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View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:11 [p.175]
That, in light of the prolonged diplomatic crisis with China, the House appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the Canada–China relationship including, but not limited to, consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations:
(a) that the committee be composed of 12 members, of which six shall be government members, four shall be from the official opposition, one shall be from the Bloc Québécois and one from the New Democratic Party;
(b) that changes in the membership of the committee shall be effective immediately after notification by the whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
(c) that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
(d) that the members shall be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee no later than January 15, 2020;
(e) that the Clerk of the House shall convene an organization meeting of the said committee for no later than January 20, 2020;
(f) that the committee be chaired by a member of the government party;
(g) that notwithstanding Standing Order 106(2), in addition to the Chair, there be one vice-chair from the official opposition, one vice-chair from the Bloc Québécois and one vice-chair from the New Democratic Party;
(h) that quorum of the committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118 and that the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including one member of the opposition and one member of the government;
(i) that the committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada;
(j) that the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings; and
(k) that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Public Safety, and the Canadian ambassador to China be ordered to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:11 [p.176]
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important debate that our Parliament is seized with today and I want to thank the leader of the Conservative Party and our caucus for bringing this to Parliament. This is an example of how this Parliament can fulfill its function, challenging the government, holding it to account for a record which on foreign affairs is quite weak, but also proposing methods that allow for better resolutions. That is what this opposition day motion and the proposal of a special committee of Parliament on Canada-China relations are all about.
I want to start off with two reflections. The first is that today marks one year since Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arrested by Chinese state authorities and detained without charge, and without access to a lawyer or to the rule of law. They were arbitrarily detained as a diplomatic response to a lawful extradition arrest performed by Canada, a rule of law country, on behalf of the U.S. and a decision by a U.S. court. Canada acted with full respect of its rule of law traditions and China's actions have reflected and reminded us that there is no rule of law.
I am sure I speak for all Conservatives, parliamentarians and Canadians in saying that we stand in solidarity with the families of the two Michaels. We want their well-being to be safeguarded and we want to see them return home to Canada as quickly as possible. Today, we will be talking about many facets of the Canada-China relationship with its many challenges and some opportunities. However, we are not going to speak further about the two Michaels, out of respect for that case and the need for a resolution.
What is promising about this motion is the specialized committee that we are proposing. It would be all-party and multidisciplinary, with the ability to look at all aspects of the Canada-China relationship from complex consular cases to national security issues, to trade, to global affairs, within the context of a committee that can go in camera and respect secret and sensitive information. That is probably the best venue to come up with a plan for a swift resolution for the situation of Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig. I hope the government takes that into consideration when they consider voting on our motion later today.
I hope all members of this House realize this could be an opportunity to actually take the politics out of it, but allow us to do our job because Canadians are concerned about the well-being of these citizens. Canadians are well seized with issues related to China, from the South China Sea islands, to Huawei, to the situation with the Uighurs, to Chinese ambitions in the Arctic as a self-declared “near-Arctic state”, a new diplomatic term that really did not exist until they created it.
The challenge of the China relationship is the foreign policy challenge that Canada will face over the next generation. This is a perfect opportunity for a specialized committee of parliamentarians to examine it to make sure that Canada gets the balance right.
The second thing I will say at the outset of my remarks is that there are tremendous opportunities in China. However, for those opportunities, many of them business and many of them export-driven, Canada cannot and must not relinquish our unbridled support for the rule of law, for human rights and for standing up for our allies and friends around the world. In many cases, economic opportunities would not be worth it if Canada had to sacrifice the values that we are respected for and have been respected for since Confederation.
All governments in the modern era, going back to that of the Prime Minister's father, have tried to balance the need to engage trade, do business and help develop parts of China, alongside the need to push on human rights, democratic reform, rule of law and a higher standard in global affairs, so there is a tremendous opportunity.
I am frustrated that in recent years the Communist Party of China seems to be stepping back from its path of engagement as a serious law-abiding world power.
Years ago, before my election to Parliament, I spoke at a business luncheon in Toronto. The law firm I was at, like many exporting companies in Canada, saw the tremendous growth potential in China, the second-largest economy, with growth rates in the double digits in recent decades. I introduced the ambassador to China at the time, who was speaking to a Toronto business audience. I used a Chinese proverb: One generation plants the trees, the next generation enjoys the shade.
The hard work going into the early development of modern China was started by Pierre Trudeau and continued through all prime ministers, and goes back to iconic Canadians like Norman Bethune and hundreds of missionaries and other Canadian citizens who engage with China. These relationships have planted the trees. We have done the hard work. We should be enjoying the shade now. That proverb ended up being the ambassador's favourite expression, because it gets to the heart of diplomacy: We do the hard work so that future generations can benefit.
