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House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taiwan.

Topics

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I empathize with a number of points the member made. I will probably make them in my own discourse but just to play the devil's advocate I will talk a bit about the other side of the issue.

I assume the member would agree that this is not a discussion on Taiwan's independence. Of course that would be a very interesting debate and we could have it some time, but this is simply related to its admission as observer status in a world organization and what the benefits would be of joining or not joining.

Perhaps the member could elaborate a bit more on the positions of those who are opposed but my understanding is that their position is that Taiwan now has full access, through its contact in the United States and through the WHO that has co-operated with it, to any information it needs. Therefore what actually would be the benefit of creating an international incident on this particular membership?

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I think consistency is the big thing. The hon. member mentioned going to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which has basically been Taiwan's window into international health issues.

We had an interesting example in Toronto where we had exactly the same outbreak. The facts were there and they were very clear and cogent. Professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came up from Atlanta to Toronto and said that Toronto was handling it as well as could be expected and that there was very little on which they would criticize.

The WHO, on the other hand, put us on a travel advisory. Therefore there was inconsistency between the two organizations. By giving Taiwan access to the WHO, at least there would be consistency. We might not be happy with it but we would at least have consistency in terms of a world health approach. I think that is what has to be achieved.

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1:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on this motion introduced by our hon. colleague from Kootenay—Columbia, and I want to congratulate him for this initiative. I must inform you that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Lotbinière—L'Érable.

It is important to recognize that there was cause to be concerned that this motion might be defeated in this House, given the position expressed moments ago by the secretary of state. However, not so long ago, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade had passed a motion in support of the Taiwan's application for observer status at the World Health Organization.

So, it seems reasonable to fear the possible defeat of this motion. Since this is an opposition day, it is highly likely that the government will turn this into an issue of confidence. Given the government position expressed a few moments ago, there is reason to fear that the government will ask its members to vote against this motion. If so, if this motion is defeated here in the House, this would, for all practical purposes, nullify the motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. This would be a terrible shame, since this committee had made a non-partisan statement, unlike what we are seeing here today.

I think, therefore, that the results of the vote in committee were much more representative of the position of parliamentarians than the potential result at the end of today's debate. It would be preferable for the House of Commons to add its voice to those of the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress and admit the truth, which is that Taiwan must necessarily be granted observer status at the World Health Organization.

I shall begin with a brief outline of my view of the situation. The secretary of state was telling us that political considerations must not have a negative effect on the health of the Taiwanese population. All very well, but that is exactly what the politics are doing now. The politics are holding the health of Taiwan's population hostage. Moreover, the health of the whole region of which Taiwan is a part is being held hostage, and so, by extension, is the whole world, because disease, like poverty, does not respect borders. Diseases ignore borders.

In this era of rapid communication and frequent travel across the world, that is truer than ever. Disease knows no borders and takes no sides in political disputes. Even though the People's Republic of China has decided to act as if Taiwan were one of its provinces and, as a consequence, refuses to allow it observer status in various international bodies, this does not mean that the situation in Taiwan is not serious.

The Canadian government, for political reasons once again, is going along with this hostage-taking, affecting the health of the Taiwanese people and the health of the people in surrounding counties and all over the world. All of that because it wants to spare the feelings of the government of the People's Republic of China, which is not a very honourable way for a country to behave when it has such a well-established international reputation as Canada has.

My former colleague from Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, Antoine Dubé, asked a question of the Minister of Foreign Affairs a few weeks ago, about the potential admission of Taiwan as an observer at the World Health Organization.

The minister replied, somewhat offhandedly, that the problem with Taiwan is that it is not a member of the United Nations and that the WTO is a UN organization. How insincere. How glib.

It is important to remember that, until 1971, Taiwan was a member of the United Nations. If Taiwan is no longer a member, it is because it chose to withdraw, which paved the way for the People's Republic of China's admission to the UN. At one time, the international community considered Taiwan to be a full fledged member. This still holds true today, since Taiwan received special status, but status nonetheless, at the World Trade Organization.

So, if other international bodies can give Taiwan this status, given its international importance—Taiwan has a population of 23 million; it is the world's sixteenth economic power and its third largest foreign exchange reserve—why can the same not be done at the World Health Organization?

This is the question, and I think it is time to consider that the future admission of Taiwan to the WHO would have significant advantages not only for Taiwan, as I was saying earlier, but also for the rest of the world. If Taiwan can benefit from the support of the WHO to deal with crises like those we are seeing today, such as SARS, then obviously, the Taiwanese people will benefit in turn and, by extension, as I said earlier, so too will the people of neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. Just consider the effect of travel by people and the business sector on the economy; it is quite clear that, given Taiwan's economic strength, we simply cannot think that there will be no travel to and from Taiwan. Consequently, there are people travelling to and from Taiwan.

