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Results: 1 - 30 of 24494
View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
I call this meeting to order.
Thank you very much for coming today.
We have the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne.
With him, from the department, we have Marta Morgan, deputy minister for foreign affairs. We have Arun Thangaraj, chief financial officer and assistant deputy minister for corporate planning, finance and information technology, and Mr. Steve Verheul, chief negotiator and assistant deputy minister, trade policy and negotiations.
Thank you very much for coming.
In accordance with the motion that we passed, Minister, you have 10 minutes to give us your opening remarks, and then we will have questions and answers until about 5:20 p.m., at which point we will go in camera and do some committee business.
Thank you very much.
Minister, please go ahead.
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Chair, thank you very much.
I just want to say, colleagues, thank you for welcoming me to the foreign affairs committee at a time when I think our nation is faced with a number of challenges.
I want to take this opportunity, Madam Chair, to thank the outstanding officials who are standing with me. Many of them have been working 24-7 for the last few months, I would say, and they have been doing their utmost to provide the best services to Canadians in difficult circumstances, whether in coronavirus assistance in Japan and China, to efforts in Iran, where we had to face a number of challenges, and then obviously in our relationship in trying to obtain the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and clemency for Mr. Schellenberg.
Madam Chair and honourable members, thank you for welcoming me to appear before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to speak about our government's foreign policy mandate and our current priorities.
I would like to begin by emphasizing that Canadian interests, values and principles are the heart of everything that we do on the international stage, from our commitment to multilateral institutions to our trade agreements and our defence and promotion of human rights. This approach is critical in an increasingly unpredictable world where the rules-based system is under strain.
This is evident in the rise of populism and protectionism and the growth of economic and technological inequalities around the world.
This is evident in the serious doubt being cast upon multilateral institutions and the rules-based international order.
This is also evident in the decline of human rights and the increasingly selective enforcement of international law.
Increasingly, human rights are under threat, from the plight of the Rohingya to the rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia to attacks on human rights defenders. Add to that an immense demographic transformation. By 2050, the world's population could increase by 2.2 billion people, and 2.2 billion people will also be facing the existential threat of our time, which is, obviously, climate change.
This observation may, of course, seem daunting, even insurmountable to some. However, there are also encouraging signs that give hope.
Inspiring people are advancing our societies and improving the lives of marginalized people the world over.
There is also a growing consensus on human rights, including women's rights, LGBTQ2 rights and democratic rights, around the globe.
Madam Chair, major international challenges require global solutions, and I think we're seeing it today with the coronavirus in particular. Hence, the importance of a rules-based international order that every country can count on to defend their interests while ensuring the collective interests of all.
However, that rules-based international order, as you well know, my dear colleagues, is under threat in many, many corners of the world. This is why we must support and modernize the multilateral system to ensure its sustainability, and this is where Canada can, and indeed must, play a leading role.
Canada has a voice in almost every major international forum: the G7, the G20, the Francophonie, the Commonwealth, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or NORAD, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, to name but a few.
The very principles on which the confederation of our country is based—peace, order and good government—resonate in many parts of the world. Our reputation and credibility as a country rest on our ability to demonstrate to our partners and allies how our principles and values concretely guide our diplomacy around the world.
Let me now present to you the priorities that guide my mandate so far.
First is Iran and the tragedy of flight PS752. If anything, it illustrates the importance of diplomacy and multilateralism. Faced with this tragedy, we chose engagement, while remaining firm so that justice could be done for the families of the victims.
Canada led the creation of the international coordination and response group for victims of flight PS752 to ensure that the international community could speak to Iran with one voice, and despite the pitfalls, despite the lack of diplomatic relations with Iran, we were able to quickly dispatch investigators to the field and repatriate the bodies of the victims in accordance with the wishes of the families.
Much work remains to be done, Madam Chair, for Iran to assume full responsibility, including a complete and transparent investigation, the downloading and analysis of the black boxes and swift compensation for the families. We are working hard to make progress on all these fronts. We will continue to hold the Iranian regime accountable, and as I've said many times, we will judge Iran not by its words but by its actions.
Let me now turn to China.
The year 2020 will mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and the People's Republic of China. Unfortunately, the relationship between our two countries is currently undergoing a turbulent period.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been arbitrarily detained for over a year now. Our top priority remains securing their release. We are also working to obtain clemency for Robert Schellenberg who, as you know, Madam Chair, has been sentenced to death in China.
International partners share our opinion. The action of a state within the framework of an international treaty must never generate reprisals against its citizens abroad.