Canada has been a leading partner in China's development from its being a truly developing country into the world's second-largest economy, a global power. We have been at the forefront with Dr. Bethune and have been there to help with agricultural practices. We have been there with our CANDU technology to provide greenhouse gas emission-free power through nuclear generating stations in a country that is too reliant on coal. We have been there to trade. We have seen pandas come; we have seen trade missions go. We have tremendous companies in financial services, agriculture and transportation, leading companies like Manulife, Bombardier, Agrium and others that have done billions of dollars of business with China in the last decades. We should be very thankful for that but should also be very cautious.
In recent years, particularly in light of the 19th national congress, China has been stepping back from serious engagement on the world stage. The Communist Party has been exerting its influence through all levels of Chinese life, including through state-owned enterprises and their global effort. We have seen the belt and road initiative, making countries beholden and in debt to China for infrastructure and other projects.
We have to be cautious with the turn that China has taken in the last 10 years. Rather than this generation walking in the shade of the trees that were planted in the past, we are now almost lost in the woods on how best to handle this important relationship without sacrificing Canadian values.
Why are we bringing forward this debate on our first opposition motion? It is because we have had serious concerns with the Prime Minister's ability to govern in Canada's national interest on the world stage. All Canadians now have no confidence in the Prime Minister when he goes abroad.
We used to bemoan the fact that Canada was never talked about on the world stage. Now we cannot see a late-night talk show or Saturday Night Live without seeing our Prime Minister being lampooned for his actions on the world stage, gaffes that hurt Canada's national interest. At the NATO meetings, the Prime Minister mocked the U.S. President, the very person we need to help us apply pressure for the release of our citizens in China.
This is at a time when NATO is being questioned by the President of France and the U.S. President. Canada could play its traditional role as a linchpin, as Winston Churchill described us, between Europe and North America. We are a G7 nation, we are a NATO nation, we are a NORAD nation and we are a Five Eyes nation. Canada is never the biggest, but we have those relationships that normally we could use to influence our national interest, the freedom and liberty of others and the interests of the Western alliance. That has eroded. Canada is now seen in a way that is probably best represented by the Prime Minister's state visit to India, where he put photographs, his brand and the Liberal Party's fortunes ahead of Canada's national interest.
With respect to China, our concerns have been grounded in the very earliest actions of the government. I am hoping many of the new Liberal members of Parliament listen, because their role now in caucus is to ask questions. They should be just as worried as Conservatives are when it comes to China.
Former Canadian ambassador to China, David Mulroney, has called the Prime Minister's approach to China naive, and I would agree. I will not make much of the comment he made before the election that he had admiration for the basic dictatorship. I am not sure if it was a joke or if that is just how it was received, because it was such a ridiculous answer.
However, the influence of a very pro-Beijing element in the Prime Minister's core team was evidenced right in the earliest days. The Liberal transition team in 2015 was led by the president of the Canada China Business Council. He is now sitting in the Senate at the appointment of the Prime Minister.
In May of 2016, the first year of the Liberal government, the Prime Minister was revealed to have been in some cash-for-access fundraisers with major figures, oligarch-level people with close ties to the Chinese state. I remember my friend from Red Deer—Lacombe brought up the point in the House, with great delivery, that not only were the Liberal Party coffers being filled, but a $200,000 donation was made to the Trudeau Foundation by a wealthy business person connected to the Chinese state. In fact, money was put aside for a statue of Pierre Trudeau. These were the earliest days.
In their first few months of government, the Liberals also reversed a decision that stopped the sale of a technology company to a Chinese-controlled company. In fact, late in the Harper government, the sale of ITF Technologies to O-Net Communications was blocked by the Conservative government on security grounds. There was direct energy research and development that could have been weaponized or militarized, and the sale was stopped in July 2015. Within the first few months of the Liberal government, the Liberals set aside the blocking of that transaction and a few months later approved the sale, with military-related technology, for a Chinese state enterprise.
Mr. Speaker, do you not think our Five Eyes allies noticed that? It was seen as reversing a responsible security decision by the previous Conservative government because of the new Prime Minister's desire to engage with China on a free trade agreement.
It did not end there. The next year, the Liberals approved the sale of Norsat to Hytera, another Chinese-controlled enterprise, leading to outrage from the Pentagon, which had contracts with this Canadian military communications company. In fact, a trade commissioner in the U.S., a Democrat appointed by Obama, said about the sale:
Canada's approval of the sale of Norsat to a Chinese entity raises significant national-security concerns for the United States as the company is a supplier to our military....
Canada may be willing to jeopardize its own security interests to gain favour with China.
He also said that Canada should not put the security of a close ally at risk in the process. This was the commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a Democrat appointed by the bromance partner of the Prime Minister, President Obama.
This is not agitating language. These are serious concerns that were brought up to the foreign affairs committee when its members travelled to Washington. Right off the bat we saw the ability to sweep through sales, which likely should have been stopped on security grounds, to curry favour in the relationship.
