Madam Speaker, I know that debate on the motion is set to adjourn shortly, so I will try to make my remarks brief so we have time for questions should members have any.
This is an important vote that will be taken on an important motion, for it seeks to answer questions regarding Canada's complicated and increasingly difficult relationship with the Government of the People's Republic of China. Should the House of Commons pass this motion, a special parliamentary committee would be reconstituted, with MPs from all recognized caucuses, to investigate and study how Beijing is influencing or has influenced the federal government, how Beijing is advancing PRC national interests within our country and how Beijing is even at times skirting Canadian laws meant to protect our citizens, values and security.
I am supporting the motion before us because of my commitment to Canada. I am also supporting it because I want better nation-to-nation relations with mainland China. Our connection with Beijing cannot be based on blind trust, especially when we as parliamentarians consider its reversal on Hong Kong, its aggressive posture around the South China Sea, the terrible genocide against Uighurs and Beijing's stated hostilities toward the Republic of China, an independent democracy also know as Taiwan.
In the last Parliament, I served as a member on the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. Over approximately 30 meetings, which I think would have continued had the election not been called, we issued three reports and heard from dozens of expert witnesses concerning Canada's relationship with the People's Republic of China. While it was always illuminating, it was not always news or information that our government wanted to highlight. One example was the concern around security at the Winnipeg lab. There was a debate and struggle at the highest levels on this, including in this chamber, far outside of the special committee. That issue remains unresolved.
Nevertheless, despite this at times divisive and heated debate, our work largely was conducted across party lines, even on contentious issues, such as studying the deteriorating democratic and human rights situation in Hong Kong. There was a consensus among members that Canada can and should do more. We saw also consensus on the motion concerning the genocide of the Uighurs within China.
The reason for this consensus is that a growing number of Liberal MPs, mainly those who sit outside of cabinet, feel that the Government of Canada has overstated the importance of China to our nation's well-being or, worse, has abandoned our values and has at times even kowtowed to Beijing. This is something that parliamentarians do not want to see and Canadians certainly do not want to see, and it is why I think the committee operated as well as it did to raise issues, ask questions and seek answers.
These members on the opposite side believe that it is wrong to promote an economic relationship with Beijing as a primary tenet of Canada's foreign policy while staying largely silent on the mistreatment of Uighurs, Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners, who are prosecuted, as well as on Christians, citizens of Hong Kong and Taiwan, and democracies throughout Asia. These MPs understand that in the years ahead, it will be more important to partner and ally with democratic nations than with totalitarian regimes.
Finally, with the Special Committee on Afghanistan preparing to present its report to the House of Commons, there is opportunity to resurrect the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. It is an opportunity that I ask other members, regardless of party affiliation, to support by voting in favour of this motion.
One reason that I am so outspoken on issues related to Beijing's mistreatment of its own citizens is my time spent in and travelling throughout China. I have long admired China, its diverse people and all its parts. I am what one might have called a Sinophile before relations between Beijing and western nations worsened.
I moved to Hong Kong 25 years ago, and within months of my arrival, the territory's national allegiance shifted from British colonial rule to the People's Republic of China. This was done peacefully, and I know Hong Kong's then 6.5 million residents had hope twinned with trepidation.
The British government had negotiated a 50-year agreement with Beijing that would maintain Hong Kong's domestic autonomy and basic freedoms. Sadly, today those freedoms are largely gone, or they exist on paper but are not respected in the courts or by Hong Kong's leaders, who are appointed by Beijing in mainland China. Democrats have been jailed or forced to flee, the free press has been shuttered and its owners jailed, and the agreement with Beijing on these supposed freedoms is not worth the paper it was printed on.
While Beijing was abandoning its commitment to Hong Kong, it was also becoming more hostile elsewhere. In July 2020, I highlighted the mistreatment of Uighurs. I called on the former minister of Global Affairs to launch an independent investigation into forced labour camps operating in mainland China. In January 2021, Ottawa finally acted by announcing its intention to support tougher restrictions on products being imported from that region.
This announcement was six months late, and unfortunately unlike other international allies, which are taking tougher actions to root out forced labour in commercial supply chains, Canada's government will not impose financial penalties on companies that do not comply with our government's directive. This is largely due to its practice of prioritizing mainland China's interests in order to “get along” with Beijing.
The government must go further to safeguard Canada's values and interests. Financial penalties on companies that use forced labour in supply chains must be added to its reforms. Also, Magnitsky sanctions must be applied to top Communist Party officials who continue to commit crimes. Now, more than ever, Canada needs a principled foreign policy that promotes freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law abroad.
If this special committee was important when it was established several years ago, it is now urgent with the deteriorating war situation in Ukraine. That is because the parallels between what is happening in eastern Europe and possibly in Asia, and I pray it does not, are all too clear.