However, our relationship with China remains complex and multidimensional. Finding the right balance is a delicate operation. There will always be issues where we will have differences and issues on which will have overlapping positions. So we must learn to live with this new complexity.
For example, it is possible to work with China on reforming the World Trade Organization, or WTO, while having divergent positions on human rights.
One thing is for sure. Our relations with China will always be guided by the interests of Canadians and by our commitment to the roles and principles enshrined in international law.
Another priority, Madam Chair, is our campaign for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. As I've said before, a seat on the Security Council is not an end in itself: It is a vehicle for promoting the principles and the values that shape our vision of international relations. We are witnessing a major questioning of the capacity of international institutions to respond to the crises of our time, particularly in Asia and Africa and Latin America. There's an urgent need to develop new approaches and create new consensus to face these challenges. Our campaign for a seat on the Security Council is therefore a great opportunity for Canada to demonstrate leadership: to assert our interests, principles and values; and to strengthen and adapt multilateralism to the realities of today.
Some will say that the fight for a seat on the United Nations, or UN, Security Council is not worth it or that it may be too late. However, it is never too late to fight for women's rights, human rights, the environment or democracy.
Some will even criticize the Security Council, saying it is obsolete or even ineffective. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most important forums in the world where major decisions on peace and security are taken. It is a forum where Canada can have both a relevant voice and an influence.
Finally. I'd like to say a word about our relationship with our neighbours to the south, the United States. We are inseparable allies, partners and friends because of our geography, our personal ties and, of course, our economic ties.
The new NAFTA opens another chapter in our relationship, one of prosperity, opportunity and stability. As evidenced by the sometimes difficult negotiations over the last two years, our government will never compromise on the interests of Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister and my predecessor for their tireless work, which brought increased stability and predictability to our commercial relationship with the United States, our biggest and largest trading partner.
To conclude, some may say that in a minority government we have to act quickly to achieve our objectives, but as an African proverb I've quoted before says that if you want to go fast, you go alone, but if you want to go far, let's walk together.
Hence the importance of an inclusive approach, such as the one I am proposing to you today, where provinces, territories, businesses, non-governmental organizations, artists, civil society and members of Parliament from all parties, in cooperation with our international partners, work with us to build a greener, fairer, safer, more inclusive and more prosperous world.
Thank you.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 15:47
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Thank you, Mr. Minister.
We have received your brief, which alternates between French and English. So we will have to have the French parts translated into English and the English parts into French before the document is distributed to our colleagues on the committee.
Thank you so much for your presentation.
We will start the first round of questions.
Ms. Alleslev, you have the floor.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Minister, for being here.
I note that in your opening remarks you didn't give us an update on the government's response to coronavirus with respect to international relationships and actions. I wonder if you might do that now.
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I appreciate it. I thank my colleague for the question.
I've been in touch with a number of colleagues over the spread of the coronavirus. I've been in touch with my colleague from South Korea to understand how the virus spread so quickly in their country and better understand what we can do and the lessons learned. I talked to my colleague from Italy just this morning. I also had a call with my Australian colleague this morning. I have tried also to talk to a number of colleagues over the last few days and weeks to make sure that we talk to each other, learn from each other, particularly when we had the Diamond Princess in Japan. I also spoke to my counterpart in Japan to make sure and I spoke to my Chinese counterpart when the virus erupted in Wuhan. The purpose of that was, first, to allow consular access when we needed to repatriate Canadians. The first wave was in Wuhan in Hubei province in China. The second wave was in Japan.
More recently it was with U.S. authorities to make sure that we would provide consular services and to make sure that Canadians would receive all the care and attention they would need from foreign governments when they need to be quarantined in their countries.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Along those lines, I'm wondering if you could help us with the Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig situation. Can you give us an update on their health and the impact of the coronavirus on them and the challenging situation that they find themselves in?
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I'd like to thank you for that question, because this is top of mind.
The release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor is my absolute priority. We made a démarche with the Chinese authorities when we saw the coronavirus appearing in China. We have been making sure with Ambassador Barton that we are in regular contact with Chinese authorities to make sure that the health and safety of Canadians who are detained in China—not only those, but others—receive all the attention needed.
I receive regular reports with respect to some of the measures that have been taken by China, such as curbing visits. We've been trying to find other ways to stay in touch with them to make sure that—
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Minister, do you have any information on their health? Our understanding of the agreement Canada has with China is that they would have consular access once a month, and yet they have not had consular access since, I believe, January 14, which is almost two months. That's pretty significant.