There are also a significant number of human rights concerns. I have raised in the House this week that millions of people over the last few months have been protesting on the streets of Hong Kong. The government has been virtually silent on that. There are 300,000 Canadians living there. Seventy-eight years ago this week, Canadians from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles were fighting in defence of Hong Kong. We lost hundreds in the battle that ended on Christmas Day and lost hundreds more in POW camps in Japan. We therefore not only have our national interest and our citizens, but also our blood, represented in Hong Kong, and the government has been reserved in its comments.
It has also been reserved in its comments on the very disturbing internment and re-education of up to one million Uighurs. This is an area where we must be able to balance our values as a country and the need for us to speak out with the commercial interest.
Under the Prime Minister, all other issues have taken a back seat. In fact, before his state visit there in 2016, the Liberals were pre-positioning for a free trade agreement announcement. It is clear that the commercial interest has been overriding with the Prime Minister and the Liberal government regarding national security issues, the Huawei decision that has never come, our virtual silence on many significant human rights cases and the fact that our Asia-Pacific partners are very worried about the militarization of artificial islands built in the South China Sea. Seventy per cent of global trade passes through those waters. The last Pacific naval visit by one of our frigates was surveilled by China the whole time the frigate was there. China is making efforts to keep Taiwan away from bodies like the World Health Organization, an organization meant to stop contagions from spreading around the world, isolating countries like that. Canada is once again not being as forceful as it should.
Conservatives are asking for this special committee so that Canada can make progress toward having a balanced position on China after four years of no balance under the Prime Minister.
Since we are acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the detention of our citizens, in the last year alone Conservatives recommended a travel advisory. It took the government three months to implement it. Within weeks we asked for the Prime Minister to engage directly. He refused and claimed it was just a regular consular case, when it was not. By the time he and the previous minister tried to engage, they could not get their calls returned. We said there was flexibility within the Extradiction Act to move Ms. Meng's trial to a faster jurisdiction. That would have shown, within the rule of law and the act, an expedited process in return for favour to our citizens. The Liberals did not act on that.
The committee called Mr. McCallum to appear in camera. I cannot talk about it, but I wish it had been televised. Members can probably understand why he is no longer the ambassador. He contradicted himself several times and had to resign. We wanted an ambassador appointed immediately and the Liberals waited until the election to appoint Mr. Barton, without consultation with opposition parties. We asked them to withdraw Canada's participation in the Asian Infrastructure Bank. We asked them to immediately bring a WTO challenge with respect to canola and other commodities unfairly impacted by trade. The Liberals waited until two days before an election, a delay of six months. Our allies are not there for us, because of the current lack of seriousness the Prime Minister has on the world stage.
Let me leave everyone with Mr. McCallum's final comments, which illustrate why we need this committee and need to be serious with China. When he was leaving for the assignment, he said:
When China and Canada have disagreed on something, and this sometimes happens, all three prime ministers I have served have drawn on this friendship to speak respectfully but frankly to their Chinese counterparts. I know this long tradition will continue.
It did not continue. With this special committee it can continue, and we can be serious and have a balanced approach when it comes to China.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Oliphant Profile
2019-12-10 10:32 [p.178]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Durham for the concerns he raised, which I think every member of the House has, with respect to the very sensitive, and at times trying, diplomatic relationship we have with China.
I have a very simple question for the member. Last spring, the Canada-China legislative committee, the body that looks at the parliamentary relationship between Canada and China, took a mission to China.
The Conservative Party opted to send no members from its caucus on that trip. During that mission, we were able to meet with officials from the central committee, particularly members from the foreign affairs committee. We were able to raise sensitive issues around the consular cases, as well as other issues such as trade and the arbitrary detention of Canadians. However, new-found interest in this case has now come to Parliament.
Why did the Conservative Party choose not to send members on a very important trip to make sure that its voice was heard in a good parliamentary tradition?
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:33 [p.178]
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member for Don Valley West engages in parliamentary friendship groups and many of these very informal social engagements that many MPs can engage in, but that is not a serious diplomatic effort on behalf of Canada.
In fact I am disappointed, because at the time the member was the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and he would have known that if he sent a few lowly functionaries or higher than that, a parliamentary friendship group, and the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs were not seized with the matter, he was not showing seriousness regarding the relationship with China.
This is why last December, Conservatives and their leader asked the Prime Minister to engage personally, as Mr. McCallum said. His words were to engage personally to show how seriously Canada views the diplomatic dispute and the detention. Months later sending a parliamentary friendship-type group is not the way to show Canada how seriously we take the detention.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2019-12-10 10:34 [p.179]
Mr. Speaker, as it is my first time standing in the House, I just want to thank the voters of Elmwood—Transcona for sending me back to represent our community in Ottawa.
