Taiwan Affairs Act

An Act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Jim Abbott  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of April 4, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

October 27th, 2005 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions between all parties and I think if you seek it, you will find acceptance for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, Bill C-357, an act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, standing in the name of the hon. member for Kootenay--Columbia, scheduled for debate on November 4, 2005, be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence; that private member's hour be suspended for that day; and that the House continue with the business before it prior to private member's hour until the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Points of OrderRoutine Proceedings

October 7th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Gary Carr Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my point of order is on Bill C-357 respecting Taiwan. In the first hour of debate on the bill, the member for Vancouver Island North repeated several allegations made in the Lai Cheong Sing case.

Mr. Lai and his family claimed refugee status in 2000. In 2002 the Refugee Board concluded that they were not conventional refugees as they had committed serious non-political crimes before coming to Canada. The decision was upheld by the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal and by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2005.

The member for Vancouver Island North referred to a letter purportedly sent from the hon. Allan Rock, then the minister of industry, to Ms. Esta Resnick, government counsel in the Lai case, about a telephone conversation between them on the Lai case. In fact, the government counsel advised that she never had a telephone conversation with Mr. Rock or received a letter. In addition, the Department of Industry searched for this alleged letter and there is no record of it.

The member for Vancouver Island North also alleged that the government counsel and the government breached an undertaking of confidentiality and alleged that as a result a witness in the Lai case was betrayed to the Chinese police.

In fact, counsel for Mr. Lai entered affidavits with an unsigned statement and then asked the Federal Court to make them “public”. In the time they were “confidential” the government counsel did not disclose them to anyone.

Given the nature of these matters and given that the Hansard summary containing these inaccuracies has been submitted to the Federal Court and will arise in court proceedings as early as October 12, it is important to set the record straight now.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2005 / noon
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Conservative

John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-357 today. I really appreciated the comments of the member for Kootenay--Columbia and those of members of the Bloc and the NDP.

I would like to address the question about Mongolia that was put by the Liberal member to the bill's sponsor. This bill emphasizes Taiwan, which has now become a member of the World Trade Organization. In that capacity Taiwan was closely defined and the definition excluded Mongolia or any place like that. All of the voting for democracy and presidential elections clearly includes people in Taiwan. That is the intent of governance.

The member for Victoria spoke to this legislation. He talked about Canadian foreign policy not being made in Beijing. I will place some doubt in that member's mind with something I want to present today. I think we should be taking sides and the side we should be taking is that of human rights.

Bill C-357 was tabled by my colleague from Kootenay--Columbia. He is taking some flak from status quo interests who are putting trade before principle. I have no doubt there will be members of the House of Commons who will be ducking for cover. I specifically want to offer to the member for Kootenay--Columbia my respect and appreciation for his pursuing this bill as private members' business.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade as well as the last two Prime Ministers have been very cute in their public statements and responses in the House of Commons on Taiwan. While they have expressed appreciation for Taiwan's achievements in human rights, freedom and democracy and respect for the rule of law, they have not stretched their necks one centimetre to reward Taiwan for its great advances. Rather, they have continued to not support World Health Assembly status for Taiwan, despite three express wishes of members of Parliament.

They have refused to sign agreements of mutual assistance between Taiwan and Canada because “they are not allowed under Canadian law”. Exactly. That is self-fulfilling. That is what Bill C-357 is all about. They have also refused travel visas for senior government officials from Taiwan, such as the president, the vice-president, the defence minister, and the foreign affairs minister. This is a blanket no.

There are now 150,000 Taiwanese immigrants settled in Canada. We know that in this population of 150,000 there are a few criminal elements who have escaped justice in Taiwan by moving to Canada. By the Canadian government's statements there is no Canadian law to authorize an agreement on mutual legal assistance to apprehend cross-border criminals. Bill C-357 would pre-empt this state of affairs.

Canada's image in the international community has certainly suffered over the last 12 years. Prior to this we punched above our weight in the international arena militarily and on human rights, freedom and democracy issues. This legacy, which was hard earned and too easily spent, is essential to recover once again. It is generally the deep-seated conviction of Canadians that we should operate from principle. Canada's posture toward Taiwan has been atrocious. Bill C-357 would rectify some of the imbalance.

We all know that Canada's treatment of Taiwan can be directly attributed to objections from the People's Republic of China. I will demonstrate how far the Canadian government will go to curry favour with the government of the People's Republic of China.

