The University of Waterloo Announces Decision to Break Up with Huawei

Three months after the federal government of Canada announced that it will stop funding any research done with or connected to foreign military, national defense or state security entities, the University of Waterloo has announced that it will begin shutting down its research partnership with Huawei this year.

According to Charmaine Dean, the university’s vice-president for research, the decision ​​”is part of our wider efforts partnered with multiple levels of government to safeguard scientific research at Waterloo.”

When it decided to pull funding in February, the federal government encouraged universities to do the same. In late January, The Globe and Mail reported that 50 Canadian universities had been involved in extensive research projects with the Chinese military from as far back as 2005. 

The University of Waterloo, which is the country’s top-rated research university, could set a precedent as it becomes the first major institution to announce that it would “extricate” itself from a research partnership with a Chinese-owned firm. The university first announced the Huawei partnership in late 2016.

“We will be completely extricated through various legal mechanisms, exit clauses and a variety of processes. Within a few months, we will be completely extricated from that relationship,” Dean separately confirmed to the Toronto Star.

“This is not just a single project, this is the entire relationship, including a significant research centre at the University of Waterloo with the Huawei name on it,” Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, senior fellow at the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa, told the Star, referring to the significance of the University of Waterloo’s decision.

The move will impact dozens of projects in areas that include 5G communications, cloud computing, data management and data analytics, and the Waterloo-Huawei Joint Innovation Lab, that was set up in 2018 with $6.5 million in funding from the Chinese telecommunications company.

Huawei, like all Chinese-headquartered firms, is subject to a law that compels companies to assist the Chinese government in intelligence work. Meaning it wouldn’t have a choice if the government asks it to hand over data.

Huawei has been banned from using its equipment on Canada’s next-generation 5G wireless networks since last year, but the government has largely left it up to universities to decide if they wish to continue working with the company. 

Ontario Premier Doug Ford expressed his support for the University of Waterloo’s decision.

“I don’t like meddling in the middle of their decisions, I don’t dictate to the universities — if that was their decision, you know something, I’ll support their decision,” he told reporters at a news conference in Cambridge on Thursday. “We can make up those millions of dollars on the other end,” he added.

“It concerns me sometimes on some of the things that we’re dealing with the Communist Chinese government.”

Information for this story was found via Toronto Star, CBC News, Global News, CNBC, and the sources and companies mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

Leave a Reply