Alberta pledges to curb university research ties to China

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On August 26, 2016, the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton.

COD MCLACHLAN / Globe and Mail

The Government of Alberta is expressing alarm and pledge to take action to stop the University of Alberta’s cooperation with China in the field of strategically important scientific and technology.

Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said he wanted to talk to the University of Alberta administration about the need to curb scientific research that could curtail Canada’s national interest. National security experts have warned that China could use these collaborations to steal Canada’s intellectual property for the benefit of Beijing’s military apparatus.

The minister was responding to a report in The Globe and Mail this week that found the University of Alberta is collaborating scientifically with China to share research in strategically important areas such as nanotechnology, biotechnology and artificial intelligence And transferring.

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“I am deeply concerned about the potential threat to Canada’s intellectual property and further worried that research partnerships with the People’s Republic of China may be used by Chinese military and intelligence agencies,” he told The Globe. “More needs to be done to prevent the intrusion of foreign status into our research and innovation centers, including our North-Eastern institutions.”

Under an agreement with China’s Minister of Science and Technology, researchers at the University of Alberta have had access to at least 50 state laboratories in China since 2005, while upwards of 60 professors to state and national laboratories in China Grants have been received for more than 90 joint projects. .

In some cases, professors and researchers at the university set up companies in joint ventures with Chinese companies and state institutions to commercialize Canadian-developed technologies.

“Nicolaides said,” I will speak with the university and my other government colleagues to determine the next steps. “My determination is to work with our postsecondary institutions to protect Canadian intellectual property and ensure that Alberta entities do not enter into agreements with entities that would undermine the nation’s major national interests.”

The University of Alberta released “an institutional statement about Chinese relations” on Tuesday after becoming aware of Mr. Nicolaides’ comments, but did not respond to a list of The Globe’s questions.

University interim vice president of research Walter Dixon said that consistent national response to security matters and international engagement is necessary and we are fully committed to working with all levels of government to ensure Canada’s key security interests Are protected and advanced. Innovation, said. “We have asked the federal government for further direction regarding international cooperation.”

He said the university is looking forward to the guidelines, which are drawing on national security considerations for the evaluation and funding of the Ottawa Research Partnership.

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“Being a leading research-intensive university means being an active participant in the global community,” Mr. Dixon said.

“International partnerships, including research projects, teaching and mobility agreements, and international learning opportunities that allow the academy to provide experiences to students, postdoc, and faculty to ensure that knowledge flows around the world . “

Mr. Nicolaides said he welcomed the federal government’s announcement in March to work with universities and give councils to develop nationwide risk guidelines to integrate national security ideas into the evaluation of funded research projects . The guidelines send a signal to university researchers who often rely on foreign funds to do the work, but will not ban them from doing so.

The Canadian University of Canada has funded from China, with the U’s cooperation dominating the special committee hearing on Canada-China relations on Monday evening.

Former Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden told the committee that Ottawa should stop receiving funds from foreign powers in strategic areas of research that are important to the West’s security. He later reported that globe regions would include avionics, space, nuclear and high-level optics.

“No matter how well a university professor or a team might intend to be in Canada that receives a Chinese grant, whatever they know is going to go back to China,” Mr. Faden said.

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Gordon Holden, director-professor at the University of Alberta’s China Institute, said the federal government is not suited to conduct research with Chinese institutions, including dual-use technologies – tools that can be employed. Both civil and military purposes. But he said Ottawa needed to consult extensively with universities before making any decisions.

“I am still not completely comfortable with maintaining a long tradition of academic freedom and university autonomy without a strong rationale. Government intrusion into major Canadian institutions such as Canada must be carefully justified and justified. “We are not in a cold war with China, at least not yet,” he said.

Former Canadian diplomat Charles Burton, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Loire Institute, a think tank, said there should be limits on the autonomy of publicly funded research. “I think Canadian scholars should not extend educational freedom to intentionally allow them to cooperate in espionage.”

Paul Evans, a China expert at the University of British Columbia, told lawmakers that Canadian universities have hundreds of research collaborations with Chinese and Canadian dollars. In many cases these joint projects involve cutting-edge research.

At UBC alone, he said, more than 300 professors have significant business interest in China and the faculty has partnerships with more than 100 Chinese institutions.

He said these cooperation arrangements are “widely valued” and facilitate advanced research and training, although he acknowledged that Canadian security agencies have identified concerns including leaks of intellectual property and transfer of technology and ideas that have to be addressed. China’s military and other state institutions are seen as benefiting. In violation of human rights.

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He said, “When we are at war, we need to rethink and revise many existing agreements with Chinese partners.” “” We need a deep collaborative process [with Ottawa] Very early in the next six months. “

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