I have a letter which the government wishes I did not have. I want to read this letter into the record. It was written on June 14, 2002 by Allan Rock, who was the minister of industry at the time, to Esta Resnick, who was the barrister and solicitor for the Department of Justice in Vancouver. It states:

Dear Ms. Resnick,

In reference to our telephone conversation, May 30, 2002 regarding Lai Cheong-sing et al, I would like to take this opportunity to compliment you on your continued efforts to have these undesirable fugitives removed from Canada.

This case has significant political repercussions and potential effects on all facets of Canada's relationship with The People's Republic of China. In recent conversations with Mr. Joseph Caron, Canada's Ambassador to The People's Republic of China, the Ambassador stressed the importance of a successful deportation and extradition of these undesirables. As well, he noted this case could have direct implications to Canada's future diplomatic and trade relations with the PRC government.

Please keep me apprised of any future developments in this case and I wish you every success in your worthy pursuit.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Rock, P.C., M.P.

This letter implicates the industry minister at the time, our justice department and our ambassador to China as all being primarily concerned with keeping good future diplomatic and trade relations with the PRC government with a blind eye to human rights.

These individuals collectively passed judgment on Mr. Lai in Vancouver at a time when he was under refugee application and who to this day has never been charged with anything by Canada. This letter was requested by the legal counsel for Mr. Lai through ATI but the government could find no record of it.

The Canadian government should be looking at human rights, not economic advantage. When the former minister of industry, now the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations, Allan Rock, who has recently spoken out on human rights abuses in Africa, contrary to his behaviour in this letter, writes to the counsel of the Department of Justice and confirms a conversation with the Canadian Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, then we know that all government departments and cabinet are tilted and that when it comes to catering to China, trade trumps human rights.

As a matter of fact, the minister sounds like a good lapdog for the Chinese government. This letter makes it clear that the overriding issue for the Government of Canada is the appeasing of the Beijing regime for purely economic reasons.

The legal counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Canada was being instructed to ensure deportation despite a preponderance of evidence that the refugee claimant could not possibly get a fair trial in China and would be subject to torture. It is clear that Ms. Resnick did all of this. One has to wonder why the Minister of Industry at the time was even involved since the client for Ms. Resnick was Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

I want to go one step further. I want to talk about the actions of the counsel for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the same Ms. Resnick to whom the June 14, 2002 letter I read into the record was addressed. Ms. Resnick breached her undertaking in a Canadian court before a Canadian Federal Court judge that witnesses in China, specifically in Shanghai, whose testimony was tabled by affidavit would be protected and remain confidential.

I have brought the case of Tao Mi up in the House of Commons on two earlier occasions with no satisfactory response as to why the Government of Canada broke this promise. Tao Mi was sold out by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Contrary to its undertakings in a Canadian court she was betrayed to the Chinese police in Shanghai and has not been heard of since. There are very likely others who were betrayed in the very same case. We have no way to know for sure.

This is all quite appalling. If Canadians knew the details, they would be shocked. The role the Canadian government has continued to play in this is to try to cover it up. It is a long and sordid story.

The bill will go some way to redress what is an unbalanced situation. We should operate from principle. Canadians should be proud of this bill.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2005 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to participate in the debate on Bill C-357, an act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, the short title being the Taiwan affairs act, as introduced by the member for Kootenay—Columbia.

At the outset, the NDP supports the bill in principle. We want to see it go to committee where there can be a full and careful discussion and maybe see some possible improvements that we would bring forward at that time. New Democrats believe that greater clarity on these issues needs to be encouraged and that the bill will help us be clearer about our relationships with Taiwan. That would be a good thing.

This past weekend Taiwan held elections for its national assembly. It was again another demonstration of the healthy and vigorous democracy that has grown in Taiwan. I think everyone in Canada celebrates that achievement. I know many people in my riding of Burnaby—Douglas have been assisting in the development of democracy in Taiwan and it is very important to them.

A key principle of Bill C-357 is excellent relations between Canada and the People's Republic of China and Canada and the people of Taiwan. I want to quote from clause 3(a) of the bill which outlines this principle. It states:

It is hereby declared to be the policy of Canada to

(a) preserve and promote extensive, close and friendly commercial, cultural and other relations between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, as well as those of the People’s Republic of China...

It begins with ensuring that we maintain our relationships with both the People's Republic of China and the people of Taiwan. This principle is crucial to people in my riding originally from Taiwan and from the People's Republic of China. This principle, as well as ensuring peace and security in the region, is crucial to folks in Burnaby—Douglas. They want to ensure that our relations in this area build on these foundations.