It is important to note that a number of young Canadians go to Taiwan to teach. In other words, a significant number of people are travelling between Taiwan and Canada. The Department of Foreign Affairs has a publication that outlines what young Canadians need to do if they want to teach English. It goes even further. On the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade web site, Taiwan is referred to as a country.

Why this doublespeak? First, Taiwan is treated as a country; then, it is treated as though it is not part of the international community. I think that Canada would do well to be consistent in its dealings with Taiwan and also in the principles it upholds on the international scene.

I will read a few excerpts from the World Health Organization's Constitution. The preamble states that:

The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, political belief—

I said that illness knows no political boundary.

The text also adds:

—economic or social condition.

The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security and is dependent upon the fullest co-operation of individuals and States.

The achievement of any State in the promotion and protection of health is of value to all.

Unequal development in different countries in the promotion of health and control of disease, especially communicable disease—

Such as SARS, for instance.

—is a common danger.

The extension to all peoples—

Note that it says “all peoples”.

—of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health.

I think it is time to face reality. There is a historical analogy I could raise, but unfortunately my time is up. I will therefore close by simply stating that it is time to face reality and to recognize that admitting Taiwan to WHO observer status would not be contrary to the policy of the Peoples' Republic of China and would have considerable advantages for the health of the people of Taiwan and for world health.

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1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, I was very heartened to hear my colleague from the Bloc talk in such favourable terms with regard to the observer status. I think that makes a great deal of sense. I was wondering if he might be able to give us some depth of his feelings or thoughts with regard to the decision by the then prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with regard to the one China policy he established in 1970. Could he give us some sense of his feelings toward that subject, whether or not he thinks that was a wise move for the country, and what he thinks of those policies?

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1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I think this is a fascinating question from my colleague from Calgary West and I thank him for it.

A fascinating question quite simply because this problematic issue of a single China is connected to Chinese internal policy. Until quite recently, and I believe until the present time, the one-China policy has been defended by the governments of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China. The Republic of China, of course has a new government which may, eventually, perhaps want to change that policy. For the moment, however, until we hear otherwise, I believe it is still the policy that is defended by the Republic of China.

As a result, the international community has adopted this same one-China policy, since there were two governments claiming authority and sovereignty over the entire territory of China. The Canadian government merely responded to this state of affairs by deciding to also adopt a one-China policy. Is that one-China policy still the appropriate policy for the year 2003?

I think that this is another issue that could be related to the subject at hand. However, I believe, like the secretary of state, that politics must not influence public health issues. Therefore, Taiwan should be granted observer status at the World Health Organization, regardless of political considerations, whether in the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China or the international community, including Canada.

I was saying earlier that we need to be able to face up to reality. I was referring to the historic precedent of Germany. After the second world war, several months after the Federal Republic of Germany was created, the Soviet occupied zone responded in turn by creating the German Democratic Republic.

The Federal Republic of Germany reacted to the artificial creation, according to them, of the German Democratic Republic with the Hallstein doctrine, by which the Federal Republic of Germany broke off relations with any country that established diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic. The Federal Republic of Germany instantly broke off foreign relations with any country that established diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic.

After the Cuban missile crisis and Detente, this policy turned out to be simply outdated. This artificial policy to isolate the German Democratic Republic would not solve the problem of German unity. The Federal Republic of Germany then established a policy of openness toward the east, which allowed a number of countries in the international community to pursue diplomatic relations with the German Democratic Republic.

None of which prevented the whole issue of German reunification from being resolved some years later. This just proves that such artificial policies that are established to reach a goal often do not allow this goal to be reached. At some point, simply recognizing reality can allow these goals to be reached.

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

There are 35 seconds remaining. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

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1:30 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I would just draw the House's attention to the fact that the hon. member made reference to finding the word Taiwan under the government website listed as a country. It is not listed as a country. It is not recognized as a country, neither by Canada, nor, might I just advise the House in case there is any further confusion, is there any country in the world today that recognizes two Chinas. I think it is important for the purposes of our debate to recall that the word Taiwan indeed refers to an island. In fact, the government on that island calls itself the Republic of China.

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Time has elapsed but I will allow the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes to respond.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Thank you Madam Speaker. I will be brief. I would simply like to say that the parliamentary secretary is completely right. No country in the world recognizes two Chinas.