I want to make a point. When we talk about the Canada-China Legislative Association, it has a very different name from the other associations. I am familiar with this because my father actually had some bearing on the name.
There were Liberals and Conservatives at the time who wanted to call it a parliamentary association. However, by virtue of the fact that China is not a democracy, some people on this side of the House felt that it was inappropriate to call it a parliamentary association.
We have a Canada-China legislative friendship group for a very particular reason. I thought it might be nice to remind members in the House of that fact when they are speaking about it. There is an important point to that.
I know that, back in the Harper government, with some controversy Canada signed a trade deal with China, notorious for the fact that it allows a fair bit of secrecy in announcing the edicts of the adjudications under that trade deal.
Part of the member's speech had to do with the fact that we have had a lot of trade issues with China, including canola and other agricultural products. It is an agreement that does not seem to have done much for Canadian producers.
I am wondering if the member imagines that within the scope of this committee, we would look at that agreement and whether it has been a success or not for Canadian producers.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:36 [p.179]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Elmwood—Transcona for the clarification of the legislative group's name.
He raises a good point that this committee should be seized with FIPA, which is the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement that was signed between Canada and China. As parliamentary secretary at the time, I was involved in that. That agreement was intended to provide some certainty to exporters.
The challenge we face is that Chinese exporters into Canada can use our courts, the most fair and judicious system of justice in the world. What do our exporters rely upon in China? There is no rule of law. FIPA was meant to take some of these disputes and almost immediately have them resolved. It maybe has not functioned as well as it should have, and this is in large part because of the Chinese state stepping back from engagement, which is being called socialism with Chinese characteristics.
To be an executive or on the board of state-owned enterprises, one has to be a member of the Communist Party. All of these companies, including Huawei, are extensions of the Chinese state. All of these things can be considered within this professional, all-party committee. I hope the NDP and my colleagues support this motion.
View Colin Carrie Profile
View Colin Carrie Profile
2019-12-10 10:38 [p.179]
Mr. Speaker, it is my first time standing in the House and I want to thank the people of Oshawa for re-electing me. I promise to do the best for my community here in the House again for the sixth time.
I want to thank my colleague from Durham for bringing up this important proposal. This committee would help all of Canada and all the participants in the House, so I want to thank him for putting his hand forward to the other parties. On the China file and international affairs, the current Liberal government obviously needs a lot of help.
I remember the first trade agreement the Prime Minister had an opportunity to sign, and my colleague will remember that it was the trans-Pacific partnership. Our Prime Minister was there with Mr. Obama, the most progressive president ever in the history of the United States, and this was his deal. What did our Prime Minister do to our Asian-Pacific partners and the Americans? He just did not show up to sign that deal.
There are continued blunders, whether it was the India trip or the latest faux pas at NATO. The Chinese really want to see some certainty from Canada. They want to see some respect.
I am wondering if my colleague could comment on how important it is to get that relationship back on track, and like Mr. McCallum said, to have a principled and respectful approach and can deal with them frankly.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:39 [p.179]
Mr. Speaker, I too would like to thank the good people of Oshawa for electing the member for Oshawa. He is a terrific member of Parliament and my neighbour, and I have a little north part of Oshawa that I am thankful elected me.
The member is absolutely right that this committee could really help Canada at this critical time in the evolution of the Canada-China relationship. We can examine all aspects, from trade to consular and others.
I was at a great debate with my friend from Scarborough—Guildwood last week, and I was shocked that he agreed the Liberal government should not have closed the office of the ambassador for religious freedoms.
I salute his ability to call out one of many mistakes on the foreign policy level that the last government made. Ambassador Bennett was one of the first Canadian officials to raise the case of the Uighurs. That voice was silenced by the Prime Minister.
Ironically, Bob Rae, who has a good op ed in The Globe and Mail today on this balance, is at the International Court of Justice today on the Rohingyas. Ambassador Bennett was the first to really bring attention to their situation.
When human rights, religious freedoms and the rule of law in other parts of the world are at risk, sometimes that important function of a senior diplomatic-type figure can help Canada. This committee can be seized with what we should do to bring that back or expand the mandate.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-12-10 10:40 [p.180]
Mr. Speaker, my question is related to the official opposition seeking to have a special committee established when we have numerous standing committees in place, in particular the foreign affairs standing committee, which would be appropriate. A steering committee of that particular committee will also be established.
The member opposite recognizes that there are highs and lows in the relationship with Canada and China. I remember back in the early nineties when Jean Chrétien was the prime minister and the team Canada approach enhanced economic benefits for both countries by hundreds of millions of dollars. I remember Stephen Harper going to China and bringing back a couple of panda bears. There are highs and lows. I would suggest that the relationship between Canada and China is good, and that the ministers are doing a great job of protecting Canada's interests.