I want to discuss a key recommendation of the bill which is found in clause 9. It deals with Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization. Three times now the House or one of its committees has called for Taiwan to have observer status at the World Health Organization. Despite support on those three occasions for that observer status, Canada opposed it last year at the World Health Assembly, the international body that discusses World Health Organization policy. Unfortunately, Canada did not act on the recommendations of the House or its committees.

The World Health Assembly is currently meeting. Hopefully Canada will support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization at this year's meeting. We heard the member for Kootenay—Columbia say this morning that it sounds like the whole discussion of Taiwan's participation did not make it on the agenda. We hope the Government of Canada is taking steps to see that makes the agenda at that important meeting.

New Democrats strongly support Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization. Our foreign affairs critic, the member for Halifax, has a motion on the order paper which states:

That...the government should support the granting of observer status for Taiwan in the World Health Organization (WHO) and should support the establishment of a UN working group to facilitate Taiwan's effective participation in the WHO, reaping benefits for both the international community and the Taiwanese through shared knowledge and equality of access to health care information

That is a pretty straightforward statement of our hope around Taiwan's participation.

As well, my predecessor Svend Robinson last year before the election wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He pointed out some of the important reasons why Taiwan should participate as an observer at the World Health Organization. He pointed out an incident that happened in 1998. In the letter he stated:

--in 1998, an outbreak of the Enterovirus infection in Taiwan took the lives of 78 children. In the midst of the outbreak, as panicked parents turned to their government for help, Taiwan turned to the WHO. The request for information was ignored because Taiwan is not a member of the WHO, and the children continued to die.

That is a pretty dramatic example of why it is important for Taiwan to have a connection to the World Health Organization and why it is important for Canada to advocate for that.

Back on April 30, I was pleased to participate in a press conference with over 20 Taiwanese community organizations on the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, along with some members of Parliament, including my colleague from Burnaby--New Westminster. We called for the inclusion of Taiwan at the World Health Organization through observer status. We were very clear at that meeting about the importance of that.

The World Health Organization's mandate is to provide assistance, service and protection in health related matters to all human beings, regardless of their political affiliations. This is very important to all of us, especially given the close connections that now exist across this planet, the easy connections and travel now possible between countries. Certainly there is ease of travel between Taiwan and Canada with many direct airline links.

The world is a much smaller place than it was in years gone by. That seems to change almost day by day. We know diseases such as SARS and the avian flu do not respect international or political boundaries. That is why it is crucial for organizations like the World Health Organization to be representative of all people of the planet.

All neighbours should participate in important decisions. It would be crazy, in any of our neighbourhoods, cities or towns in Canada, to say that certain neighbours do not have something to say about important community decisions. Essentially that is happening with Taiwan being unable to participate in the World Health Organization.

At the press conference I said that because of the importance of health considerations and because of the smallness of our planet, it was really a no-brainer that Taiwan should be an observer at the World Health Organization, and I stand by that comment. It is a no-brainer that on key issues of health, a group of 23 million people on the planet should have access to the discussions and resources of that organization. Other groups do. It would not be an unusual step, given that the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Knights of Malta, the Vatican and the International Committee of the Red Cross already are observers at the World Health Organization.

This is an important component of the bill. We need to ensure that this aspect of it, along with all other issues that it raises, is given a thorough discussion. I know the members of the Taiwanese community in my constituency would like me to highlight as well that the bill calls for the possibility of private visits by the president and other senior officials of Taiwan. This has been very important to the Taiwanese community and merits our serious consideration. We are glad this is part of the bill before us today.

We in the NDP strongly support the discussion of the bill. We support it in principle and want to see it get to the committee. We want to encourage clarity in our relationships in Asia and in our relationship with Taiwan. We think the bill is a good start to getting that on the agenda.

We look forward to participating in the discussion. We want to ensure that the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan enjoy a happy, productive and healthy relationship in the future. That is why we want to see the bill go to committee for discussion.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2005 / 11:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Roger Clavet Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the colleagues who have just spoken on Bill C-357, both the hon. member for Victoria and the hon. member for Kootenay—Columbia, the bill's sponsor. This is the first hour of debate at second reading. It is a pleasure for me, as the Bloc's critic for the Asia-Pacific region, to speak on this bill.

Bill C-357 provides an improved framework for economic, trade and cultural initiatives between Canada and Taiwan. Before indicating whether the Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill and whether it can be referred to committee, just to keep everyone guessing, I want to provide some context essential to understanding this issue.

