Huawei has long insisted it is an independent company that does not spy for anyone.
"We sell in 180 countries around the world," said Alykhan Velshi, Huawei Canada's vice-president of corporate affairs. "We have to comply with the laws of each of those countries. And if we were to violate the trust, we would find ourselves only selling in one country."
Not so, say others. Whether Huawei poses a genuine security risk or no, countries cannot afford to prop up a telecommunications firm that is supported enthusiastically by Beijing, says Wesley Wark, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation.
"The company is just too closely aligned perceptually to the Chinese regime to allow western states to do anything else," Wark said. "And they do have alternatives."
Three of Canada's partners in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance — the United States, Britain and Australia — have taken decisive steps to curb the use of Huawei gear in their countries' respective 5G networks.
The federal government acknowledges that the U.S. has strongly encouraged countries to tread carefully on 5G security considerations, noting an American delegation visited Canada in March 2020 to discuss the issue with various ministers and government officials.
The U.S. has made it clear Canada has "got to get on board" if it wants to remain part of the club, said Fen Hampson, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University.
"It's the security premium that you pay, not just nationally, but for being a partner in privileged security alliances like the Five Eyes. There's no free lunch, you can't have it both ways," Hampson said.
"This is the big reckoning that we're facing now. And I think it's pretty clear which way the government's gonna jump."
Canada's 5G policy announcement has been effectively shelved for the last three years by a tense geopolitical drama that played out between Ottawa and Beijing.