for the regime.
Subsequently, the University of Waterloo announced in May that it would distance itself from Huawei after their contract expires later this year. Several other top Canadian universities that are members of the Group of Canadian Research Universities–an association comprised of 15 leading research universities across Canada–have also indicated their intent to follow suit.
Additionally, following revelations in January that some 50 Canadian universities have been engaged in research partnership with National University of Defence Technology, a Chinese military institution, the federal government also imposed a ban on funding for projects done in collaboration with a foreign entity involving sensitive technologies.
Mr. Hinton said that his finding of Huawei-owned patent applications contradicts the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships published by the government in 2021. The guideline includes a list of research areas that are deemed sensitive or potentially dual-use, serving both civil and military purposes. Among these research areas are artificial intelligence, biotechnology, quantum science, and space science.

Geopolitical Competition

Ivana Karaskova, a China research fellow at the Prague-based non-profit Association for International Affairs, pointed out that the European Commission recently unveiled a list of four technology areas with the highest risk of being misused by autocratic regimes and infringing upon human rights. These areas include advanced semiconductors, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and genetic engineering.

While China was not directly named in the document, Ms. Karaskova emphasized during her testimony at the House science committee that this move signifies the European Union's active engagement rather than passive observation in the geopolitical competition.

"China's global reach, far-reaching goals, increasingly revisionist agenda, and the nature of its political regime, make it a risk and a challenge like no other," she said.

"Europe as well as Canada and other like-minded countries would have to ensure that they stay competitive. Especially in the field of emerging technologies, research funding needs to ensure that the most promising activities stay domestic."

She noted that universities in the Czech Republic began to address the issue of China's involvement in university research and intellectual property development seriously after a major scandal. This scandal implicated one of the country's oldest and most prestigious universities, which was found to have received funding from the Chinese Embassy in Prague. The funding supported various activities, including classes related to the Chinese regime's Belt and Road Initiative and the profiling of students who were later invited to China on fully funded trips. Ms. Karaskova said subsequent to this scandal, the country has initiated steps in the right direction, although progress remains gradual and at an early stage.

Marnie Cathcart and Tara MacIsaac contributed to this report.