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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 believes 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 an 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 Yasmin Ratansi Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Yasmin Ratansi Profile
2019-12-10 13:42 [p.205]
Madam Speaker, this being my first speech in the 43rd Parliament, I would like to thank the residents of Don Valley East for their confidence in me.
I thank the hon. member for raising the vital issue of our relationship with China. As I have been listening to the presentations by various members of Parliament, we need to reflect on the motion itself and whether it would get the intended results.
On this anniversary of the detention of two Canadians, we all share the concerns of getting an early release of the Canadians who were arbitrarily detained. However, would the committee that is being proposed be able to handle that? Are there any existing standing committees that could best address these issues?
The motion talks about a diplomatic crisis. I hope we think through this clearly. How would this committee be charged to take on a diplomatic issue? The standing committees on foreign affairs, trade, security, etc., could deal with issues that have arisen.
As I look at the motion logically, I do not believe it is in the best interest of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor to have the government publicly discuss the ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure their release. There are things that can be discussed in public and there are things that need to be done discreetly. The proposed motion would not allow this.
Our government has been working hard to ensure the release of the two Canadians. We have sought the assistance of other like-minded countries and are grateful to them for their support.
The other aspect of the discussion of the House on this topic focused on our agriculture industry as well.
Our farmers are critical to our economy. Canada and China have a long-standing relationship, spanning almost half a century. China is a priority market for the Canadian agriculture sector and our second-largest trading partner after the United States.
The agriculture industry is very important. Canada is a significant trading nation. We are in the top five exporters of agriculture and agri-food products. We are the world's top exporter of canola, flax, pulse crops and wild blueberries. We are in the top three exporters of wheat and pork. On average, about half of the value of Canada's agriculture product is exported.
Our farmers depend on exports. Well over a third of their wheat crop, two-thirds of their pork, 85% of their canola and 90% of their pulse crops are exported. All told, agriculture and agri-food and fish and seafood trade drive over $66 billion of our exports and contribute $16 billion to our balance of trade. All this economic activity supports jobs, growth and opportunities for Canadians.
We are pleased that through our diplomatic efforts, China restored access to our high-quality Canadian meat last month. Our appointment of Dominic Barton as Canada's ambassador to China enables Canada's advocacy efforts to resolve trade issues, as well as the release of the two Canadians.
Issues like this do not get resolved without the hard work of our industry and trade officials in the trade area and of course the leadership of Mr. Barton and his diplomatic efforts.
I heard some hon. members mention canola. We continue to work hard to restore our canola markets in China. The canola sector contributes almost $27 billion to Canada's economy and employs a quarter of a million Canadians. Canadians take pride in this industry as it is an innovation by our scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
In April, we formed an industry-government working group, co-chaired by the Canola Council of Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, with representatives from the prairie provinces. The working group continues to meet regularly, with discussions focused on developing strategies to resolve the market access issues with China.
In the meanwhile, to help the canola farmers, we have instituted an advance payments program and implemented the stay of default, and extended the deadline of AgriStability.
The advance payments program helps producers manage their cash flow concerns throughout the year. We also increased the interest-free cash advances available to canola producers from $100,000 to $500,000 for the 2019 program year. Total advances of up to $1 million are now available for canola and all other commodities, up from $400,000. This change is permanent and will be available beyond 2019.
With our provincial partners, we also extended the AgriStability enrolment deadline by two months.
I would add that we are working closely with the Canadian canola industry every step of the way. As the president of the Canola Council of Canada said in his recent “speech from the combine”, “The draw bolt of growing the ag sector is cooperation between industry and government, and between the federal and provincial levels of government.”
The canola sector has participated in trade missions to key markets in Asia with both the hon. Minister of International Trade and the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. In her meeting with the G20 agricultural ministers earlier this year in Japan, the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food also took the opportunity to engage the Chinese minister of agriculture and talk about Canada's concerns.
The canola industry has also hailed the appointment of Dominic Barton as Canada's ambassador to China to help advance Canadian interests at this critical time. Most recently, Canada has been meeting with China for formal consultations under the WTO in an effort to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. We continue to push hard to restore business with China.
If our farmers are to take full advantage of sales opportunities around the globe, we absolutely need to address the issues of non-tariff trade barriers, and we need to ensure farmers have the tools they need to compete on the world stage. Canadian farmers can compete with the best the world has to offer, but to do so, they need a level playing field that is clear of barriers to trade.
Our government is standing shoulder to shoulder with Canadians producers and farming families. Canadian farmers should know that we have their backs.
I thank the hon. member for raising the issue. For us to address the multipronged issues of globalization and geopolitics, it is important that we use diplomacy rather than create another bureaucracy that may impede this process.
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