In this regard, the Bloc Québécois wants to acknowledge Taiwan's obvious economic and political progress. No one will deny that, not even the People's Republic of China. Undeniably, Taiwan is now a free, democratic and, above all, prosperous country. It is clearly a model for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

It is interesting to note that Quebec maintains close and friendly cultural and economic ties with Taiwan. Between 2001 and 2002 alone, Quebec exports to Taiwan increased by 17%, to a noteworthy $134 million. Quebeckers are happy to have access to Taiwanese products, such as computers and semi-conductors. In exchange, the Taiwanese benefit from imports of reliable Quebec products, such as wood pulp, telecommunications equipment and iron ore, to name just a few.

I would also add that university and cultural exchanges between Quebec and Taiwan have been extremely successful. In the riding of Louis-Hébert, which I have the pleasure of representing in the House, Université Laval has extremely close ties with Taiwan. These exchanges will continue. Even some colleges maintain similar relations, with both Taiwan and China.

I would, moreover, emphasize that Quebec's relationship with Taiwan cannot in any way have a negative impact on the deep friendship and attachment Quebec feels for the People's Republic of China. I had the pleasure of working there for two years. Contacts between Quebec and the People's Republic of China have been constantly increasing for over 30 years now. There have been visits by senior officials, agreements have been signed and major trade exchanges have taken place, all of which are evidence of our ongoing good faith and good will.

As for Quebec's exports to Chine, these have increased by leaps and bounds in recent years. I have some interesting figures here also. From its level of $318 million in the year 2000, the value of Quebec's exports to China increased by 117% to some $700 million in 2002. There is nothing to indicate a decrease. Among the Quebec products of most interest to the People's Republic of China are aircraft and aircraft parts, pulp and paper and inorganic chemicals. I list these as evidence that there can continue to be very good trade relations Quebec and the People's Republic of China, and between Quebec and Taiwan. Quebec's importation of Chinese products in 2002 was not negligible either, at about $3.4 billion.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that educational exchanges between Quebec and China are also very important. Universities and colleges, Quebec's in particular, have very active relationships with China. Close to a thousand Chinese students come to Quebec every year to study.

Now back to Taiwan, since this bill deals primarily with Quebec's and Canada's relations with Taiwan.

The Bloc Québécois feels the need to support the principle of this bill because of the friendship and ties that exist between Quebec and Taiwan. In particularly, we unreservedly support its underlying principles: peace and security in the Asia Pacific region.

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that the resolution of the dispute between China and Taiwan should be peaceful and negotiated by the two parties. Nothing in this bill would lead us to think such a resolution might not be possible.

This bill should not be seen as meddling or trying to disturb a situation in sometimes precarious equilibrium—no point in beating around the bush—but rather as a means to strengthening economic, trade and cultural ties between Taiwan and Canada. Who could dispute that?

We in the Bloc have, of course, found a few shortcomings after analyzing the bill. We will thus mention a few reservations we have with respect to the bill in due course, when the bill is being considered in committee. However, at this stage of debate, two things about the bill should be mentioned, which will, in our opinion, help improve bilateral relations between Canada and Taiwan and international relations generally between Canada and other Asian countries.

First, the Bloc Québécois supports Taiwan's participation as an observer at certain international organizations. Currently, it is excluded—and we heard this again this morning— from participation in international organizations such as the World Health Organization. These organizations are technical rather than political in nature, even though their political scope is somewhat limited. We need only consider how the SARS epidemic could have been different had Taiwan had observer status with WHO. Things would have been simpler for everyone, because Taiwan could then have taken part in the organization's deliberations.

We in the Bloc Québécois also note the pacifist tone of Bill C-357. We would point out that the dispute between Taiwan and mainland China will not be resolved with prayers. It will take a disarmament agreement in the case of geographic areas of potential confrontation. No one is fooled and no one forgets the constant threat. We belive that relations between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan can improve only through dialogue and diplomacy.

We in the Bloc Québécois reiterate our affection for and great friendship with both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. We think that a peaceful settlement of the disputes will lead to a valuable solution.

In summary, the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle for the following reasons. First, it will strengthen economic, trade and cultural relations between Quebec, Canada and Taiwan. The Bloc also supports Taiwan's participation in certain international organizations. The conditions for its participation can be discussed and decisions made on a case-by-case basis. Regarding the International Civil Aviation Organization for instance, major legal tangles could ensue if Taiwan's participation in that organization were not recognized de facto. Allowing Taiwan to act as an observer in major international forums will facilitate communication.