Why would the member not allow the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to look into the matter as opposed to trying to cause an issue that maybe is not substantive? This is outside the issue of captivity, which is something that all members are very much concerned about.
View Erin O'Toole Profile
View Erin O'Toole Profile
2019-12-10 10:42 [p.180]
Mr. Speaker, this is the most fundamental foreign-policy relationship Canada will face in a generation. We do not need a three-day study at a standing committee. We need a specialized multidisciplinary committee with the ability to go in camera, on a secret level, to explore not just complex consular cases but trade, defence, security, cyber, and the actions and impacts of China on human rights and the rule of law.
In this context, when there is sensitive information that could hurt a complex consular case or relate to 5G networks, for example, those committees could be held in camera, in secret, without politicizing them here. Why would the Liberals not want that degree of professionalism?
The only reason I could think the Liberals do not want this all-party approach is that they do not want scrutiny of their record. I am sorry, but our job is to hold them to account to push for better. That is why we should pass this motion to have the special committee.
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 Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister and her government will support this motion. We are in a minority Parliament and parliamentary scrutiny of the decisions the government makes and effective debate are very important. Hopefully, the government will not seek to stymie that from happening.
I have two specific questions for the minister.
As she and those watching will know, she chose her words very carefully on the issue of Hong Kong. Do she and her government support calls for meaningful universal suffrage and true democracy in Hong Kong, which is one of the key asks of the protesters?
The second question I want to ask is about the appointment of Dominic Barton as our ambassador. He is a former executive of McKinsey & Company, a company that has advised at least 22 of the 100 biggest state-owned companies in China. He was part of a corporate retreat in Kashgar, four miles from a Uighur concentration camp. He has, in his own words, drunk the Kool-Aid on China. Dominic Barton has no prior diplomatic experience.
Therefore, I wonder what the minister thinks. A signal was sent about the government's views of the Uighur Muslims' situation, its commitment to human rights and its view of state-owned companies building artificial islands in the South China Sea. One of those companies was advised by McKinsey. What signal does the appointment of Dominic Barton send about those issues?
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 mentioned, 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 Charlie Angus Profile
View Charlie Angus Profile
2019-12-10 11:00 [p.183]
Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we strike this committee. The situation with China is very serious and raises serious questions about how the Liberal government has mishandled this file from the beginning.
We know this was set off because of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou of Huawei, whose company was involved in a serious trade war with American interests, yet we stepped in and arrested her. The President of the United States said that he would intervene if he could get a better trade deal with China, while we were left holding the bag. We have Canadians in prison as a result of it. Canola exports are being threatened because of the stance we took.
What concerns me is this was not very well thought out. We did not take the necessary steps with China to meet with it diplomatically about this move. A former Liberal, who was our diplomat, made very inappropriate comments. Then he was replaced by someone who was a Liberal adviser. It seems that time and again the government puts the interests of the Liberal Party ahead of competent international diplomats with experience. It has put Canadians and our trade negotiations at risk with a country that plays a very serious role.
Why is the minister afraid of bringing this to committee so we can examine her government's failings?
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 Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2019-12-10 11:03 [p.183]
Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister is about Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who, as of today, have been detained in China for a year. What an awful situation for these two men. What has the government done in the past year to free them? There are certainly things it has not done. For most of the year, Canada had no ambassador in China. The government finally appointed one in September.
Can the minister tell us why the government waited so long? Two men were detained for a year, and the Liberal government was unable to appoint an ambassador for the better part of that year. I find that unacceptable.
What does the minister have to say for her government?
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 Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I want to zero in on a question that I asked before. It was very specific, and I do not think the minister addressed it directly, so I will keep it to one question this time.
Does the minister and does the government support calls for universal suffrage and true democracy in Hong Kong, yes or no?
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 Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-12-10 11:06 [p.183]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the minister, especially when she makes reference to the collaboration Canada has been engaged with in regard to other nations around the world, which recognize what is taking place and have been exceptionally supportive of the actions we have taken to date.
The minister made reference to the standing committees of the House of Commons, and those standing committees are able to look into all sorts of matters. When I read the motion that has been brought forward to us to vote on today, I could not help but think that there is no reason an issue of this nature could not be addressed by a standing committee. If the members of the standing committee want to make it three days or three weeks, it is up to them to do so.
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 Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2019-12-10 11:08 [p.184]
Mr. Speaker, allow me to begin by making some opening remarks, since I once said my farewells in this place. Indeed, I once said my goodbyes to my colleagues in the House of Commons because life was taking me in another direction. Life took me to the National Assembly of Quebec, where I sat for 13 years before becoming the registrar of the Rimouski CEGEP. As it happens, fate brought me back here.
I am now delivering a maiden speech as a new-again member of the House of Commons. I am very pleased to be here and I want to thank the people of the riding of Montarville for placing their trust in me on October 21.
