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View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 10:43 [p.180]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address the motion brought forward by the member for Durham. I would like to begin by first acknowledging that today marks one year since Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arbitrarily detained in China. It must be stated that they are and will remain our absolute priority as a government and as Canadians.
Canada's relationship with China is deep and long-standing. In these difficult times, we must work together to resolve these differences, keeping in mind that the safety and security of Canadians remains our top priority.
With perseverance, care and determination, we are working to bring them back to Canada.
Despite the breadth of these bilateral ties, as with any diplomatic relationship ours is not without its challenges, and we are going through a particularly difficult period. Canadians, as we have heard on all sides of the House, are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and the arbitrary sentencing to death of Robert Schellenberg.
Canadians are also concerned by the human rights situation faced by Muslim Uighurs and other minorities in China. The recent developments in Hong Kong are of particular concern to Canadians, given the 300,000 Canadians living there. The Government of Canada continues to share these concerns and has spoken out consistently.
Our government will always raise issues that matter to Canadians with the Chinese government, including respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Canada remains staunchly committed to defending its principles and interests. As the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have clearly stated, all levels of government are involved in the cases of the Canadians who have been arbitrarily detained and convicted in China.
We salute Mr. Kovrig, Mr. Spavor and their families for their courage and moral fortitude under exceptionally trying circumstances. Today, December 10, marks exactly one year since Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arbitrarily arrested by Chinese authorities. Neither man has had access to a lawyer or any contact with their families or loved ones since they were first detained.
The government has made it very clear that the detention of these two Canadians is unacceptable, that they are being arbitrarily imprisoned and that they must be released without delay. We have raised this issue with every level of the Chinese government, and we will continue to do so every chance we get until these men are freed.
Ambassador Barton, the diplomatic team in China and our government will continue to support these men and their families by providing consular services.
This matter is not just a concern for Canada. but a concern to all who seek to defend the rules-based international order. Arbitrary detention and sentencing Canadians absolutely betrays the principles of the rule of law.
Several countries, despite what my colleague across the way has said, have spoken out to echo concerns about China's actions, including Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Spain, along with the European Union and NATO.
Leaders in academia, in the private sector and across civil society have also joined the chorus. An open letter signed by diplomats and scholars from 19 countries is just one example of how the concern over China's actions extends well beyond Canada's own borders.
We will continue, along with Canada's ambassadors around the world, to speak to foreign counterparts and other stakeholders about the issue, emphasizing the troubling precedent represented by these arbitrary measures.
Indeed, Canada is not alone as citizens of many countries have been targeted.
It is important that China recognize that its actions are harming its reputation in the eyes of many other countries, not only Canada, and sending the wrong message to the international community.
We understand that the arrest in Canada of Ms. Meng Wanzhou is a matter of utmost concern for China. Ms. Meng was arrested in accordance with Canada's international legal obligations under the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty. This was not about our relationship with China nor about our relationship with the United States. This was about Canada's unwavering commitment to uphold the rule of law and fulfill our legal obligations.
Canada has over 50 bilateral extradition agreements and we uphold them all with equal vigour. As China also has dozens of active bilateral extradition agreements, this is a process that should be well understood.
For Canada, the rule of law is not optional. It is the bedrock of our Canadian democracy and a core Canadian value. Canada will not compromise nor politicize the rule of law and due process.
Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding with respect to Ms. Meng. Canada granted consular access to China within hours of Ms. Meng's arrest and Ms. Meng was granted bail. Ms. Meng is represented by an experienced counsel and will be given every opportunity to raise any issue that she or her counsel believe to be relevant throughout the legal proceedings.
This is timely, as today, December 10, is also Human Rights Day around the world.
Canada has consistently called on China to respect, protect and promote the freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of religion or a belief of all Chinese citizens.
We continue to raise human rights and the rule of law issues with our Chinese counterparts at all levels.
The promotion and protection of human rights is fundamental to Canada's foreign policy and remains an unwavering priority for the Government of Canada. Although China's economic growth has resulted in a general improvement in the standard of living of the country's population, there has been a worrisome deterioration in respect for civil and political rights in China. Freedom of religion or belief is also threatened.
Canada is deeply concerned about the ongoing intimidation and repression of ethnic and religious minorities and other vulnerable groups in China, including Tibetan Buddhists, Uighurs and other Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, women and girls, and members of the LGBTQ community.
Canada has expressed concerns about the shrinking space for civil society in China. The intensification of actions against human rights defenders, such as lawyers, journalists and civil society actors, is also worrisome.
Our government has consistently raised concerns with our Chinese counterparts about human rights in China, including the situation in Xinjiang. We have spoken publicly at the UN Human Rights Council, urging Chinese authorities to release all Uighurs arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang. This includes statements in September 2018, November 2018 and March 2019. In July 2019, Canada stood alongside 21 countries, including Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom, and presented a letter to the Human Rights Council expressing these concerns.
