Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is slated to testify before a parliamentary committee on Monday about federal contracts awarded to a firm that has ties to the Chinese government — a revelation that came amid increased concerns about foreign interference last month.
Last month, reports emerged that Ontario-based Sinclair Technologies had been given 24 contracts since 2009, including work for the Department of Defence, the RCMP and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
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Three of the 24 contracts have been awarded to the company since 2017, when Hytera Communications bought Sinclair’s parent company.
The Chinese government owns about 10 per cent of Hytera through an investment fund, Radio-Canada first reported on Dec. 7. Hytera is also blacklisted by the United States Federal Communications Commission over national security concerns.
Yet in 2021, the company was granted a $549,637 RCMP contract for a radio frequency filtering system — one that is valid until March 31, 2024.
Now Mendicino is poised to spend an hour facing questions from members of Parliament about the contracts. He will appear before the House of Commons industry committee alongside two senior RCMP officials at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Global News will carry the meeting live here.
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The news that federal civil servants granted an RCMP contract to a company with ties to the Chinese government is “disconcerting,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Montreal last month.
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At the time, the prime minister and Mendicino also vowed to do an assessment of the contract and its awarding process.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre also added his voice to the chorus of concern, calling for the contract to be “banned and reversed” by the government as soon as possible.
The RCMP told Global News in a statement at the time that radio frequency filtration equipment “poses no security concerns nor does it allow access to radio communications.”
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Of the 24 contracts the company, which designs and manufactures communications equipment, has been awarded since 2009, 12 of them were awarded to the Department of Defence. Sinclair Technologies was awarded a total of $252,296 between 2009 and 2013 to work on “antennas, waveguides and related equipment,” according to procurement data.
A department official told Global News at the time that the defence contracts appeared to be mainly for antenna devices that amplify and receive but don’t transmit information.
The other 12 contracts the company has been awarded since 2009 included work for the RCMP and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
A DND spokesperson told Global News last month that it is “aware of the concerns” surrounding Sinclair Technologies.
“We are investigating these procurements and the way in which this equipment is used, alongside counterparts in other government departments,” they said.
News of the contracts emerged on the heels of Global News reporting on allegations of Chinese interference and influence in Canada.
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A Spanish civil rights group, Safeguard Defenders, also revealed in a report last year that there were Chinese police operations around the world, including three in Toronto and at least one in Vancouver.
The RCMP has since said it is investigating those reports and urged anyone with information to come forward.
The government has also upped its rhetoric against China in recent months. Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly unveiled the country’s Indo-Pacific strategy in November, which labelled China an “increasingly disruptive global power.”
Earlier that same month, Joly warned Canadians doing business in China to consider the “geopolitical risks” involved with that choice.
— with files from Global News’ Aaron D’Andrea
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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