House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was languages.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kody Blois Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, let me first address the member's opening comment on the opioid piece.

Our Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, our government and our Minister of Health are working directly with the province the member resides in, British Columbia, to find ways to address the opioid crisis. We know that this is important. I know that there is—

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Unfortunately, we do not have time for more.

The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

When I was asked if I wanted to speak to our motion, I jumped at the opportunity, of course. Since the beginning of the debate this morning, I have been hearing my Liberal colleagues making assumptions about the way we see Chinese people. I would therefore like to read the first four paragraphs of our motion, which I think are very important, because in them we recognize the following:

(i) that Canadians of Chinese descent have made immeasurable contributions to Canada,

(ii) that the people of China are part of an ancient civilization that has contributed much to humanity,

(iii) the distinction between the people of China and the Chinese state, as embodied by the Communist Party of China and the government of the People's Republic of China,

(iv) that authoritarian states, including the People's Republic of China, increasingly pose a threat to the rules-based international order,

It is very important to make this clear right away: The members of the Conservative Party recognize that there is a fundamental difference between the people of China and the Chinese communist regime.

We feel it is very important to reconstitute the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, and that is what our motion would do. This motion is not designed to have the committee study the people, but rather the regime and what it is doing against its people and against states like Canada. We would ask the committee to conduct hearings on all aspects of the Canada-China relationship, including diplomatic, consular, legal, economic and security relations.

I want members to understand why the Conservative Party wants this committee to resume its very important work. As I said, the Chinese people have a rich, ancient culture and plenty of goodwill. The problem is the communist regime, and we must remain vigilant and ensure that Canada is not oblivious to the actions of this regime.

I will give an example. A young man of Chinese descent came to work as an intern in my office here, on the Hill, when I was a member of the former Special Committee on Canada-China Relations. He was very enthusiastic and helped me read some texts in Mandarin. We came up with discussion topics together and he told me about the government in his country of origin.

He was very angry about how the Chinese communist regime attacks its own people. Take, for example, the political crisis in Hong Kong or China's view of Taiwan. These are all very important issues, and that is why this committee is so important, so that we can understand what is going on and study Canada's relations with China.

When I was a member of the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, many experts came to testify and brought up some issues that most people are unaware of. Parliamentarians from all parties were able to learn more about those issues.

I moved a motion that enabled us to spend a few months studying the implications of China's national security vis-à-vis Canada's. Again, several witnesses came to testify.

We had one particularly important witness, Philippe Dufresne, law clerk and parliamentary counsel at the House of Commons, who explained what happened with the Public Health Agency of Canada documents about the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg. We learned how that worked.

The committee also had an opportunity to hear from experts from the Pentagon, who shared information about China's Arctic ambitions. They explained that, in 2015, the Chinese government designated the polar region, the deep seabed and outer space as China's new strategic frontiers, having evidently recognized that these regions were rich in natural resources. The Pentagon also published a report in which it warned that the Chinese government is mapping the Arctic seabed.

That is another reason for the Government of Canada to hurry up and build a polar icebreaker. We need to be present and start monitoring the borders in that highly strategic region.

Huawei is another file we heard a lot about. We on this side of the House do not understand why the current government has not shared its decision on whether Huawei will be banned from Canada's 5G network, when the four other member countries of the Five Eyes have confirmed that there are obvious national security concerns with Huawei's 5G technology.

Christopher Parsons, from the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab, came to talk to us in committee. He said:

A rising concern is the extent to which Canadian companies, such as our telecoms, might become dependent on products made by Chinese companies, inclusive of Huawei. Dependency runs the risk of generating monocultures or cases in which a single company dominates a Canadian organization's infrastructure. In such cases, up to three risks can arise.

First, monocultures can enable foreign governments to leverage dependencies on a vendor to apply pressure in diplomatic, trade or defence negotiations. Second, monocultures can create a path dependency, especially in 5G telecommunications environments, where there's often a degree of vendor lock-in into vendors' telecom equipment. Third, monocultures risk hindering competition among telecommunications vendors, to the effect of increasing capital costs to Canadian telecommunications providers.