I was even more surprised to be coming back to the House of Commons, this time to represent the riding of Montarville. The member for Pierre-Boucher—Les Patriotes—Verchères is an excellent member, so I would never have encroached on him. Sainte-Julie, the most populous municipality in the provincial Quebec riding of Verchères, is located in the federal riding of Montarville, where I was asked to run. It certainly seems like it was a good fit, because not only am I enjoying myself in this new riding, but also the people of Montarville seemed to think that I was a good choice.
Here I am, back in the House, greeting colleagues, congratulating everyone on their election, and telling them I look forward to working with them. As the Leader of the Bloc Québécois has already said, on October 21, Quebeckers called on us to work together. I think today, with the Conservative Party's motion, is our first test of that. I will get back to that shortly.
To close out my opening remarks, I will simply say that when I said my goodbyes to the House, it was located in Centre Block. When it was closed and the House was temporarily moved to this chamber, I remember thinking that I would never have sat in this new House. Fate sometimes has some very strange twists in store for us.
In any event, I will repeat that I am very pleased to be here and to have the opportunity today to speak to this first test of collaboration being proposed by the Conservative Party. What are we being asked to do as part of this first test?
Setting aside the words, which I will come back to in a moment, what we are being asked to do is to create an ad hoc committee on Canada-China relations so that we can work together to come up with ways to improve those relations.
I have to say that this seems like a good idea. It seems like a good idea, in a minority government, to try to collaborate with all the political parties. It seems like a good idea to sit down in a parliamentary committee and try to find solutions to a real problem. No one can deny that Canada-China relations, which were excellent until recently, have deteriorated considerably over the past few years. We can speak at length about the reasons the relationship has deteriorated, but there is no denying that Canada-China relations have deteriorated.
There is a problem. Once we become aware of the problem what do we do? We can take the Liberal government's approach of late and close our eyes and leave the Canadian ambassador to China post vacant in Beijing for eight months. Yes, I said eight months.
That is not a good approach to finding solutions. A minority government needs the goodwill of the whole House. We have to sit down together and look for solutions. That is essentially the spirit of the motion before us.
I will address each element of the motion in turn. Once we have a good understanding of the spirit of the motion, we will have to consider the letter of the motion more thoroughly.
That, in light of the prolonged diplomatic crisis with China, the House appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the Canada–China relationship including, but not limited to, consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations:
So far, so good. That is basically what I just said.
(a) that the committee be composed of 12 members, of which six shall be government members, four shall be from the official opposition, one shall be from the Bloc Québécois and one from the New Democratic Party;
That is pretty much how standing committees are composed, so that is fine, too. Nobody is going to argue against that.
(b) that changes in the membership of the committee shall be effective immediately after notification by the whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
That is a standard practice. There are no issues so far.
(c) that membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
Once again, this is a standard practice. There is nothing to say about that.
(d) that the members shall be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee no later than January 15, 2020;
That seems logical to me.
(e) that the Clerk of the House shall convene an organization meeting of the said committee for no later than January 20, 2020;
This too seems logical. As members can see, everything is fine so far. It reminds me of the joke about a man who falls from the 20th storey of a building. As he is falling, he passes the 10th floor. When someone there asks him if he is okay, he says that he is fine so far.
(f) that the committee be chaired by a member of the government party;
I do not see what the Liberal Party would have against that. Once again, so far so good.
(g) that notwithstanding Standing Order 106(2), in addition to the Chair, there be one vice-chair from the official opposition, one vice-chair from the Bloc Québécois and one vice-chair from the New Democratic Party;
In the spirit of co-operation, I must say that this seems logical. So far, so good.
(h) that quorum of the committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118 and that the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including one member of the opposition and one member of the government;
Once again, that is the usual practice. So far, so good.
(i) that the committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee, as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, inside and outside of Canada;
If we want to really examine the Canada-China relationship, it makes sense that we must eventually be able to travel. So far, so good.
(j) that the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings; and
I think that also makes sense.
I have read nearly all the points in the motion. I do not see how any of those points should pose a problem for the government. Only paragraph (k) remains.
(k) that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Public Safety, and the Canadian ambassador to China be ordered to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit.
I will digress for a moment to say that I assume our Chinese friends are listening carefully to today's deliberations. I suspect they are very interested in what we are saying. I have to tell them that there may be problems between Canada and China. We need to examine this more closely to come up with solutions.
There are also internal problems in Canadian politics. Unfortunately, parties sometimes seek to score political points. Without ascribing any motives to my Conservative colleagues, I believe that item (k) shows this desire to score political points because it would compel the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Canada's ambassador to China to testify. This would likely lead the Liberal Party to oppose the motion, resulting in the Conservative Party being outraged. How would that help us improve relations between China and Canada? That would not help in the least.