I want to refer again to the bill's pacifist tone; it does speak of disarmament and dialogue. We all agree with that. Besides, and this may be the bill's greatest strength, there is hardly any diplomatic risk involved since this bill is modelled after a 1979 U.S. bill maintaining the status quo to preserve friendly relations with both Taiwan and China.

Thus, we want to restate our feelings of friendship not only for the Chinese people, with whom we will continue to do business, of course, but also for the Taiwanese people. We believe that we must continue in this direction.

In conclusion, for all the reasons I just stated, the Bloc Québécois supports referring Bill C-357 to committee for further study, and we support the principle of this bill.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2005 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

David Anderson Liberal Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate the bill put forward by my hon. friend from the Kootenays.

I would like to preface my remarks by saying, as the hon. member has indicated, that I am sure everyone in the House regards the development of democracy in Taiwan as extremely important. My first visit was in 1967 and enormous strides have been made since that time. That said, it is a part of the world where democracy has been achieved and where an essentially Leninist dictatorship has disappeared.

In that same timeframe, Canada and Taiwan's relationship has been transformed dramatically. It began with trade and immigration, but it now takes into account many areas. As indicated by the hon. member, health, education, science, technology and the environment are many of the areas of relationship between our two peoples. In fact, one of our largest trade missions in the world is located in Taipei.

That is where we are today and as we can expect in any bilateral relationship, there will be occasional times of stress, but we do not expect to always have all issues settled all the time with all countries. However, we should bear in mind the contrasts where those areas of Canadian and Taiwanese priorities differ and consider also the big picture, dealing essentially with the subject which is paramount, and should be paramount in the interests of all parliamentarians, and that is the interests of the Canadian people. Our job is to serve our Canadian constituents in a manner that contributes to their overall well-being and prosperity. I am looking at the proposed legislation from that point of view, from that Canadian perspective.

Back in the 1970s, when we switched our recognition from Taipei to Beijing, we did so in a way which provided for flexibility to remain substantially engaged with Taiwan and, at the same time, leaving the door open for a growing and important relationship with mainland China. In short, we created a deal whereby we did not need to choose entirely between one and the other as the choice had been presented at that time. We chose to engage with both and the results of this balanced approach speak for themselves.

Since then our relations with Taiwan have expanded dramatically, as I indicated. We now have a variety of memoranda of understanding between the Canadian government departments and agencies and their Taiwanese counterparts. We have had a large number of high level trips to China by Canadian ministers, one of whom was myself.

I believe I was the first western minister to go to Taipei after the missile rattling event of some seven or eight years ago. We have had frequent interaction between officials and between 2002 and 2004, Canada received 18 visits by cabinet level Taiwanese officials, including the vice-minister of economic affairs, the minister of justice, who came twice, the chairman of the council of aboriginal affairs and the minister of transport and communications.

Economically, Taiwan is one of Canada's top ten trading partners and is our 14th largest export market worldwide. We have a large number of Canadian corporations operating in Taiwan which have had significant success. Of course, the same is true that Taiwanese companies have entered Canada and we have good relationships and transportation links through aircraft companies that link our two areas.

Our involvement with Taiwan has been successful and our policy has produced win-win outcomes for both Canada and Taiwan, but now we have a bill which indicates, as some members believe, that the best way to preserve this situation is to revise it in a manner which does away with the flexibility that we have benefited from in the past.

Bill C-357, the bill we are discussing at this time, would put us in that very situation by providing Taiwan with the benefits of a state under Canadian law, and therefore de jure recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign entity in Canada. That is clear.

The fact is that there is no country in the world which officially recognizes both Taiwan and China and we, therefore, as a result of this legislation would be forced to choose and reverse the successful policies of the last 35 years. With this bill, we cannot have our cake and eat it. I believe that we, therefore, have a very clear choice before us at the present time.

As had been indicated by indeed the proposer of the legislation when he referred to his conversations with the embassy of China here in Ottawa, support for this legislation would seriously damage our longstanding and growing relationship with China. When we are considering that fact, I think it would be useful to highlight the inadequacy of the legislation because it spells out clearly what Canada is obliged to do for Taiwan and not what Taiwan's obligation to Canada might be.

