An uncomfortable partner for Fitzgerald’s business

An uncomfortable partner for Fitzgerald's business

A company owned by Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgerald has sparked controversy over the emergence of a conflict of interest, supplying equipment to a Chinese company involved in the persecution of Muslim minorities in China.

• read more: Fitzgerald was publicly thanked by its business partner

Higuision, a Chinese company, has been in the headlines since 2019, when the US federal government linked it to Beijing’s anti-Uighur operations.

According to U.S. officials, Higuain’s cameras are being used to crack down on Muslim minorities in northwestern China’s Xinjiang.

A safe facility on the outskirts of Houghton, Xinjiang, operates as a re-education camp, where mostly members of the Muslim minority are detained.

Photo AFP

A safe facility on the outskirts of Houghton, Xinjiang serves as a re-education camp, mostly for members of the Muslim minority.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has imposed restrictions on U.S. companies providing Higvision.

Mr. Our investigative unit noted that Fitzgerald-affiliated Quebec company Immervision provides Higvision with optical components used in the production of surveillance cameras.

The origin of the conflict of interest

Mr. Fitzgerald’s cabinet is unaware that there is a partnership between Immervision and Higvision, which has been publicly announced by Montreal.

“Mr. Fitzgerald has not been a member of the Immersion Board of Directors for many years,” said Press Secretary Matthew Saint-Amand.

A spokesman said the minister was “already trying to eliminate stocks unrelated to this situation”.

Immersion did not respond to our requests for interviews. Its site, however, clearly establishes that Higvision is among its business partners.

In September 2019, the Montreal-based company posted a post on its Facebook page announcing that it would be providing components for Higvision: “The new Higvision 12MP 360 video camera is fitted with the latest high definition panomorphic lens from Immervision.”

On its site, Higvision presents its surveillance “solutions” for prisons. The company, of which the Chinese government is a regulatory partner, insists that the proposed systems meet the standards of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security for detention centers.

Great report

Mr. Ariane Mignolet, the ethics commissioner of the National Assembly, points out in his most recent report that Fitzgerald violates ethics because he is a partner in Immervision, which exposes him to a disagreement.

Mr. Prior to the Fitzgerald election, Quebec, a government agency, reported to the Minister of Economy, one of the lenders of Immervision, which lent $ 3.3 million in 2016.

MMe Mr. Mignolet noted that Fitzgerald had already turned down an offer to sell its stake in Immervision, saying it would cause him huge financial losses.

Last week our Bureau of Intelligence released a video captured in January 2020 in which Mr. Fitzgerald appeared at an event hosted by his ministry with CEO Pascal Nini.

A “genocide” approved by the federal parliament

Immersion’s name was mentioned during the work of a federal delegation that acknowledged the fall of a genocide by the Chinese government against a Muslim minority in populated northwestern China. For ubiquitous tracking.

A panel of eight parliamentarians prepared a report in October after gathering ample evidence of Xinjiang’s situation.

“In light of the evidence it has collected during its hearings in 2018 and 2020, the subcommittee firmly believes that the actions of the Communist Party of China are genocidal under the terms of the Convention,” he told lawmakers.

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According to the subcommittee, the Chinese government is harassing Muslim groups in Xinjiang through mass detention, forced labor, widespread government surveillance and population control measures.

Sunk

MPs recommend that the federal government ensure that no Canadian company or citizen has financial contact with Chinese companies involved in repressive technologies, even if surveillance technologies are made in China.

During the work of the subcommittee in July, the Conservative MP Garnett Genius spoke about the hypothesis of restricting investment in Canadian companies in this situation. He mentioned Immervision.

“For example, with a company like Immervision that provides components for Higvision’s cameras,” he said.

According to federal lawmakers, Xinjiang has been transformed into a police state thanks to ubiquitous surveillance mechanisms.

Cellular telephone contacts are monitored. Video surveillance systems and facial recognition technologies are used to control people’s movements.

Harassment

The subcommittee, which represented all political parties, condemned the persecution of Uyghurs by the Chinese government.

“Witnesses have made it clear that the actions of the Chinese government are aimed at eradicating Uyghur culture and religion,” the lawmakers said.

The report notes that nearly two million Uyghurs, other Muslims and those under the age of 13 are being held in “concentration camps”.

They beat these companies

Foreign Minister Franசois-Philippe Champagne sold its stake in Immervision last summer.

His spokesman, Pierre-Yves Borg, however, confirmed that the transaction had nothing to do with the controversy over Higuain.

“It has nothing to do with the human rights situation in China,” the spokesman said.

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Last summer, Mr. Champagne found itself in the hot seat Globe and Mail About mortgages obtained from a Chinese bank in 2009 and 2013 while living in London.

The loans obtained before he was elected in 2015 were reported by the Minister to the Office of the Commissioner of Conflict and Ethics in the Central Parliament.

The origin of conflict

Following criticism from the opposition, he said his position could undermine his independence from Beijing. Champagne quickly repaid the Chinese bank.

According to his company, Mr. Champagne had the opportunity to “clean up” and sell his refining titles, noting that “there was no money with it”.

In November, when Tory MP, John Williamson asked him about it, Mr Champagne refused to explain his decision.

“Immervision is developing technologies that use Higvision, which, according to several reports, provide surveillance equipment against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” Williamson said.

In 2019, we reported that Keys de Depot holds 12 million shares worth $ 60 million in placement to Quebec Higuision.

The company, which has faced controversy over its involvement in Xinjiang, has indicated it may drop its participation. This week CDPQ confirmed that it has sold these titles.

Do you have any information about this? Contact me secretly [email protected].

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Cory Weinberg

About the Author: Cory Weinberg

Cory Weinberg covers the intersection of tech and cities. That means digging into how startups and big tech companies are trying to reshape real estate, transportation, urban planning, and travel. Previously, he reported on Bay Area housing and commercial real estate for the San Francisco Business Times. He received a "best young journalist" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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