The goal is not to recognize two Chinas. The goal is simply to recognize an irrefutable fact. Other international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization, for instance, have recognized this fact and have given Taiwan status, not as a participating state or an independent state, but status nonetheless.

Likewise, I think Canada should be consistent. It agreed in the case of the World Trade Organization; it should be consistent when it comes to the World Health Organization.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight in this important debate on the entire issue of the World Health Organization.

A few moments ago, my hon. colleague from Verchères—Les-Patriotes referred to the questions asked in 2002 by Antoine Dubé, the former member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière. At that time, in 2002, we were not facing the current situation, namely, confronting this disease that has now struck all over the world. Even the people of Toronto got bad news on the weekend.

I would like to say that this debate is not about economics or politics. It is about health. When we talk about health issues, politics and economics must take a back seat.

I have heard the representatives of the Liberal government start in with petty politics. Just now, I heard the secretary of state lecture us about the constitution, an amazing history lesson that had nothing to do with the motion put forward today by the Canadian Alliance. When that same secretary of state said he was in favour of Taiwan being granted status with the WHO as long as it was China that sponsored Taiwan for membership, I found it hard to believe how little these people read.

I have here a recent news story, written by a Globe & Mail journalist on May 20, 2003, saying that at the annual assembly of the World Health Organization last week in Geneva, the lobby from totalitarian China was adamant that Taiwan should not have observer status at the WHO.

The Liberal government and the current Prime Minister pride themselves on being open, democratic and attuned to all the world's problems. Today, when the Canadian Alliance puts forward a reasonable motion, we have to sit here and listen to a rehash of an old constitutional argument focussing on politics and economics, with nothing said about the essence of this motion, which is health.

I would like to say—and I direct my message especially to the Liberals over there—that incredible efforts have already been made, particularly in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, where, despite dissent, we obtained a victory. We recommended strongly that Taiwan have observer status at the World Health Organization.

I also have a letter here signed by Thomas Chen, representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office. He informs us that, currently, 161 members of this House—including the vast majority of Bloc Quebecois members, I am proud to say, and the vast majority of the Alliance too, I believe—signed this petition demanding that Taiwan be given observer status at the WHO.

The chair of the Canada–Taiwan ParliamentaryFriendship Group, the hon. member for Scarborough East, said the same thing. He was able to make the distinction between an economic debate, a political debate and a debate on health. I think he was one of the 161 signatories. I strongly urge him to find out which members of his party signed this petition so that when the question is put, the House can confirm the work already done by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. At that moment, it would be clear that, in this Parliament, there is consistency in action, meaning consistency with regard to the actions of a committee and those of the House of Commons itself.

I think that, now, given the crisis that the world, China, Taiwan and, once again, Toronto are facing, foreign observers are looking at what the House of Commons is doing; they are hoping that the Canadian government will show openness and understanding. They are not hoping solely for an economic and political debate devoid of humanism and compassion, given what Asia, particularly China and Taiwan, is currently experiencing.

When I see that the Liberal government is once again using “mainland China”, as they say in English, as a model, I find it very difficult to trust this government, which has already been taken to task about transparency and the free flow of information. It is clear that, over there, the State controls almost all the information to the media. But, it is impossible not to be concerned here, when we see the statistics China is releasing. No one can go to China to check and tell us otherwise.

It is likely that the crisis in China at the present time is far more significant that it seems; no one really knows. In order to protect Taiwan and other countries, then, it is important for Taiwan to have WHO observer status. This is a highly technical matter, a matter of organization. When individuals or countries are part of an organization, even if not able to speak, they listen, they know what is going on, instead of just having the facts reported to them. As a result, when they come out of a meeting, they are in a position to give an opinion and to act.

What the LIberal government is doing at this time is trying to push Taiwan aside. But when it is a matter of economics, of policy, of money, there is no problem. Taiwan even has status within the World Trade Organization. Yet what in this world is more important than health?

This then is the message I am sending once again to the Liberal government: when the Liberal members have to vote on the Canadian Alliance motion on the importance of Taiwan having observer status at the World Health Organization, I trust that they will be guided by concerns of health, humanity, compassion and open-mindedness and will say, “Yes, Taiwan”.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Abbott Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed what the Bloc member had to say.

I wonder if he would like to comment on some of the questions that have been coming particularly from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. She seems to be trying to make the point that it is a two China policy and of course this has nothing to do with it. This has only to do with health.

I wonder if he would like to make a comment on the fact that somehow the world has found a way with the World Trade Organization, the WTO, to accommodate both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. If they have managed to do it for trade, when we are talking about SARS, when we are talking about health, when we are talking about a very life, surely to goodness the government should be at the forefront as a world leader in trying to come to a resolution.