One of the benefits of having this committee on Canada-China relations was receiving this type of expert who could explain to us the risks of having business relationships with a company like Huawei. Some will say that it is an independent company. However, the way things work in China, the Chinese communist regime can decide to take control and require Chinese businesses to meet its demands. Even though the company claims to be independent, the regime has full control over all businesses, subject to its whims.

The Liberal government said that it was not worried, that there was no danger, that the communists were not dangerous. I find it really strange that the government would deny being concerned about a regime like the Chinese Communist regime.

Another witness, David Vigneault, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also appeared before the committee. He said, and I quote:

I will tell you that the Chinese government is indeed engaged in all those activities.... With respect to interference, as I have said publicly, Chinese government entities are interfering with Canadian democratic life. They are interfering with people in Canada using people from China, cyber threats and also people here in Canada, who are co-opted to work with the Chinese government. It's something we are looking into. With China, but also with other countries, we must absolutely keep our guard up, take very concrete steps to protect Canadians and do it in a coordinated way with our allies. It's the only way I believe we can protect Canadians.

It was not me, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles who said that. It was David Vigneault, the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who said that in his testimony.

All of this was included in the first version of the committee on Canada-China Relations, whose meetings and studies were unfortunately terminated when the session ended with the 2021 election. We were not even able to write a final report. Our work came to a halt and was never restarted. However, there is still too much information missing that is critical and vital to national security and to economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries. That is why I believe that it is important to resume the work of the committee on Canada-China Relations.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the target is the Chinese communist political regime. It is certainly not the people, who are too often the victims of this regime.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, I am a bit concerned about the appropriateness or relevance of taking a full opposition day to talk about our relationship with another country. Foreign policy is very important, but right now in Canada, there are a bunch of major crises that we could have debated all day.

For example, there is the housing crisis, which I think is quite important. There is also the climate crisis, and we could have spent all day trying to come up with solutions to that. There is the health crisis that we are just now emerging from.

The Bloc Québécois has proposed holding a health summit. Health transfers are extremely important. There is also the language crisis in Quebec. We could have spent a day on that to find real solutions, not the solution that the government has come up with, the modernization of the Official Languages Act, which will not solve the problem of French in Quebec.

The Conservatives could even have spent the day on inflation. They never stop talking about that. We could have spent a day discussing inflation. In my opinion, that would have been much more worthwhile.

Why did they choose this topic?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, what planet is my colleague from? China is one of the biggest economies in the world, and that has a direct impact on Canada's economy.

Let us not forget what happened when China blocked canola imports with billions of dollars at stake. How about hospitals and health care? Chinese nationals worked against Canada and Quebec to steal intellectual property and research. There are plenty of ways in which China has acted aggressively toward Canada, and we have to talk about them.

Let us not forget the environment either. Canada emits less than one-tenth of 1% of global pollution, whereas the Chinese are major polluters. Why would the Bloc want to hush that up and not talk about it? That makes no sense.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Longueuil—Saint-Hubert talked about the important issues. I talked earlier about the 27,000 Canadians who have died from a toxic overdose and the Conservatives want to ignore the expert task force on substance use and its recommendations, which are science-based and evidence-based, because they do not believe in experts. They do not believe in science.

To the motion, it is as though the Conservatives have a new-found concern about human rights because, back in 2014 when they signed FIPA, there were human rights violations against the Uighurs and the Tibetans, yet they chose to ignore them. In fact, they signed an agreement with China and overwrote indigenous rights here in Canada.

Maybe my colleague can speak to that, or does he think we all have amnesia? I know the Conservatives want us to forget about it and say it is from the past, but it is a 31-year agreement. That agreement is going to lock in my kids and my grandkids.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, at the beginning of his question, my colleague spoke about drugs. Do members know that fentanyl comes from China and that this opioid comes into our country through Vancouver, British Columbia, my colleague's region? We need to mobilize a lot more resources to control that fentanyl, which is another public health and safety issue we need to talk about.

My colleague mentioned an agreement that dates back before 2015. It is important to remember that the Chinese Communist regime really changed starting in 2015, when its new president took office.

Canada's former foreign affairs minister, now the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, told the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations that today's China is not the same as yesterday's China. When we say “yesterday”, we are talking about just a few years.

