The Minister of Higher Education refuses to talk about espionage in universities

Minister of Higher Education refuses to talk about espionage in universities s


Ottawa calls on the Legault government to take responsibility for the risks of espionage in universities, but the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, refuses to take action or even address the subject .

Since February 14, when three ministers of the Trudeau government made a joint exit on the protection of research against espionage, The Journal has asked the Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, three times to find out about Quebec's plan on this subject. 

Our interview requests were systematically refused. The Legault government has so far presented no specific plan in this area. In a written statement sent to us by her office, Minister Déry indicated that she was “following the developments in this file” and passed the ball back to Ottawa.

“Obviously, the risks of foreign interference in research concern me. Currently, academic institutions have rigorous mechanisms for analyzing risk, but must be able to rely on federal government guidance to properly define what could harm national security in collaborative scientific projects,” could we read in the minister's statement. 

Quebec must act

Following federal instructions is not enough, according to Ottawa , which calls on Quebec to assume its responsibilities regarding the protection of research. 

“National security is the responsibility of all partners; both federal and provincial, universities and researchers. In February, we made our position clear and we expect all partners to be able to adopt similar guidelines for all their research partnerships, particularly those related to sensitive areas,” said Laurie Bouchard, Director of Communications. from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne.  

Research protection has been in the news for several months. In January, a Globe and Mail investigation revealed that several Canadian universities, including third-ranked McGill, are working with a university remotely controlled by the Chinese military. 

< strong>Towards a public inquiry?

Links with private companies close to the Chinese government also raise questions. This week, we revealed that Concordia University received a $128,000 donation from Huawei in June 2022, a month after the Chinese giant was barred from developing the 5G network for national security reasons. We also revealed that a third of Quebec universities were currently conducting research with Huawei, some of which is confidential.  

These revelations caused the leader of the Bloc Québécois to react, who questioned the “need for an independent and public investigation”, on its Twitter account.

“Huawei is banned for reasons of national security. Universities in Canada and Quebec are accepting money from the Chinese company despite everything. Ottawa says nothing. An example of the need for an independent and public inquiry?” tweeted Yves-François Blanchet. 

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