More recently, on October 29, the United Kingdom, on behalf of 23 countries, including Canada, expressed their concern regarding the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and human rights in Xinjiang, China, at the third committee of the UNGA with the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination. We will continue to raise these and other human rights concerns at every possible opportunity and to call on the Chinese government to ensure that the human rights of its citizens are fully respected.
Canada continues to monitor closely the current unrest in Hong Kong. Canada urges all sides involved in the current crisis to exercise restraint, to refrain from violence and to engage in peaceful and inclusive dialogue.
With 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, Canada has a vested interest in Hong Kong's stability and prosperity. We continue to support the right of peaceful protest and Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy under the basic law and the one country, two systems framework.
Canada commends the people of Hong Kong for the peaceful election of its district council on November 24. This was an important opportunity for the people of Hong Kong to express their point of view. We hope that the election will help pave the way for dialogue and peaceful reconciliation.
Despite the challenges we face, it is important to recognize that Canada's bilateral relationship with China has always included many different areas of valuable co-operation. In recent years, we have enhanced our framework of formal engagement mechanisms. While we regret that the Government of China has chosen to restrict collaboration, Canada continues to pursue dialogue at every level.
With the recent exchange of ambassadors in Ottawa and Beijing, we remain hopeful that formal and informal dialogues will continue. My colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, raised his expectations for continued dialogue when he met with China's foreign minister on the margins of the G20 meetings in Nagoya at the end of November.
The Government of Canada is deeply concerned by the decision of the Chinese authorities to restrict imports of Canadian canola, and we are pressing for the complete resumption of trade in bilateral discussions in the WTO.
Our pan-Canadian efforts have led to the resumption of trade in pork and beef, and we will continue to press for Canadian interests at every opportunity.
There are many clear sectors of valuable, practical engagement. Climate change and the environment require global solutions, and China will be an essential partner in this pursuit. Canada has built productive collaboration with China in this area and will continue to do so.
Health is an example of the importance of ongoing collaboration and dialogue to advance practical co-operation. Global pandemics pose significant risks. Canada and China have long-standing bilateral co-operation on health issues, including on international health.
Culture is another important area of bilateral co-operation between Canada and China. We are witnessing a growing number of independently organized exchanges by arts organizations. These exchanges help enrich both of our cultures and contribute to shared knowledge and understanding. Canada must build a stronger understanding of China.
These and other areas of bilateral engagement are a valuable reminder of the importance of ongoing dialogue with Chinese counterparts.
I would like to emphasize that Canada will continue to navigate this challenging period with China through careful and strategic engagement. Engaging with China is important to realizing and promoting Canada's interests globally. This is why it is essential that the channels of communication remain open, while ensuring that Canada communicates clearly to China our firm commitment to securing the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and to uphold Canadian values and principles.
Ultimately, China must realize that asserting pressure on another country through arbitrary measures against foreign citizens sends the wrong message to the international community. It is not an effective way to resolve bilateral challenges.
We will pursue and all-of-Canada approach and continue to endorse a united front. This is not a partisan issue nor does it help Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor to play politics with this issue.
Canada will continue to stand on its principles and the rules-based international order that has sustained global and peace and prosperity for decades. In our principled engagement with China, we will pursue collaboration where we can and defend our values and interests where we must.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 10:59 [p.182]
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to continuing to serve in this Parliament with the member. I know he is very passionate about human rights, which I experienced when I was the parliamentary secretary and he sat on the foreign affairs committee. Therefore, I look forward to engaging with him on this and a number of issues.
With respect to Ambassador Barton, I would like to thank Jim Nickel, our chargé, for his excellent work. I would also like to thank our diplomats in China for their hard work in complex circumstances.
Ambassador Barton brings a wealth of knowledge about China to his role and is well-placed to understand this important relationship. His experience is already having a positive impact during this challenging moment, and we look forward to that work continuing.
As I mention, when it comes to Hong Kong, Canada stands with the people of Hong Kong. We were pleased to see the successful and peaceful elections of November 24. We remain concerned about the situation there and continually advocate for their ability to assemble peacefully and ensure that their freedom of expression and democratic rights are respected.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 11:01 [p.183]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to serve with my colleague in this Parliament. I know how passionate he is about human rights, not just abroad but also at home.
With respect to Canada's priorities, as I said in my speech earlier, our top priority is the safety and security of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig in China. It is crucially important that we all work together in the House to ensure they are returned to Canada safely and reunited with their families.