Since the new president took power, the Chinese Communist regime has undergone drastic changes, and the situation is now completely different. That is why we need to keep our eyes wide open.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Ferreri Conservative Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Madam Speaker, what I heard in the member's speech was that we have to be prepared. That is the key when we look at protecting our democracy and when we want to help people, other nations and, in this particular case, the people of China. How important is this committee to being prepared?

What we have always seen from the government on the other side is a lack of preparedness, a lack of a plan, a lack of knowing what to do. How important is this committee for being prepared?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, knowledge is the best resource to have. We need to understand the Chinese Communist regime and its approach to the economy and national security. With that information, we can make the right decisions for Canada.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the opposition day motion that we have before the House with respect to reinstating a committee to look at our country's relationship with China.

I would be remiss not to first mention, during Asian Heritage Month, the more than six million people of Asian heritage who live in Canada and who have enriched our country with their unique cultures, languages and traditions. Asian Canadians have made countless contributions to Canada in medicine, music, literature and business, and I could go on. Asian Canadians have blessed Canada and added to the incredible richness of our diverse and wonderful country.

I hope they have already been mentioned today, but if not I will mention some noteworthy Asian Canadians and their contributions to our country, such as Douglas Jung, the first Chinese Canadian MP; another proud Asian Canadian, Bev Oda, the first Japanese Canadian MP; and a friend of mine, Nelly Shin, the first Korean Canadian MP. All of them have one terrific thing in common: They are all Conservatives.

There is an interesting nexus, when I talk about the contribution of these folks. While we talk about the need for this committee, I will say that Ms. Shin, a former hon. member of this place, and several colleagues and candidates were targeted in the most recent election by agents of the Chinese Communist Party. They were subjected to an organized campaign of disinformation and misinformation, perpetrated on Canadian soil and online platforms in an attempt to destabilize the community, and in particular to punish some Asian Canadians, such as Ms. Shin and Mr. Kenny Chiu, for having the courage to speak out against the communist regime in China.

Not only does the CCP target MPs of all parties; it also targets students and new Canadians with threats, harassment and intimidation. This is one of the reasons why this committee is so important. This committee did a great job in the last Parliament of looking at all aspects of the relationship between Canada and China. I would note one of the reasons why this committee's creation has not been pressed to this point is because of the limited lack of resources that we have in the House of Commons and the emerging opportunity that comes with the programmed wind-up of the special committee on Canada and Afghanistan.

In the context of the resources that we have, it would be good to engage the House resources and members of the House on this committee. I have heard in the debate today, which I have been listening to, thoughtful comments from all sides of the House. Does the committee undermine the work of other standing committees, such as the foreign affairs committee? I would have to say no, because those committees are seized with other important issues and their agendas are full through June, when they are busy getting reports prepared, but also through the fall. This issue of Canada's relationship with China, and with the government of China, is a big one. It is incredibly important.

I want to talk about a couple of reasons it is so important. I would be remiss not to mention the contrast between Canada and countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The contrast is this: Those four countries have all identified a national security risk from Huawei, a company that is effectively controlled by the Communist Party of China, and has banned it from their 5G networks. Those four countries have a particular relevance to Canada, because they are our partners. They are our allies in the Five Eyes partnership.

The focus of that partnership is national security and the sharing of information. We have a consensus forming with four of the five, but the government has not taken action with respect to that. Based on the evidence that we have seen out of those other countries and what we have heard in this country, even at the special committee on Canada-China relations in its previous iteration, which is that we need to ban Huawei from our 5G network, it speaks to the larger issue of Canada's relationship with China.

We have heard comments and questions from other members about previous engagement with China under previous governments. We have heard testimony at committee that the reality, the global picture and the actors within the CCP are very different today than they were even a few years ago. If decisions were taken in previous years that some members in this place feel should be re-examined, as I have just outlined with respect to a decision on Huawei, this is all the more reason why members in this place should see this motion passed.

Speaking of the issue of information technology, the involvement in our ever-evolving and growing digital world by companies with an interest controlled out of Communist China, I would hearken people back to a time when, in Ottawa, we had a very proud IT sector and a globally recognized company that was on the cutting edge of IT. It was a huge employer: Nortel Networks. Nortel Networks, we know, fell victim to infiltration and theft of intellectual property by agents of the Government of China. It had devastating effects on IP in Canada, devastating effects on employment and, frankly, devastating effects on that sector in this country.

