RCMP says it's running checks on equipment purchased from company linked to China
A senior RCMP official says the force is in the midst of examining equipment it obtained from a company linked to China's government to search for any points of vulnerability.
The national police force suspended its contract with Sinclair Technologies for radio frequency (RF) equipment last year following reporting by Radio-Canada that revealed Sinclair's parent company, Norsat International, has been owned by Chinese telecommunications firm Hytera since 2017.
The Chinese government owns around 10 per cent of Hytera through an investment fund, Radio-Canada reported.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Bryan Larkin, who is in charge of specialized policing, told a House of Commons committee Monday the equipment does not have the technical ability to access RCMP radio communications.
He said the force is still doing random audits on equipment across the country, looking for bugs or other security gaps.
"We actually have taken a Sinclair radio filtration device, a piece of equipment, off a radio tower in Ontario. Our team has deconstructed it to look at any opportunities, whether it was compromised, whether there was any sort of devices. And I can report back and say absolutely not," Larkin told the committee on industry and technology.
He added that RCMP radio communications are shielded with end-to-end encryption.
News of the Sinclair contract raised concerns about the risk of espionage targeting Canada's national police service at a time of rising tensions between China and Canada.
The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) blacklisted Hytera in 2021, calling it one of several Chinese firms that pose "an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons."
Hytera is facing 21 espionage-related charges in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice has accused the company of conspiring to steal technology from the American telecommunications firm Motorola.
"We are confident there was no breach of security in this process," Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told the same committee Monday.
"There is no reason to believe Canada's national security was under threat at any time."
Mendicino said he's asked all departments across his portfolio to review any procurement contracts linked to Hytera or its subsidiaries.
Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has told Radio-Canada that security concerns and Sinclair's ownership were not taken into consideration during the bidding process.
CBSA also used Hytera communications equipment
The RCMP contract, awarded on October 6, 2021, was worth nearly half a million dollars. Sources with knowledge of the matter confirmed to Radio-Canada that the difference between Sinclair's bid and that of its competitor, Quebec-based Comprod, was less than $60,000.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has also been using communications equipment and technology from Hytera.
In February 2017, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) awarded a contract worth just under $3 million to Canquest Communications of Chatham, Ont., to provide digital mobile radios and radio communication infrastructure for CBSA in the Niagara Region, which covers four points of entry.
Canquest worked with Hytera Canada to build the radio communications infrastructure and sold Hytera radio equipment to CBSA.
A spokesperson for Procurement and Public Services Canada said the contract with Canquest did not include any security requirements.
Three of the Niagara ports of entry are no longer using Hytera equipment, but the Peace Bridge port of entry still is and won't transition to new radio equipment and a new network until March 2023.
WATCH | RCMP suspends contract with company linked to China