We can take a template from the WTO. Why can we not do it with the WHO? I wonder if my colleague would like to comment on that.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, that is exactly the way I feel. If the world granted Taiwan an economic and political status with the World Trade Organization, which set a good precedent for Taiwan, then why not simply take this example and apply this precedent in this case? If we acknowledge that Taiwan is part of the World Trade Organization for economic and political matters, why would we not grant Taiwan similar observer privileges at the World Health Organization?

Which brings us back to the whole issue of health, humanity, awareness and compassion. We will see how the Liberals act when we are called to vote on this important issue in the House of Commons.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I wonder if the member could comment on Canada's relationship with China, considering that China has suggested it would not be pleased with such a motion.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, that is the type of question that angers me. This is not an economic or political issue; we are talking about health, compassion, humanity and keeping an open mind and being understanding.

This type of question just shows how the Liberals view this important issue. All that interests them is the economic and political aspect, and they could care less about health.

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his thoughtful speech. I want to say to him that the view over here may not be as monolithic as he may think.

One of the issues that has been raised by others has to do with the practical implications of this. I will put my question for the hon. member in a provocative sort of way. If Taiwan is not admitted as an observer, really what is the harm? The Taiwanese are participating in other venues directly and indirectly in various health organizations. As I say provocatively, why are we getting all worked up here? Surely they are getting everything they need and they have a practical solution to this anyway.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, there cannot be compromises on this issue. This is a fundamental issue that has already been passed by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It was supported by 161 members and by a majority of the members of the Bloc Quebecois. We cannot turn back.

If the government rejects this motion, it will have to bear the responsibility for the vote, for not being open on an important situation, a situation that is critical for humanity: health.

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1:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on this issue. I have spoken on it a number of times. Many members have been involved in this debate here in the House, on questions or comments, during question period and in committee.

Taiwan has been trying for several years to join the World Health Organization and we in the Progressive Conservative Party support that. We supported it before the SARS outbreak and the SARS outbreak has made it even more evident how essential it is that Taiwan be allowed observer status at the WHO.

We are not alone in our support. The United States, Japan and the EU all support Taiwan's bid for observer status and why would they not. The mandate of the WHO is a health mandate, “the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health”. Health, as defined in the WHO constitution, is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Why would we not support the endorsement of observer status for Taiwan at the WHO considering that it is all based on health, not politics, not economics, not competition, not military and not security. It is health. We have been made very clearly aware of how essential Taiwan's observer status is with the outbreak of SARS.

Taiwan has a population of 21 million. It is the 14th most active or most powerful in world trade and the 12th in foreign investment. It is quite amazing. It has the second highest foreign currency deposits in the world. Yet it is not allowed to have observer status. Not only is it not allowed to have membership, but it is not even allowed to have observer status at the WHO. We certainly support the motion. We support the concept of Taiwan being granted observer status at the WHO.

The same motion effectively came before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. It was passed by a vote of ten to three. As the member for Scarborough East mentioned a minute ago, there were Liberals who supported the motion and three who did not. I believe the three who voted against it were Liberal parliamentary secretaries; I am not sure about that, but I think they were at the time. It reflects the non-partisan approach to this whole question in the House that members from all parties voted in favour of it, including the Liberals, but three parliamentary secretaries voted against it.

It has been suggested that restricting Taiwan from observer status is a direct violation of the universality principle expressed in the WHO constitution. We agree that it totally contradicts the constitution.

The arguments against it are that it is not a country. Currently there are many other entities that are not countries that are observers at the WHO. In fact the PLO was granted observer status in 1974. It is not recognized internationally as a country. Hopefully it will be soon, but it is not right now. Several NGOs, including the Holy See, the Vatican, have been granted observer status at the WHO. It seems unreasonable that Taiwan is not being granted observer status. It is not asking a lot, it seems to me.

The international community does not consider Taiwan to be a country, but this still does not prevent it from gaining observer status. We would support the motion to achieve that goal.

Madam Speaker, I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the member for St. John's West.

In any case the Progressive Conservative Party supports Taiwan's bid for observer status at the WHO. Taiwan's participation in the World Health Organization should be limited, but it should at least have observer status.

The issue that really brings it home is the SARS crisis. Here we have a world health situation, a world crisis in health that we have not seen before or anything exactly like it. Here we have Taiwan with 21 million people who are affected by this. In fact it is one of the key areas of new SARS cases and it does not even have observer status at the WHO. We are trying as a world to reduce health risks and improve health, yet those 21 million people are not represented at the WHO and are not even allowed to observe or have comments at WHO.