To give an example to the hon. member, there is the issue of beef exports where the Taiwanese have opened their market to the American beef but not to Canadian beef. They have rejected the science information we have put forward. That is an example of a trade dispute to which the Taiwanese have not responded as we would have liked and where a change, as indicated by this legislation, would make no difference at all.

We know on both sides of the House that there are other issues, other motivations, and other factors which underline this legislation.

We know full well that the issues on which Taipei and Beijing differ are real and important. In fact, they have created the risk of war on many occasions over the last few decades. Those differences between Taipei and Beijing will not be resolved by legislative efforts in other countries such as Canada.

Canadian foreign policy is formulated not in Beijing or in Taipei, but here in Ottawa. It is in the interests of the Canadian people. That is paramount when we are considering such legislation.

There is an old Chinese proverb which says that even the wisest official cannot judge a family dispute. The dispute between Taipei and Beijing is essentially a family dispute. It is not one where we should be intervening with legislation such as this which so clearly takes sides in that family dispute.

Canada has been supporting Taiwan's democracy and should continue to do so. That does not mean that the Canadian government must support unconditionally any particularly policy of any particular political party in Taiwan. This legislation would appear to support those who would favour a permanent separation of Taiwan from China, which we all know will likely result in instability in east Asia and possibly even war.

It is incumbent upon those who propose this change in our policy to indicate why the warnings from Beijing should be ignored on this particular piece of legislation. It is after all an issue which is of supreme importance to the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

Recently, the leaders of the opposition parties in Taiwan which represent, as in this House, approximately 50% of the population, visited Beijing only in the last few weeks. The leaders had a very different message, which is a message of reconciliation between the two parts of China, mainland China and the province of Taiwan.

It is particularly important to recognize that since 1949, at the end of the outbreak of hostilities, the first meeting of the Kuomintang officials and officials of the Chinese communist party recently took place. This was the first meeting at that level of the top representatives of the two governments. At the time of rapprochement, which we have at the present time, why would any parliamentarian in Canada who values peace and prosperity be seen as supporting anything except that reconciliation process?

The legislation that we have before us today will not aid that reconciliation process. In fact, given Canada's importance in trade with both countries and our importance as an Asia-Pacific power, it would very seriously destabilize the reconciliation process that is taking place.

Let me repeat that only Beijing and Taipei can resolve their complicated and longstanding issues that go right back to the twenties. We will not be playing a helpful role by enacting this bill in the process of reconciliation and rapprochement, which we all hope will continue successfully. Our willingness to facilitate rapprochement is well known by both sides, but involvement in this piece of legislation would be a serious mistake in those efforts.

While we trust the two sides are working together, we should continue, in the meantime, our utmost efforts to develop good relations with both Beijing and Taipei which is in the best interests of Canadians and the Government of Canada.

Taiwan Affairs ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2005 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

moved that Bill C-357, an act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-357 is a private member's bill tabled by myself as member of Parliament for Kootenay—Columbia. There are members from all parties of the House who support this bill in principle and I expect that if it comes to a vote at second reading the bill will pass and be forwarded to committee for consideration.

In 1970, when Canada recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China and terminated its diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Canada only took note of and neither endorsed nor challenged China's claims to sovereignty over Taiwan. Cabinet records show that the Canadian government policy intended to maintain a de facto relationship with Taiwan after de-recognition of the country.

The position of Prime Minister Trudeau was to leave flexibility in Canada's domestic or international relationships with Taiwan. This allows the various international jurisdictions and competing interests to work out their relationships without interference from Canada or Canadian interests.

In a letter dated May 9, 2005, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote:

Canada maintains a one-China policy under which we formally recognize the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate, representative of government of China. At the time of its recognition of the PRC in 1970, Canada “took note” of the position that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Peoples Republic of China”, but did not formally recognize this claim.

I am in complete agreement with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and this bill is complementary to the position of the Government of Canada on the one China policy. If there is a difference of opinion, it lies in the government's interpretation of the minister's own phrase, “but did not formally recognize this claim”. I believe Canadian government practices are demonstrably contrary to its expressions.

Last year the House voted by a margin of 2:1 to have Canada lead action at the World Health Organization to include Taiwan as a health entity. The Canadian Senate passed a similar motion of instruction. In spite of this direction by both chambers of Canada's Parliament, the Canadian government chose to ignore that instruction at the 57th conference of the World Health Assembly. This morning the general committee of the 58th World Health Assembly decided Taiwan's WHO case will not be included on the conference's provisional agenda. This is a matter of extreme consequence to the world's health.