The Conservative Party would probably score some points with the public by saying how mean the Liberals were for rejecting such a reasonable motion. I read each item in the motion and they are all perfectly reasonable. There is absolutely no reasonable reason for refusing this motion. It just makes good sense. However, by including item (k), the Conservatives clearly want to embarrass the Liberal government. This will result in the Liberal government saying that this motion is unacceptable and that they cannot compel the Prime Minister to appear. The Conservatives will answer: “Why not?” Is it not up to the committee members to decide who will appear before them? It seems to me that they should have left it up to the committee members to decide who is on their witness list.
Why try to embarrass the government by demanding three specific witnesses, namely the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian ambassador to China? If this was an attempt to ensure that this eminently reasonable motion would not be adopted, it was not a very sensible way of going about it. If the ultimate goal is to find solutions to the problem of the strained relations between China and Canada, we need to sit down and come up with solutions.
As I said at the start, this is a test of our collaboration skills. It is primarily a test for the Liberal government, of course, but for the Conservative Party as well. If the Conservatives would agree to withdraw item (k), I do not think anyone in the House would object to adopting this motion unanimously. We have an obligation to discharge the mission given to us by Quebeckers and Canadians, and that is to make Parliament work. Again, this is our first test. I am calling on the Liberal government and the official opposition to rise to the challenge that the official opposition itself just issued. It will require maturity and a sense of responsibility.
As the House Leader of the Bloc Québécois said during a conversation we had just moments ago, we have to consider which is likely to have a more detrimental impact on Canada-China relations: the creation of a committee tasked with finding ways to improve relations between our two countries, or a statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs about how Beijing is treating the two detained Canadians in a totally arbitrary fashion?
When the government accuses the opposition of trying to add fuel to the fire with this motion, I think it should take a good look in the mirror and realize that, after cutting through the rhetoric, there is nothing unreasonable in this motion. I read it.
I therefore call on the government to step up and show some maturity. It needs to give the parties in the House a chance to work together. If the official opposition truly wants to work together, it should make its motion less of a challenge for the government and remove item (k). We should work together and come up with a list of witnesses. If the list must include the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian ambassador, then so be it. The opposition should not give the government an opportunity to reject the whole thing and throw the baby out with the bathwater by demanding that item (k) be included.
In the four minutes I have left, I will talk about Canada-China relations. Canada, which always presents itself to the world as a paragon of virtue, has always stood up for human rights, up until Jean Chrétien's former Liberal government decided to focus on promoting trade. The argument was that we could use trade to get other countries to adopt our way of life. The standard of living would improve, followed by increased consumption and more respect for human rights.
Two decades later, the only conclusion we can come to on this strategy, given the tense relations between China and Canada these days, is that this may not have been the best choice. We are at quite the impasse right now. I think there were good intentions behind this policy change brought in by the Jean Chrétien Liberal government. I think there was a profound belief that trade would bring about change. Invoking human rights repeatedly was not really going to change things. It was thought that change would come through trade. The impasse we currently find ourselves in shows that may not have been the right path to follow. What path should we take? I believe in the collective wisdom of this institution to find the right path.
That is why I fundamentally believe that aside from item (k), the motion moved by the official opposition is an invitation to appeal to the collective wisdom of this institution so that we may find the right path to improve relations with China, which had always been good. We only have to look at the legacy of Henry Norman Bethune, or the legacy of the current Prime Minister's father, which led to excellent Canada-China relations until quite recently.
I urge the Liberal government to change its attitude towards the Conservative motion, and I urge the official opposition to withdraw item (k) so that we can unanimously adopt this motion and draw on the best in each and every one of us in order to improve political and trade relations with the juggernaut that is the People's Republic of China.
View Robert Oliphant Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Robert Oliphant Profile
2019-12-10 11:27 [p.186]
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Montarville on his re-election and return to the House.
As I listened to his very thoughtful presentation, I wondered whether or not he sees the possibility of this same work being done through the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, which is yet to be constituted. It would be able to do exactly those things as a priority, if the committee so willed to do that. We believe the committee should be the master of its own house.
Would the Bloc Québécois be open to the possibility of this sort of work being done collegially and collaboratively at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs?
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2019-12-10 11:28 [p.186]
Mr. Speaker, naturally, the answer to that question is yes.
Can the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development do that kind of thing? The answer is yes, but this should not be used as an excuse to oppose the Conservative motion. Let me explain why.
First, there is no guarantee that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, which, as my colleague noted, is yet to be constituted, will want to do that work.
Second, I believe that the Conservative Party's intention in moving this motion on the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor was to highlight the importance that this Parliament places not only on the detainment of these two Canadians, whom we hope to see released as soon as possible, but also on relations between China and Canada.