Russia has declared war for no other reason than to gobble up the independent country of Ukraine. Beijing too claims a piece of territory as its own, in this case Taiwan, as a province. Like Russia, it has said it will use force to retake this piece of territory.
This should concern parliamentarians not only in this country but around the world. We have been put on notice that this is a real possibility, not only because it is happening now in Ukraine, but because China has said it is an option going forward. Of course, we can see the devastating results every day, sadly, on our televisions and smart phones regarding what is happening in Ukraine. Force is an option that Parliament must deal with, recognize and confront.
Questions for this committee could include the following.
As we have seen regarding Russia, Canada has imposed many economic sanctions as a way to punish and deter Russia's aggression. Can we do this with respect to mainland China, and if we do, what is Canada's exposure to sanctions?
What is our ability to help democratic Taiwan, which many members on the government side profess friendship and even admiration for? Can we help Taiwan continue to govern itself peacefully, should Beijing's rhetoric move from words to military action? Importantly, as well, and this is where the committee could probe the federal government, are there voices or opinions in the federal government that Taipei should simply surrender its autonomy so that other nations can maintain good relations with mainland China, in effect trading off friends for opportunity elsewhere?
We see the need for this committee to act and to ask questions by looking at Europe, where Putin's war machine continues to commit atrocities against the Ukrainian people every day for one purpose alone, and that is submission and control. This is something we never imagined would happen after the Iron Curtain fell, but it has created deeper concerns about how the world would respond if Beijing invaded Taiwan in the same fashion. I think parliamentarians have a duty to ask some of these questions and to receive responses from the Government of Canada, if for no other reason than for us to satisfy ourselves that they are being considered and that solutions are being drawn up in concert with our allies.
At the same time, there must be a study into how Beijing continues to deepen its influence in our domestic affairs, through our markets, espionage and intimidation. Many of us will recall the Zijin Mining Group, a state-owned enterprise from China, purchasing Canada's Neo Lithium Corporation earlier this year, a fire sale of a critical mineral mine in Canada that should have prompted a national security review and should have been blocked. Unfortunately, this did not happen. This is another area where the committee should investigate to see what information went into this decision. Why, when it comes to Beijing, is the government reluctant to turn down these kinds of purchases? I believe that members on both sides of the House believe that critical mining projects in Canada should be owned and operated by Canadian firms or trusted allies, in order to maintain and protect our national security.
There is another study this committee could look at. What about the Canadian success story of Nortel Networks? In 2004, over 70% of the world's Internet traffic ran on Canadian fibre optic technology produced by Nortel. It is believed that the Chinese military launched concentrated cyber-attacks for 10 years against Nortel's headquarters in Canada, stealing thousands of sensitive documents and other company secrets. Nortel simply could not compete against Huawei, and ultimately ended up in bankruptcy. To quote Global News, “it would be similar to a foreign army constructing a hidden tunnel into Canada’s treasury vault, and marching out unimpeded with gold bars.” Were Canadian pensions, life savings and technology stolen? Again, another question for this committee.
A third one, which I think is of growing importance, is the use of our capital markets by the People's Republic of China and its state enterprises to advance China's financial interests. This is something that has gone largely unexplored. I do not think there is a sense of the exposure that Canadian capital markets have toward the People's Republic of China. This is something that could be detrimental to our country's well-being, should we ever see a conflict erupt between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China.
I have heard some of our friends opposite talk about the need to help Taiwan join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. I think this is welcome news. I think it is a sign of great progress that there is certainly multipartisan support for seeing Taiwan step up and play a greater role in international relations and affairs. Taiwan's entry into the CPTPP would also promote high-standard trade rules. Regrettably, China also wants entry into this organization, but I do not believe it meets the labour, environmental and human rights issues that would see it come in. Having said that, I think this is a discussion for parliamentarians to engage in.
I will end with a request that members consider this on the merits of the motion, with some concern that while we saw all opposition parties unite on this in the past, that might not happen this time. I do not know the reasoning or the deal-making that went behind Motion No. 11, which has now tied the NDP and the Liberals into a pact. It is my deep hope that the NDP will show its commitment to human rights and international affairs and vote, as it did before, to continue this committee, for no other reason than to ask questions and see where the answers take us. I think it would be wrong and the NDP's standing would fall should it vote otherwise on this motion just as a way to keep relations happy with the Liberals.
It is important that all members, from all parliamentary caucuses, have the opportunity to be heard on these issues, that we ask questions, look for answers and table reports that will protect Canada, ensure that our citizens are safe and, in the long run, work to improve relations between the People's Republic of China and Canada.
I appreciate the time to make these comments.