This bill is more than three decades overdue because of action taken by our mutual trading partner, the United States. Months after the U.S. recognition of the PRC, it enacted its Taiwan relations act. Canada and its interests are in a significant disadvantage to their U.S. competitors. The Canadian government gives advantages to the U.S. in Taiwan commercial, criminal and security regulations. It ignores the U.S. Taiwan relations act while condemning the tabling of this Canadian Taiwan affairs act.

For Canada to take its rightful place in influencing world affairs, our Canadian government should rationalize policy with the U.S. to help build democracy and democratic values. A unified voice with the U.S. in China affairs would bring Canada into this sphere as a player rather than a pretender.

Canada is Taiwan's 11th largest trading partner. Bilateral trade reached $5 billion Canadian in 2004. Taiwan is Canada's seventh largest source of foreign tourists and foreign students with more than 150,000 people visiting Canada each year and 150,000 additional affluent and highly educated Taiwanese live in Canada as landed immigrants.

While the Canadian government emphasizes the importance of trade with China, the government has given very little thought to the shape and substance of our relations and the legal framework necessary to carry it out. In the recent foreign policy white paper there was no mention made regarding Canada-Taiwan relations. Given the trade, political and security importance of Taiwan to Canada, Taiwan issues have become a multi-party concern in Parliament in recent years.

This is well illustrated by the example of the WHO, which I raised earlier, and by issues frequently raised in the House question period. There have been several additional resolutions passed in both Houses as well as the foreign affairs committee.

Taiwan is an economic and democratic success story with a population of 23 million people. Taiwan is a fully functioning democracy governed by rule of law. President Chen Shui-bian's electoral victory in 2000 was the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in the 5,000 year history of the Chinese peoples. His re-election in 2004 confirmed the solid democratic foundation that has been established in Taiwan.

Observers of China affairs noted that while President Chen was re-elected, the explicit will of the Taiwan electorate to move toward sovereignty softened. It was therefore distressing to see the PRC respond to the Taiwan peoples by enacting the PRC anti-secession law in mid-March of this year. This action was an intentional buildup of pressure by the PRC in response to Taiwan's citizens taking the steam out of the Taiwan Strait question.

China observers cannot help noting the PRC's growing military strength, with an estimated budget of $65 billion U.S. According to a U.S. defense department report, China now has 725 missiles positioned across Taiwan Strait aimed specifically at Taiwan.

I note that after China passed its anti-secession law, Canada's foreign affairs minister issued a statement saying that any unilateral action, including the use of force, to change Taiwan's status is unacceptable to Canada. In fact, in April 2004 in a public speech, Canada's then foreign affairs minister called on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume dialogue without preconditions and to resolve cross-strait issues peacefully.

Taiwan honours the rule of law, preserves the free market, protects the environment and respects human rights. The world community cannot afford to let Taiwan fail because it is a symbol of the success of democracy and human rights as a universal value. Taiwan is a living rebuttal to the theory that these values are incompatible with the Asian way of life.

In a telephone conversation with a representative of the People's Republic of China I was told that the PRC is firmly opposed to this bill. The PRC in Beijing has called the bill “a brazen interference in China's domestic affairs”. It states:

By proposing this so-called Taiwan Affairs Act, some individual members of Canada's parliament are preaching 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan'.

Their assertions are simply not supported by the facts. In part, Bill C-357 states that this is “an act to provide for an approved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan”.

I ask members to note that the bill intentionally does not use words to describe state to state or nation to nation relationships. For greater clarity on this point, the first paragraph of the preamble states:

WHEREAS on October 13, 1970, the Government of Canada formally recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate Government of China and took note of its claim that Taiwan is part of China;....

In the absence of recognition and diplomatic relations between Canada and China, the best approach is to adopt this bill as domestic law of Canada and to spell out the specific manner in which relations with Taiwan would be conducted by Canada without trying to define Taiwan's international legal status.

Due to the lack of recognition and diplomatic relations between Canada and Taiwan, a host of specific matters have arisen, resulting in important legal and pragmatic problems in the interactions. Clauses 4 through 8 of the bill contain explicit provisions to create a workable mechanism to regulate de facto unofficial relations between Canada and the unrecognized entity of Taiwan.

These clauses are borrowed directly from the U.S. Taiwan relations act. The Taiwan relations act provides a strong, solid legal framework between the U.S. and Taiwan. It has been a success in strengthening U.S.-Taiwan commercial relations.