I think we need to see the essence of this motion as a desire for us to work together to find solutions for improving relations between China and Canada, which were always excellent until very recently. I am hoping that the collective wisdom of the House will yield solutions.
We should not just say that we will look into this once the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is constituted. Our collaboration skills are being put to the test today, and I urge my esteemed colleagues to rise to the challenge.
View Randy Hoback Profile
View Randy Hoback Profile
2019-12-10 11:30 [p.186]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked about the importance of committees being formed. The Liberals are ignoring one issue, which is that a committee is formed at the will of the House. The issues that deal with China cross the lines of so many committees. For example, the trade committee cannot deal with human rights and the human rights committee cannot deal with trade. That is the problem.
The member talked about paragraph (k). In the previous Parliament, the Liberals did everything they could to make sure the Prime Minister or certain ministers or certain people did not testify before committee. We want to make sure they do testify. The member is predicting that their answers will be such that they will embarrass the Prime Minister. How the Prime Minister testifies in front of a committee is in his hands. He could come off as a rock star if he so chooses, depending on how he presents his information to the committee. However, it is very important that we have the information so that we understand what went wrong.
In light of that, how does the member see this unfolding if the committee decided not to have the Prime Minister testify? How would we get the details from the appropriate ministers and the Prime Minister?
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2019-12-10 11:31 [p.187]
Mr. Speaker, I understand my colleague's concerns. They are legitimate. This is a case of being once bitten, twice shy. The official opposition has experienced the cavalier attitude and even the arrogance of a Liberal majority government that refused to have the Prime Minister appear in committee.
From a technical point of view, the composition we are talking about seems to be essentially equal. The opposition would have some clout. I understand this concern, which I think is legitimate. However, I want members to understand that I am concerned that the official opposition is giving the Liberal government an excuse to oppose the motion, which could kill an initiative that, at first glance, seems very positive to me.
Was item (k) added with the noble goal of ensuring that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian ambassador in Beijing would appear before the committee, or was the real goal to make the government look bad?
Only the Conservatives can answer that question. However, I would hope that everyone will take up the challenge of co-operation that the Conservatives themselves issued to us today.
View Jack Harris Profile
View Jack Harris Profile
2019-12-10 11:33 [p.187]
Mr. Speaker, I myself am a returning member after, in my case, an involuntary absence from the last Parliament.
I did enjoy the member's comments very much. The member went through the points very thoroughly. I have a concern with paragraph (k). I would invite the member to look at the last five words, “as the committee sees fit.” Would that not give the committee the opportunity to decide whether to have the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister, or the Minister of Public Safety and the ambassador appear at committee? Does that not give the opportunity instead for someone to make excuses for not coming, as was pointed out? At least the individual could appear but it is in the control of the committee. As the member pointed out, there would be six government members and six opposition members. Would that not give the member some comfort?
I do share the member's concerns. If we want to work together and have to work together, I do not want a combat zone where the opposition is set up against the government. If we are going to try to find solutions, then we should set the proper tone in the committee. Do those last several words not give the member some comfort?
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2019-12-10 11:34 [p.187]
Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague is absolutely right. That is an important safeguard. It would indeed be up to the committee to decide when to have the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian ambassador to China appear.
The fact is that item (k) requires the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian ambassador to China to appear as witnesses, but the committee members may, in their wisdom, decide that it would be better to call the Minister of Foreign Affairs than the Prime Minister, or vice versa. Why not let the committee members decide which potential witnesses they think they need to hear from?
Once again, I understand my Conservative Party colleagues' concerns. However, I worry that this element could be used as an excuse to derail an initiative that I see as extremely positive.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2019-12-10 11:36 [p.187]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Montarville for his excellent speech. It was very interesting.
My colleague reiterated the importance of human rights. He also mentioned that it has been one year today since Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China. It is a sad anniversary. He also mentioned that the Liberal government waited eight months to appoint an ambassador to China, a key diplomatic post to facilitate the release of these two Canadians.
As my colleague has good knowledge of foreign affairs, I would like to ask his opinion and whether he recalls there ever being a time when a government waited that long during a diplomatic crisis to appoint an ambassador to a country as important as China.
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2019-12-10 11:37 [p.187]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Joliette for overstating my knowledge of foreign affairs. I do indeed have some knowledge of these matters, but I do not think I am unique in that regard. I do know for sure, however, that this is an unusual case. In the context of a major diplomatic crisis between two countries, there must be an interlocutor with whom to engage.
Furthermore, if I were a member of the government in Beijing watching as Canada failed to appoint an ambassador for eight months, I would think that resolving the disputes between our two countries was not all that important to Canada, whether it be the trade disputes involving canola and pork or the human rights situation, specifically the two Canadians in prison. If I were a Chinese leader, I would be wondering how this government could behave with such cavalier disregard in the middle of a diplomatic crisis.
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