Madam Speaker, I am always pleased to rise in the House on behalf of my constituents of Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia and also on behalf of the Bloc Québécois as the critic for public safety and national security. Furthermore, I would like to thank my colleague from Wellington—Halton Hills for all the work he has done on the matter before us today.
Before I begin, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean.
I will start with a number: 708. Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have now been arbitrarily detained in China for 708 days. These two men have not been able to hold their respective families in their arms for 708 days. During that time, Ottawa has not done much. Since these two Canadians were unfairly detained without cause, relations have continued to deteriorate. Now, everyone is paying the price for Ottawa's lack of vision.
China's foreign policy became particularly aggressive with the arrival of the Communist Party of China's new leader. One example is that more than one million Uighurs were imprisoned in concentration camps, which was recently described as genocide by the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. I also want to commend my colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean for his work on the subcommittee.
In addition, a law was passed, forcing Chinese businesses to help collect intelligence, and then there is the Hong Kong national security law, which radically diminishes the political freedom and freedom of expression of residents. Furthermore, this aggression is not reserved for territories that China considers its own.
Take, for example, the use of economic blackmail to force businesses and individuals to conform to China's vision of the world. Canadian companies like Air Canada must now write “Taipei, China” instead of “Taipei, Taiwan”, after China threatened to cut off access to Chinese airports. Another example is China's repression against Hong Kong, in violation of international commitments taken during the handover of Hong Kong in 1997.
Over the past few years, China has been very aggressive and expansionist toward its neighbours, including with the development and military occupation of an archipelago near the Philippines and everywhere else in the South China Sea.
We have to face the facts. The Chinese Communist Party will continue to assert itself more aggressively and its influence, backed by its staggering economic weight and massive investment in its military capacity, will continue to grow and become more dangerous than ever for the national security of Quebec and Canada.
The wilfully blind strategy of Ottawa is not working. Doing nothing in the hope that the situation improves is futile. We need a government that takes China seriously. We need a government that will govern with strong principles and defend its citizens against the repeated attacks of communist China.
On September 10, an investigation by the Journal de Montréal showed that even Quebeckers here in Montreal were victims of espionage and intimidation at the hands of Beijing. What is the government doing? It is doing nothing. People here at home are being targeted by the communist Chinese regime and Ottawa is asleep at the switch. It is unacceptable.
There is still no plan to protect us apart from allowing Huawei, a Chinese company, to work its way deep into our telecommunications network, thereby jeopardizing national security. This company has been involved in numerous spying scandals, even spying on the African Union. In 2012, China gave the African Union a fully equipped ultramodern building. China supplied everything: networks, computers and telecommunications systems.
In 2017, African computer scientists realized that the servers were sending out huge amounts of data at night, when nobody was working in the building. They discovered that the data was going to servers in China that were being used to spy on political leaders and staff. Who was the main supplier of the infrastructure? Huawei.
Here is another example of the threat the Chinese government poses to Quebec. Three years ago, China adopted a new national intelligence law. All Chinese companies are obligated to contribute to Chinese intelligence work, be it military or civilian intelligence. Nothing is left out.
For example, a company could be told to spy on behalf of another Chinese company to give China an advantage on the world stage. China has always denied that its companies are required to conduct espionage in other countries, but western intelligence services agree that Chinese law applies abroad.
For these obvious reasons, which only the Liberal government stubbornly refuses to acknowledge, experts worry about including Chinese components in essential infrastructure such as telecommunications networks. The British are phasing in a Huawei ban and will shut the company out completely by 2023.
Everyone agrees: intelligence services, the CIA and CSIS consider the threat too great and believe that the company should be banned.
The United States has banned Huawei from developing the 5G network in that country and is pushing for its NATO allies to follow suit, which Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain have done.
Australia, which became a victim of China's growing influence, adopted its foreign influence transparency scheme in 2018. All individuals and companies acting for the benefit of a foreign country in the political sphere must register and provide details about their activities in a public register. The law also prohibits overseas donations. The most important aspect of this Australian law is that it criminalizes all hidden foreign influence operations, in other words by an individual or organization that is not registered in a public registry. Any attempt to engage in covert propaganda for the benefit of a foreign state is illegal and could result in a five-year prison sentence.
All of Canada's allies have taken a clear stand against Huawei in the development of 5G technology, yet this Liberal government continues to create uncertainty. However, our response should be unequivocal and aligned with that of our closest allies. I sincerely wonder what the government is waiting for to act.
I will take this opportunity to say a few words about the issue of artificial intelligence. In an article that appeared in La Presse last January, we learned that Canada is a real hotbed for Chinese spies. Many have moved to Canada to gain better access to the United States and to steal all kinds of civilian and military industrial secrets, such as genetically modified corn seeds, technical documents on fighter planes, composite materials used in the construction of vehicles and anti-submarine equipment. The FBI estimates the theft of intellectual property in the United States to be between $300 billion U.S. and $600 billion U.S.
If they can do it in the United States, they can certainly do it in Canada. According to Wesley Wark, professor of international relations at the University of Ottawa, the time has come to make a radical shift, and major investments and to really step up our counter-espionage efforts. It is imperative that we protect Canadian and Quebec companies that continue to earn international renown for Canada.
Let us be very clear: China intends to become the greatest artificial intelligence power in the world. In 2017, China implemented its artificial intelligence development plan as part of a project of unprecedented scale: the brand new silk road, which now includes 70 countries in a connected infrastructure plan. Once again, let us be clear. With this project, China plans to become the largest economic power in the world, and the project will protect its economic, military and diplomatic interests.
Why must we talk about artificial intelligence and the silk road? I bring it up because the Chinese industry will be fully connected through artificial intelligence within five years. It will produce goods and control companies by balancing supply and demand. On top of controlling the entire Chinese industry, artificial intelligence will monitor and control the Chinese people very tightly.
Let us not fool ourselves. This technology will not be limited to China. China has already exported its technology to authoritarian governments around the world, which will allow them to control their own people. For example, Chinese telecommunications company ZTE is rolling out a system to control the people of Venezuela through the brand new fatherland card, an ID card that records information about citizens.
China is not just strictly monitoring and clamping down on its people's political freedoms and freedom of speech. It is exporting its model, and that is worrisome. We could continue talking about this for a long time, but I will close by saying that I will support my Conservative colleague's motion.
I do, however, want to express some reservations about this motion, as my colleagues did before me. It seems unrealistic and counterproductive to me to ask the government to adopt a plan to fight interference from China in Canada in 30 days. I realize that the legislative and parliamentary process is always too long, but we must not exaggerate either. We are asking the government to resolve a problem that is currently being examined by various committees, including the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations and the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, of which I am currently a member.
We would likely end up with an incomplete and ineffective plan that would be created hastily and would not help improve things very much, if at all. I think that a longer, more reasonable deadline would enable the committees to participate in developing that plan in a constructive manner.
Honestly, I have a hard time understanding why the Conservatives are not waiting for the findings of the committee that they themselves created before coming to their own conclusions. The Liberals seem open to this proposal and they wanted to amend the motion, but now the Conservatives do not seem to agree. We need to stop encouraging—