Canadians interests compete daily with their U.S. counterparts. As matters sit today, Canadians suffer a growing disadvantage in trade with Taiwan.

Clause 4 of the bill provides that the absence of diplomatic relations should not affect the application of any Canadian laws with respect to Taiwan, and the laws shall apply to Taiwan exactly as they do to other countries. Thus:

Whenever the laws of Canada refer to or relate in general terms to foreign countries...such laws are deemed to refer or relate also to Taiwan.

Clause 5 protects property rights of Taiwan and its citizens. Clause 6 provides for the capacity to sue and be sued in Canadian courts. Clause 7 enables the Canadian government to sign agreements with Taiwan, enabling the Canadian government to enter into agreements with Taiwan.

I emphasize that this bill explicitly recognizes Canada's one China policy--this is the fifth time I have tried to make that point--but at the same time it brings order to continuing discord.

Clause 8 imposes provisions to protect reciprocal legal rights for Taiwan and Canada when they do business and interact with each other.

Taiwan and Canada have very close relations. As mentioned earlier, every year approximately 150,000 tourists from Taiwan travel to Canada. From 1990 to the present, more than 150,000 high quality immigrants have settled in Canada. Two-way trade between Taiwan and Canada reached $5 billion in 2004.

Taiwan is already Canada's fourth largest trading partner in Asia and is Canada's 11th largest trading partner overall. However, Foreign Affairs Canada claims that “as Canada does not recognize Taiwan as a state, it is not possible to negotiate a binding agreement with Taiwan”. Foreign Affairs Canada boasts of administering 2,267 treaties, yet none of them is listed as with Taiwan.

Taiwan and Canada share the same social values, including respect for human rights, freedom and rule of law. Taiwan's justice system is comparable to that of Canada. We can cooperate with Taiwan in many fields, including the judicial and economic areas.

For combating transborder criminals, in March 2002 Taiwan and the United States signed the agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which has been implemented smoothly during the past three years.

With the growing concern about security, international cooperation is imperative. However, Foreign Affairs Canada has refused to sign any kind of agreements with Taiwan. The issue is this: the U.S. Taiwan relations act enables its government to sign international agreements with Taiwan but we have no such agreement.

Between Canada and Taiwan, there is only a handful of exchanges of letters or memoranda of understanding and arrangements concerning some minor technical matters in the commercial and scientific fields. How can Canada promote trade and investment with such an important trading partner like Taiwan without the ability to sign any legal binding agreement?

Clause 9 of the act deals with issues around international cooperation. The purpose of the bill is to help to brighten the prospects for stronger Canada-Taiwan economic, cultural and other relations. The 25 year old U.S.Taiwan relations act, which is the model for this bill, has been a tremendous success in helping the U.S. to build a strong, unofficial relationship with Taiwan.

Canada's interactions with Taiwan are to our mutual benefit. Taiwan is a good friend and close partner of Canada, as Canada is of Taiwan. As such, Taiwan counts on sustained Canadian support as it addresses many important challenges. This very much includes Taiwan's efforts to develop its democracy.

I acknowledge protests from the PRC and certain Canadian business interests. They have said great harm will be done to the relationship between Canada and China and serious consequences will ensue after adoption of the bill. The Chinese took the same position against the U.S. on the adoption of the Taiwan relations act 25 years ago. With the Taiwan relations act in effect for two and a half decades, Canada's competitive position has continued to weaken.

For all the right reasons I am calling on members of Parliament to do what is in the best interests of Canada and the world. I am asking for support in principle for Bill C-357 to move to committee for consideration.

Taiwan Affairs ActRoutine Proceedings

April 4th, 2005 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-357, an act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan.

Mr. Speaker, I had secured the approval of the following members to second the bill: the member for Vancouver Island North; the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, who is noted; the member for Halifax; the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges; the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell; the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont; the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country; and the member for Newton—North Delta.

This bill may be cited as the Taiwan affairs act. It provides the statutory framework for economic, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan in the circumstances that followed Canada's recognition of the People's Republic of China in 1970. The bill is about 35 years overdue.

I note the bill has seconders from members of Parliament from all parties in the House. Today as then we take note of the People's Republic of China as the sole and lawful government of China. However, from cabinet minutes in 1969, it is specific and clear that the Canadian government intended to maintain a de facto relationship with Taiwan.

The purposes of the bill are to continue the good relationship with the People's Republic of China while building a legal framework to guide and forge better mutually beneficial relations with the people of Taiwan.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)