Thank you, Madam Chair.
Minister, I want to start by sharing with you that a few weeks ago I reached out to your office involving a challenging situation of a family abroad. I worked with Nour Kechacha in your office. She was excellent, she was responsive, and she was very helpful. The family is back in Canada today. We ask tough questions to advance the public interest, but we also, I think, should give credit. I want to thank you and your team on that specific case.
Now for the tougher stuff.
Minister, I appreciated your comments about helping Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor and Gary Schellenberg. This is a formula we've heard from officials before. It's very important to identify those three individuals.
I want to share with you some testimony we heard at the Canada-China committee about our engagement with complex consular cases in China. This is a quote from Charles Burton, a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute:
...the evidence given by our public servants in the previous meetings of this committee repeated over and over the formula that Canada’s priority in China relations is “the immediate release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as clemency for Robert Schellenberg”.
I'm sorry; I got his name wrong. It's Robert Schellenberg.
However, in response to questioning, one of the officials indicated there are two Canadians, Mr. Schellenberg and Mr. Fan Wei, whose charges on the death penalty are public and available. Why is this focus on Kovrig, Spavor and Schellenberg, three Canadians of non-Chinese origin, to the exclusion of Canadians Huseyin Celil and Fan Wei, who are not?
I judge that this would be deeply troubling to all Canadians formerly resident in the PRC prior to becoming Canadian citizens and joining our national family.
Do we also thereby tacitly accept the Chinese government's claim that persons of Chinese origin in Canada have an obligation of residual loyalty to the Chinese state regardless of their Canadian citizenship? Is this why the serious problem of Chinese state harassment of persons of PRC origin in Canada, in gross violation of the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, is essentially unaddressed by our government?
Essentially, the issue he's raising is that there doesn't seem to be an equivalent emphasis on Canadians arbitrarily detained in China who are maybe originally of PRC origin. Do you want to comment and respond to his comments?