Could you please give us any information you have? Are they healthy? Is the quarantine affecting them? When will they have consular access again? What pressure can you bring to bear?
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I would say it's almost daily, not weekly, pressure that we put on Chinese authorities when it comes to the Canadian detainees. You will understand that the basis under which I work is a no-harm policy for the ones who are detained, whether it's with respect to their detention conditions or to their release.
There are certain things about their detention conditions that would not be in their best interests for me to describe in detail, but I can assure you that Ambassador Barton and ourselves have been in daily or almost daily contact with the Chinese authorities to follow up on what they are doing, and we are exercising all the rights we have under the Vienna convention to make sure we are in regular contact with the Canadians being detained. We look at their diet and the conditions of their detention.
I've been Minister of Foreign Affairs for four months now and I've had four conversations with my counterpart in China—
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
We'll look forward to finding out when they have consular access again.
Would you know if anyone anywhere around there has been quarantined?
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I know that the Chinese authorities, based on the latest report I received, have restricted access to a number of detention facilities in China. They told us this was to prevent the spread of viruses, and certainly we have heard that, but we are pushing for our rights under the Vienna convention to be in touch regularly with our detainees in China.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
To follow up on that, I believe 14 nations have come out publicly in support of our desire for them to be released. That's a nice number, but we would like it to be significantly larger.
Could you share any activities and actions that you've taken? Why is that number not bigger? What are other countries looking for to be able to provide that support to Canada in such a significant matter?
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 15:52
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You will have to respond in under a minute, Mr. Minister.
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I raise the issue of Michael Spavor, Michael Kovrig and clemency for Mr. Schellenberg regularly with my counterparts. I have been adamant in saying, as I said in my opening statement, that Canada's enforcement of an international treaty should never allow a foreign state to take measures of reprisal against foreigners, and I've stressed to my like-minded colleagues that we should all be concerned, because Michael's case shows why the world's democracies need to work together.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 15:53
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Unfortunately, we are out of time.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Minister.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 15:53
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I'm sorry I had to interrupt you.
We will now start the first round of questions.
Ms. Sahota, you have the floor for six minutes.
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View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
2020-03-12 15:53
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Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hello, Minister. Welcome to committee today.
I too am interested to learn more about the response to the coronavirus. The world watched last month when the virus seemed to be spreading to Canadians who were travelling abroad and consular services all of a sudden were extended to provide help and support to people in other countries.
I want to learn a little bit more about the process. You had a large-scale evacuation from China and from Japan. I want to know exactly what steps you have to take to make those evacuations a reality. I know it took some time, especially when it came to China. Are you planning any future evacuations for Canadians through your consular services?
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Well, thank you for that question, Madam Chair.
I want to give my thanks to our consular officials. I think what my officials have done with respect to the repatriation of people from Wuhan and Hubei provinces, from Japan, and more recently from Oakland is probably one of the biggest missions that has been undertaken in a long time.
In the case of Wuhan, we were facing a number of challenges. There are always three steps in that. You need to assess the situation, decide what you are going to do and then implement it. The first moment that we saw that the number of Canadians was sufficient to justify evacuation and that we needed to evacuate them, we chartered a plane. Then we had to organize the ground logistics.
For my colleagues to understand, to get the plane into China, we needed first to stage the plane in a location closer to China, because we had about a six-hour window from the moment we were given authorization to fly in the airspace to be on the ground, and repatriation needed to be done during the night.
In the background to that, we needed to make sure that people were at home, were informed about the flight and could cross all the checkpoints that would lead them to the airport. In some cases they had to go to 20 checkpoints, so it was about providing licence plates, drivers' numbers and vehicle models to make sure that people could have access. I was very proud that we could do that in a safe and efficient way. If you listen to the reports, they say that Canada's boarding process was one of the most efficient.
When it came to the Diamond Princess, Canada was there first with the CDC. We sent public health officials with American colleagues to talk to the Japanese as we saw the numbers of coronavirus increasing on the ship we were trying to access what was going on. I was pleased that we could repatriate all these Canadians safely to Trenton, working in an interdepartmental....
In the case of those who stayed there, at one stage we had 50 Canadians in 27 hospitals in a radius of 300 kilometres. We were providing what I called personalized consular services. Different families wanted different things. Some wanted means of communication, some wanted to adapt their meals and some wanted to make sure they had mental support. Again, this was unprecedented in everything that we have done so far, I would say, because of the type of services we were required to provide to provide comfort to Canadians. Also, if people were in a quarantine environment, we provided the type of resources needed to do that.
