A former head of Canada’s intelligence agency said that while he continues to warn against allowing Huawei Technologies Co. to build Canada’s 5G wireless network, it’s not the company that poses a security risk – it’s China.

“It’s worth being clear: It’s not so much that Huawei poses a risk,” former CSIS director Ward Elcock said in an interview Thursday with BNN Bloomberg’s Amanda Lang.

“It’s that China poses a risk in terms of its worldwide intelligence collection. Its capacity to direct Huawei ultimately is the risk, not so much Huawei itself.”

Elcock’s comments come as Ottawa weighs whether to ban Huawei from its next-generation wireless network.

Tensions have heightened between Canada and China after the December arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request. China has since detained two Canadians and sentenced another Canadian man to death for drug trafficking.

Elcock added that while Huawei is not an arm of the state, the company could still be heavily influenced by Beijing.

“The state in China being what it is, even though Huawei is an independent company … [the government] would have the capacity to ask and demand Huawei’s assistance in collecting intelligence,” Elcock said.

“And the Chinese are big collectors of intelligence.”