The WHO has said that Taiwan has not yet reached its peak of SARS cases. This brings home how important this motion is and how important it is that Taiwan be given observer status.

Taiwan is the third largest infected area after China and Hong Kong. More than 12,000 people have been quarantined in Taiwan. As of today Taiwan has had 72 deaths from SARS and there are 570 known cases, and yet it is not being allowed observer status at the WHO which could help it fight its problems in its own entity. It would also help the rest of us in countries that have been affected by SARS to fight off this disease as well.

We support the motion. We supported it before SARS, now with SARS and we will support it after SARS.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I understand there is a contradiction between the fact that Taiwan is a member of the WTO and wants observer status but has not been granted that status. As of May 19 it was turned down again.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on whether this is really a health issue. I understand the sovereignty aspects and they do have to be respected, but with regard to the health aspect, since there was a delay in getting WHO officials in to help with the Taiwan situation where so many people have died, proportionately many more as a percentage of the cases that are in mainland China, does he feel that the SARS issue has created a new raison d'ètre for Taiwan's observer status simply because it is a global health issue?

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1:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I do agree with that position. SARS does raise the focus of the situation and the prospect of Taiwan having observer status at the WHO.

In April this issue came before the standing committee and almost the same motion was presented. I believe 10 members were in favour of it and three were against it. Members from all parties voted in favour of urging the Government of Canada to lobby in favour of Taiwan being granted observer status at the WHO. I am sure if that vote were taken now maybe those three Liberals who voted against it would vote in favour of it as well and make it unanimous.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, it is good to know that the committee has looked at this issue.

Could the member tell us what the difference is between the World Health Assembly and the World Health Organization? It appears there is some misunderstanding in the House as to what constitutes observer status and of what organization. Does that mean there will be additional resources or assistance available to a country that has received observer status that they were not already able to get?

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1:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, there is no misunderstanding about what observer status means. There are all kinds of precedents of other entities with observer status. As I mentioned in my previous comments, the Vatican has observer status and yet it is not a country.The Palestinian National Council has observer status.

Everybody knows what observer status means. It gives countries access to information and allows them to have input into health issues that affect the entire world. Now that the world has experienced this incredible SARS situation, it makes it more essential that this health issue, and it is a health issue, should be addressed and Taiwan should be granted observer status.

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1:55 p.m.

Brampton Centre Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Madam Speaker, over the weekend China offered help to Taiwan on the current SARS situation in Taipei and the surrounding areas. I wonder if the hon. member can comment as to whether this has anything to do with the application made by Taiwan for observer status at the WHO.

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1:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I cannot speak on behalf of China but I acknowledge its effort, and it was a good effort. However perhaps China could sponsor Taiwan to become part of the WHO, which would have much more impact.

I would encourage and I think the Government of Canada should encourage China to allow Taiwan to be granted observer status in the WHO.

Les Invasions BarbaresStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, on behalf of all Canadian film buffs, it is a great pleasure for me to congratulate director Denys Arcand for winning the award for best screenplay at the 56th Cannes film festival for his film, Les Invasions Barbares .

With this film, which continues to move audiences and is destined for great success, Denys Arcand has proven yet again his enormous talent as a cinematographer.

Congratulations also to Marie-Josée Croze, who won the best actress award for her role in the film. I was among those who gave a more than ten-minute standing ovation to Mr. Arcand, to the producer, Ms. Robert, to the cast and to the entire team who worked on this jewel in the crown of Canadian cinema.

I want to congratulate them personally as well. This year, we have had a strong presence at Cannes, and I think congratulations should also go to the team at Telefilm Canada for its excellent work in ensuring that Canadian and Quebec films are well represented.

Canada-U.S. RelationsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, at a time when relations with our neighbours warrant improvement, the Prime Minister has shown both disregard and contempt for our relations with one of our greatest friends and largest trading partners, the United States of America.

With many issues now present to discuss, the Prime Minister has found it timely to host the Prime Minister of France. Given our current relations with the Americans and their own current difficulties with the French government, this was a display of ignorance and blatant disregard of our own national interest. While relations with France are important, now is not the time to concentrate on them.

Let me tell members about the farmers and ranchers in my area and most of the west who do not care that the Australian prime minister was invited to the Bush ranch and that the Canadian Prime Minister was not. What they do care about is re-opening the U.S.-Canada border to beef.

The Prime Minister's blatant “thumb in the eye of the Americans” is all about timing. Let me repeat, it is about timing and now was not the time to host the French prime minister.