Mr. Speaker, I want to start by indicating I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga Centre.
I am very pleased to rise today to address this important motion that has been raised by the member for Durham. Obviously I want to acknowledge that it has been one year since Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arbitrarily detained in China. It must be stated that they are and remain our absolute priority as a government and as Canadians.
With perseverance, care and determination, we are working to bring them back to Canada. Our government will always raise issues that matter to Canadians with the Chinese government, including respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Canada remains staunchly committed to defending its principles and interests.
This matter that is being raised today and being debated in this chamber is not a concern just for Canada. It is also a concern for all of our allies. This shared concern has led to a broad coalition of support and we as Canadians are grateful to our many international allies who have stepped up and spoken out on these two citizens' behalf. Speaking with one voice demonstrates that we as Canadians are not alone on the international stage.
As has been referenced at different times during the course of today's debate and during question period, we know that December 10 is Human Rights Day. I want to focus a bit on human rights in the context of the debate on today's motion.
We know that human rights matter, not just for international organizations but they matter to everyday Canadians whom we engage with as our constituents, whom we have engaged with on the campaign trail. Human rights matter and our foreign policy reflects that very same issue.
We, as the Canadian government, have consistently called on China to respect, protect and promote freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of religion and belief of all Chinese citizens.
Canada is deeply concerned about the ongoing intimidation and repression of ethnic and religious minorities and other vulnerable groups in China, including Tibetan Buddhists, Uighurs and other Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, women and girls, and members of the LGBTI community.
Canada has also expressed concerns about the shrinking space for civil society in China and the troubling and continued intensification of actions against human rights defenders, like lawyers, journalists and civil society actors.
These are important issues I am speaking of, and I say this as a member of our government caucus, as a parliamentary secretary in the past Parliament and also as someone who represents Tibetan Buddhists in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. Seven thousand strong, it is the largest Tibetan diaspora in North America.
We raise these issues not just for the Tibetan people but for many different groups, including the Uighur Muslims as I have mentioned and including the various other groups that have had, and continue to have, their human rights restrained in China.
We have consistently raised these human rights concerns. Let me indicate one that has preoccupied me directly. As a member of this House, and as one of 10 Muslim members of the government caucus, members can appreciate that I am gravely concerned and preoccupied with the situation concerning Uighur Muslims in what is known as Xinjiang.
We as a government have spoken out publicly at the UN Human Rights Council, urging Chinese authorities to release all Uighurs who are arbitrarily being detained in Xinjiang. We have seen reports as recently as the past two weeks about the conditions, about the scope of the detention, about the scope of the internment and about the scope of the persecution that is happening.
As a government, we spoke out in statements in September 2018, November 2018 and March 2019. In July 2019, we stood alongside 21 other members of the international community, including Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Japan and the United Kingdom, and presented a letter to the Human Rights Council expressing these very specific concerns.
Most recently, again on this Uighur point, on October 29 the United Kingdom, on behalf of 23 countries including Canada, expressed its concern regarding the arbitrary detention of Uighurs and the deprivation of human rights in Xinjiang, China, at the third committee of the UN General Assembly with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
I will turn to another issue that is very much at the core of why I stand in this House and why I defend the rights of my constituents each day that I can. It is the issue of Tibetans and Tibetan rights being protected within China.
Today is not only Human Rights Day, which is celebrated internationally, but it also happens to be the 30th anniversary of the recognition and bestowing of the Nobel Peace Prize on His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is venerated internationally because he stands up for religious freedom. He stands for non-violence and stands against persecution and in favour of what is called the middle way approach.
Let us talk about what we have done as a government with respect to Tibetans. We have publicly voiced concerns to that same body about the Tibetan plight at the United Nations Human Rights Council, and to the Chinese authorities themselves about the intimidation and repression of the ethnic minority and religious groups in China, including Tibetans.
We made specific representations to the Chinese about the case of linguistic advocate Tashi Wangchuk. Tashi Wangchuk is a person who dared to speak out about promoting the Tibetan language in the Tibet Autonomous Region. He was charged and imprisoned unfairly. Canada has spoken up about his case and we will continue to do so.
We have also spoken up as the Canadian government about continuing to seek access to what is called the TAR, the Tibet Autonomous Region, for our diplomats, parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations and for visiting delegations. This is a concept known as reciprocal access. If a foreign government arrives here in Canada, its movements are unimpeded. We want the same access when we visit China, including into the Tibet Autonomous Region.
We have also consistently advocated for substantial and meaningful dialogue between the Chinese government and His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his representatives to work toward a resolution of issues acceptable to both sides. We did this at bilateral meetings in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and we will continue to do so at every opportunity.
This is critical to underscore because this motion is important. It is important that it is being raised by the member for Durham because it touches on the Canada-China relationship and many aspects of it.
One of the fundamental aspects of that relationship is how we respect one another, how we deal with what we call the rule of law and how we address the protection of fundamental human rights. The Tibetan plight, the Uighur plight and many others are at the core of what we must be addressing, lest I mention Falun Gong.
The member from Ottawa West—Nepean, who has been the chair of the subcommittee on human rights, has looked at this issue, among others, very closely at that subcommittee. The committee has looked at things like organ harvesting and some of the really problematic issues that have arisen with Falun Gong. We have spoken out about that and will continue to speak out about it.
Let us talk about the broader bilateral relationship now. In terms of that, we are ensuring that we have dialogue at every level. The newly entrenched Minister of Foreign Affairs was recently at the G20 meetings in Nagoya at the end of November raising these issues that I am mentioning.
We have had further discussions with the Chinese authorities about an important point that was raised by the opposition critic for agriculture, which is the issue of canola and what we are doing to ensure there is access to Canadian canola in the Chinese markets. We are speaking out loudly and clearly about climate change and about how, if this is a global problem, it requires a global solution that China has to be part of.
We have talked about health. It is part of the dialogue that we are having with the Chinese, as well as about co-operation on health issues. There is cultural bilateral co-operation occurring. All of these are critical issues, and we are exploring all of them in the context of developing this relationship.
This is an emerging global power. This is a relationship that has to be cultivated. It has to be developed in a balanced way but also in a principled way. There is no contention between us and the party opposite with respect to that issue. We must speak with principle and we must speak in a balanced framework, but we must address the relationship clearly and vociferously, particularly highlighting the issues I have raised about human rights.
It is a difficult moment. That is clear to anyone who reads the newspapers. However, what we are keeping in mind always is the safety and security of Canadians, which remains our top priority. We believe and have clearly stated that the detentions that have occurred are arbitrary and should end. We have rallied international allies to that cause. Engaging is important because it promotes Canada's interests globally, and we will maintain that communication line open and clear.
More generally, Canada will continue to stand on our principles and defend the rules-based international order that has sustained global peace and prosperity for decades. In our principled engagement with China, we will pursue collaboration where we can and defend our values and interests where we must.