Canada to review RCMP contract to company linked to Chinese government
Federal officials say they will review a contract awarded to a Canadian company last year, given its parent organization’s ties to the Chinese government.
Ontario-based Sinclair Technologies Inc. received a contract in October 2021 worth $549,637 for radio frequency filters.
CTV News also found a number of other contracts, worth upwards of $90,000 each awarded to Sinclair Technologies since its parent company was bought in 2017, including with the RCMP, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Department of National Defence.
The DND contract has no value associated with it but involved the delivery of antennas to bases. Contracts suggest the government has been awarding contracts to Sinclair since at least 2009.
In 2017, Hytera, which is partially owned by the Chinese government, purchased Sinclair Technologies’ parent company, Norsat.
Not only are Hytera’s products banned from being sold or imported in the United States over national security concerns, but the company also faces 21 espionage-related offences, including conspiring with former Motorola employees to steal trade secrets.
The RCMP provided a statement to CTV News saying the force’s radio communications are protected with end-to-end encryption and that radio frequency filtration equipment “poses no security concerns nor does it allow access to radio communications.”
“The contract was awarded in accordance with Federal Government procurement policies and regulations, and in accordance with the Trade Agreements,” the statement reads.
“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.”
CTV News has reached out to PSPC and DND but has not received a response. Fisheries and Oceans Canada was unable to respond by CTV’s deadline.
In a statement, Sinclair said it is a trusted and independent company. It cited privacy reasons for being unable to comment further.
The revelation comes as the federal government attempts to take a tougher stance on China, unveiling its Indo-Pacific Strategy in November, which refers to China as “an increasingly disruptive global power.”
During a media availability in Montreal on Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he found it “disconcerting” that amid warnings about foreign interference, parts of Canada’s civil service “were signing contracts that have questionable levels of security for our operations and our national security institutions like the RCMP.”
“So absolutely we’re going to be following up on this, finding out first of all what needs to be done to ensure that our communications technology is secure but also make sure we’re figuring out how this could continue to happen. And make sure Canada is not signing contracts with the lowest bidder that then turn around and leave (us) exposed to security flaws,” Trudeau said.
“We will have some real questions for the independent public service that signed these contracts and we’ll make sure that this is changed going forward, it’s high time that happened.”
‘OUT OF A SPY NOVEL’
In response to many inquiries during question period Wednesday on Parliament Hill, Public Services and Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek said, “Of course, we are aware of the concerns surrounding the RCMP’s contract with Sinclair Technologies and our government is looking into them and examining all potential options. We do take all measures to ensure the integrity of our infrastructure very, very seriously.”
Speaking to reporters on his way to question period, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said the contract should be cancelled.
“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,” Poilievre said.
“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.”
He added: “I think that we as a government, we as a country, should not allow countries and governments and government-owned enterprises that are known for espionage to sell technology that is related to our telecommunications in this country, because that raises risks of espionage and other security problems.”
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters on Parliament Hill that he has instructed officials to look at the details of the contract and review how it was awarded.
“We’re eyes wide open about the threats that are posed by hostile states and non-state actors, and that includes the PRC (People’s Republic of China),” he said.
“One of the reasons why we put in place a process that looks at the potential opportunities or vectors for foreign interference in the context of contracts, is to secure Canadian national interests, to secure our national security.”
Speaking on CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday, former national security analyst Stephanie Carvin said the concern is not only that a Chinese-controlled company has received many federal government contracts, but that it is potentially undercutting Canadian companies, as well.
“You don’t want to have a Chinese-controlled company basically providing the technology that’s going to be used in very sensitive national security operations,” Carvin said.
Also appearing on CTV’s Power Play, U.S. ambassador to Canada David Cohen said he does not believe the awarding of these contracts erodes confidence in Canada, using the example of a federal government order in November for three Chinese companies to divest their investments in Canadian critical minerals.
“The whole world of cybersecurity, of Chinese ownership of American companies, Canadian companies, of contracting with Chinese-owned and controlled companies, is unbelievably dangerous and unbelievably complicated, and the key thing is whether the sensitivity is there to be able to look at those situations and to take action when you need to do that,” he said.
This article was first reported by CTV News