Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Committee members, good afternoon.
I'm joined here by my officials from both National Defence and from the Communications Security Establishment.
Thank you for inviting me to share some thoughts on Canada-China relations from a National Defence perspective. This is actually my first time appearing before your committee, and I’m grateful for this opportunity.
I want to thank you for the important work you are doing to help Canadians better understand our relationship with China.
First, let me say that Global Affairs Canada is the lead on Canada's bilateral relationship with China.
While our interactions and activities at National Defence have always been in line with foreign policy, we’re more of what I would call a “key partner” in Canada’s whole-of-government approach. Global Affairs drives our relationship with China. Public Safety is our domestic security lead. The Communications Security Establishment oversees our cyber-defence. National Defence is responsible for the regional security and engagement piece, among other key functions.
Canada recognizes China’s importance in world affairs, especially in regional and international security. We share deep ties economically, culturally and especially people-to-people. Many Canadians have Chinese roots, and many Canadians frequently travelled to mainland China before the pandemic to visit family and friends.
Despite these ties, our bilateral relationship is complex and presents challenges. In our defence policy—Strong, Secure, Engaged—we committed to being a reliable partner in the Asia-Pacific region through strong partnerships and consistent engagements.
The world is changing rapidly, as is China’s geopolitical role. That is why we are constantly assessing our approach to China. Any behaviours and activities that run counter to Canadian values and interests—and those of our allies and partners—require us to look at the relationship with eyes wide open. We are doing that.
Mr. Chair, here and around the world, we are adamant about supporting the rules-based international order. We will always work to uphold it and the stability it brings.
We believe that all countries benefit when we observe the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We will always stand up for freedom of navigation and overflight, while respecting the rights and jurisdiction of coastal states. We know that freedom of navigation is vital, and 90% of the world’s trade travels by sea. That’s why Canada opposes land reclamation projects and building outposts in disputed areas for military purposes. We support lawful commerce, freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight in accordance with international law.
We will continue supporting our allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in the face of unilateral actions that undermine peace and stability. One way we signal this support is by maintaining an active naval presence in the region.
At the moment, HMCS Calgary is deployed in the Indo-Pacific region with a Cyclone helicopter on board to carry out Canada’s forward presence activities under Operation Projection. Shortly, the ship will be chopped into Operation Artemis, which is the Canadian Armed Forces’ mission to fight terrorism and to make the Middle Eastern waters more secure.
Under Operation Neon, we are also contributing to multinational efforts to implement the United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea, sanctions that China has also agreed to uphold.
Along with these naval activities, Canada has been a proud dialogue partner with ASEAN for four decades. ASEAN is the key group of nations in Southeast Asia working to uphold the rules-based order.
Canada is also seeking to deepen its level of engagement with ASEAN by pursuing member status on two expert working groups of its Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus on maritime security and humanitarian and disaster relief.
As said during a December ADMM-Plus meeting, Canada is looking to expand its navy, air force, army and special forces ties with ASEAN countries through high-level bilateral engagements, staff talks and participation in military exercises. We will keep prioritizing exchanges with ASEAN members in military education, including through our military training and co-operation program.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee, Canada’s relationship with an evolving China is a complex and challenging one. In all of our dealings with China, we will continue to be guided by our values, to defend human rights and to protect our interests at home and abroad. We will always work with like-minded countries to uphold the rules-based international order that brings stability and security to the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
I want to thank the committee for its time today, and I would be glad to respond to any questions.
Thank you very much.