With respect to committees, as my colleague from Winnipeg North asked our colleague from Durham, there are several existing parliamentary committees that can raise this issue, whether it is the foreign affairs committee or whether there is something that requires a deeper dive into higher levels of clearance. In the last parliament, our government created, in collaboration with other parties in the House, an all-party committee that would deal with security and intelligence. There are avenues to deal with this. I know that my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, would be happy to discuss this with anyone in the House.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 11:04 [p.183]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. Bloc Québécois colleague for his question.
When making appointments, it is important to appoint the very best person for each position, and I believe that Ambassador Barton is exactly that person. He has a great deal of experience on the subject of China. He knows how that country works and how to get results. That is why appointing Ambassador Barton was the right decision.
However, I also want to reassure my colleagues in the House and all Canadians by reminding them that the safety of those two men unjustly imprisoned in China is our number one priority. We have taken steps to raise their case files with Chinese authorities at all levels and with our allies around the world. I listed our allies and the international partners that have stood with us and have also raised these cases and these issues with Chinese authorities at every opportunity.
The safety and security of Canadians around the world are always a priority for us.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 11:05 [p.183]
Mr. Speaker, as I said in my previous response, Canada is very concerned about the situation in Hong Kong. We are particularly concerned about the safety and security of the 300,000 Canadians who are there. We stand with the people of Hong Kong and we call upon China at every opportunity to ensure their ability for peaceful assembly, their freedom of expression and their democratic rights.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 11:07 [p.184]
Mr. Speaker, of course committees are independent and make up their own minds and decide what they will study and for how long, so it is not for me to suggest what they do, but as my hon. colleague mentions, there is the foreign affairs and international development committee and there is the special committee of parliamentarians on security and intelligence. Those seem like very robust vehicles for studying these issues. There is even the Standing Committee on International Trade, which can look into some of the issues that my colleague from Durham mentioned.
This place, this House, this Parliament has many mechanisms for parliamentarians to bring forward issues and study them and pose questions of the government in a way that allows them to go very in-depth. In the best interests of Canadians, there is an opportunity there, should the committee members decide this is something they would like to pursue.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:20 [p.212]
Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, indeed today unfortunately marks one year since Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arbitrarily detained in China. They are and will remain our absolute priority. We will continue to work tirelessly to secure their immediate release and to stand up for them as a government and as Canadians. We are grateful to the many countries around the world that have expressed support for Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:23 [p.212]
Mr. Speaker, Canada will always defend its sovereignty.
That has nothing to do with our government. It is clear that we will always defend Canada's rights and territory.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:24 [p.212]
Mr. Speaker, our absolute priority is the well-being and safety of the Canadians detained in China.
The best interests of Canadians are at the heart of all of our decisions. Canadians need a united front defending their interests, not petty politics. We have assembled an international coalition in support of Canada's position, and we thank our many allies who have spoken on our behalf.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:26 [p.213]
Mr. Speaker, as my colleague said, we are very proud of the new free trade agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico. We have always stood up for Canada's aluminum workers. The new NAFTA contains strict requirements for the domestic content of this North American industry, which helps create a more level playing field for our workers. We will continue to protect aluminum workers here in Quebec and in Canada.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:27 [p.213]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether there was a question in there.
In any case, we are very proud of the agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States that will be signed. It is a good deal for Canada, it is a good deal for Canadian workers and it is a good deal for industry across the country. We are very proud of it and we will continue to defend the rights and access of Canadians to North American markets.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:30 [p.213]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for raising a very important issue in this House today, which I think is resulting in some really important debate on all sides.
We all agree that the Canada-China relationship is incredibly important, and we are exploring all of those issues when it comes to human rights, when it comes to democracy, when it comes to trade and when it comes to our security. Of course, the House and Parliament have many standing committees that deal with all of these issues, and we look forward to seeing how the committees decide to manage their own business.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:34 [p.214]
Mr. Speaker, Canada always stands up for Canadian values and principles, whether it is about human rights, democracy or international rules. We are always front and centre, and we are always able to state our views and talk with our counterparts around the world, including in China.
The important thing right now is for all Canadians to come together and form a united front in order to protect our economy, our major industries and, of course, our Canadian values and rights.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:36 [p.215]
Mr. Speaker, these are issues that all Canadians are concerned about, including on this side of the House. Of course, as the Government of Canada, it is something that we are working very diligently on.
As I mentioned, when it comes to trade, agriculture, foreign affairs and security, there are committees of the House that deal with these issues already. Of course, we look forward to seeing how these committees decide to manage their business and should they be interested in learning more about the Canada-China relationship, we will be looking forward to working with them.
View Karina Gould Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karina Gould Profile
2019-12-10 14:38 [p.215]
Mr. Speaker, we worked hard to sign a good deal for Canadians and Canada. We have always stood up for Canada's aluminum workers. We recognize that the aluminum industry is a world leader in clean industry and the fight against climate change. The new NAFTA contains strict domestic content requirements for aluminum here in North America. We will continue to stand up for aluminum industry workers.
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