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View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
2020-03-12 15:57
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As a follow-up to that, has support to consular services been increased, given the current situation? There has been criticism in the news that some Canadians abroad have not been able to make contact. There hasn't been updated information provided. What efforts are being made to increase those supports?
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Chair, I have even called some of the victims myself. Some I called four times to make sure.
This was a unprecedented effort from the ambassadors on the ground. We sent the Red Cross. I called the CEO of the Red Cross to even supplement the services. As you know, the types of services under the Vienna convention.... We went way beyond what we would normally do under the specific circumstances that we were presented. There was some great learning in that respect. I am proud of the service that we offered.
Obviously, when you repatriate hundreds of Canadians, you always find perhaps one or another who wished that things could have gone differently. I spoke to a number of people we repatriated. We did it safely and professionally. We brought our people back home. We still have about 20 people in Japan to whom we are still providing consular services because they are still in hospital.
The decision we took to go first and make sure that we would repatriate only people who were asymptomatic was the right decision, as you can see from all the health officials around the world. Now we have been called upon to provide additional services on the Grand Princess, which is the ship off the coast of Oakland.
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View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ruby Sahota Profile
2020-03-12 15:59
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What would you advise now? March break is coming next week, with a lot of children out of school and a lot of vacations already booked. What would you advise Canadians to do when it comes to going abroad or travelling within Canada? What precautions should they take?
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
You have 30 seconds, Minister.
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I would say that the first step is to go to page 38 of your passports. It says three things. It says to read the travel advisory we put on our website, register if you are going to go abroad so we know where you are and reach out in case of need.
Those three Rs are the best advice I can give. As you saw yesterday, it's changing by the hour, so the best way is to be connected, be informed and reach out for assistance.
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View Leona Alleslev Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.
Mr. Bergeron, you have the floor.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 15:59
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Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Minister, thank you for joining us today and giving us your valuable time. We would have liked you to be with us longer, but it seems that the tradition here in Ottawa is that presentations are about an hour or two long. What can I say, we need to adapt: Times change.
Mr. Minister, one of the purposes of today's meeting is to discuss your mandate letters. In the mandate letters, you are mandated to support the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs on measures related to Canada-U.S. relations. In your opinion, what are the possible consequences of the U.S. decision yesterday to close its borders, so to speak, to all flights from Europe as of the end of this month? Could Europeans possibly try to land in Canada and then go to the United States? Do you foresee any consequences for Canada-U.S. relations in terms of the ability to move freely across borders?
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
I thank my colleague for his question, Madam Chair.
I was in contact with my European counterparts last night, because the American president's announcement has a greater impact on our Europeans colleagues. I spoke to Italy's foreign minister this afternoon, just before question period.
At this time, there is no indication that travellers would pass through Canada on their way to the United States. As you know, in a situation like this, you have to work with facts. The facts do not indicate that at this point in time.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 16:01
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We have to anticipate situations, Mr. Minister.
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View François-Philippe Champagne Profile
Lib. (QC)
The U.S. president's measure will take effect at midnight. If you look at the number of cases in Canada, I think the measures Canada has taken, compared to the G7 countries, have been effective in controlling the spread of the virus. We are going to continue to do what we have been doing since day one. Of course, we are in discussions with all government agencies, whether it's the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency or our G7 partners, to fully understand the potential impact of this and to put a plan in place to respond to it.
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View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Stéphane Bergeron Profile
2020-03-12 16:02
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If I understand correctly, you don't think there will be any particular trouble with our neighbours to the south, and we should be happy about that.
The following mandate has been entrusted to you:
to work with the Minister of Canadian Heritage to promote Canada's public diplomacy through cultural and educational spheres, such as introducing a new cultural diplomacy strategy with at least one international mission each year to promote Canadian culture and creators around the world.
As you know, this was one of the main thrusts of Canada's foreign policy until 2005. In 2005, under the previous Conservative government, major cuts were made to the trade routes program and the public diplomacy program, the Canadian cultural centre in Paris and cultural positions in various embassies, including Berlin.
You probably know that many events abroad, such as Surprenante Acadie, in Poitiers, France, and Les Déferlantes francophones, in Capbreton, France, were funded by this type of program.
At some point, are you planning to reinvest in this type of program, to enable civil society and particularly the cultural and education sectors to promote all our cultures abroad?
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