Published:May 25, 2021
CALGARY — The Alberta Government is ordering four universities to suspend new or renewed partnerships that could be linked to China and its governing party.
The province sent a letter to the University of Calgary, University of Alberta, University of Lethbridge and Athabasca University about relationships with Chinese entities. The schools also have 90 days to review current partnerships and report to the government about potential links to China.
“I am deeply concerned about the potential theft of Canadian intellectual property and further concerned that research partnerships with the People’s Republic of China may be used by Chinese military and intelligence agencies,” reads a statement from Alberta’s Advanced Education Minister Demtrios Nicolaides.
“My priority is to work with our post-secondary institutions to protect Canadian intellectual property and to ensure that Alberta institutions do not enter into agreements with entities that would undermine our country’s core national interests.”
In short statements, UCalgary and the University of Lethbridge acknowledged that the province’s letter was received, but provided no further comment.
“The Alberta taxpayer has a right to know what grants these public institutions may have been received and what conditions may have been attached,” said Charles Burton, a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.
“We don’t want to see the Government of Alberta subsidizing institutions that are engaged in transferring technologies that could be used in a hostile way against Canada.”
Alberta’s review of China’s partnerships in the province is a good move and one that could be replicated in other provinces, explained Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, who is a senior fellow with the University of Ottawa and the University of Alberta’s China Institute.
“Anybody in Canada partnering on sensitive technologies with counterparts in China could very well have their research being used by the Chinese military. And I don’t think researchers want that,” McCuaig-Johnston told CTV News.
“Recently there’s been a lot of exposure of some of the risks that Canadian university researchers are in when they partner with China.”
Nicolaides also says the province “would also welcome a comprehensive national framework from Ottawa” on the issue of China’s partnerships with researchers in Alberta and Canada.