I also should note that the House has recognized, and that the world is waking up to, a reality that I do not think we have talked about before. It speaks to the need to further magnify the role that China is taking, and what business we want to do with that country. It is the ongoing genocide perpetrated by the Communist government in China against the Uighurs and Turkic Muslims. We cannot turn a blind eye to that. This should colour much of our relationship and potential future dealings with China.

We know that with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, China has signalled a very close relationship with Russia, and a comprehensive strategic partnership. Mr. Putin described it as “a relationship that probably cannot be compared with anything else in the world”. That should send chills up and down the spines of people around the world, and certainly of all members of this place.

I have to mention that we saw, in the last Parliament, the effects of having state agents operating in this country: Foreign agents were operating in this country. We saw that with the Winnipeg labs. State actors from China were being expelled from this country. We saw much drama in this place. Precedents were set. Actions were taken that had not been taken in 100 years. We were looking for truth and transparency for Canadians.

There is more work to be done, and I think it is so important when we live more in this global society, that we have our eyes wide open about who our partners are, who are friends are, who our allies are, where there are risks and where there are threats. We can do that while being respectful of the important contributions of Asian Canadians and Chinese Canadians, and of Chinese people who want to come to Canada, live here and contribute to our wonderful country.

However, we cannot be strong on the world stage without first knowing the fullness of our relationship with the CCP here at home, and that is why the Canada-China committee must be reconvened.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to ask my hon. colleague this, because I sat at the ethics committee with him last year. There has been a very well-funded revisionist campaign by supporters of the WE group to try to rewrite the history of what actually happened at the parliamentary committee that was looking at the Kielburgers. I think my hon. colleague would remember that there were four threats of legal summonses, unprecedented, to try to get their key financial people to actually testify. We did not get them all to testify. In the recommendations, the all-party committee said that, “after 10 months of study we were unable to ascertain how money flowed through the charitable wing and their for-profit operations, and we were denied information on the ownership structure of their multitude of side companies.”

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what it says about accountability when a group that claims to be there for a charity for children will not turn over to Parliament basic infrastructure on who is actually making the money in their multitude of companies and international holdings.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 12th, 2022 / 1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, that is a really important question. It speaks to the work that parliamentary committees can do. It also speaks to the importance of transparency: A parliamentary committee was demanding answers when the government of Canada had done a lot of business over successive years with this company, the WE group, that said it was there to help Canadians and help young people. It would not exercise basic levels of transparency when, frankly, ordered to legally by Canada's Parliament and by members of the House of Commons. It is unacceptable. Frankly, it cannot go unanswered. We know now that they are undertaking a very likely expensive PR campaign to try and rewrite history, and maybe clean up their image.

Frankly, it is a very telling lesson on what we can do as Parliament, but also that more work still could be done because we certainly did not get all the answers that we were legally entitled to, as the people's representatives here in Canada. Canadians deserve better than what they saw from the WE organization.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I completely agree. I believe that the Bloc Québécois has already stated several times that we will support this motion to create this committee.

However, there is something that I find to be somewhat paradoxical. I draw a parallel with Bill C-11. The Conservatives are arguing that we must not regulate the Internet, and that we must be careful not to put up barriers in the free market of the Internet. However, one of their reasons for creating this committee is to study the concern or fear that the Chinese Communist Party could be meddling with the Canadian population, the Asian population in particular.

I would like my colleague to comment on that. Where exactly is the logic in that? Why can we not regulate the Internet in the case of web giants dominating the broadcasting market, but we could do it to curb possible Chinese interference in Canadian communities?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Barrett Conservative Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, ON

Madam Speaker, it is very simple. It is a question of content created by individual Canadians who have seen that the government has taken unprecedented steps to, frankly, intervene when it does not like what Canadians are saying. We saw that with the government trying to quash dissent with its use of the Emergencies Act, as one example. We need to be on guard against that, but when info ops are being perpetrated on Canada by a foreign government, and Canadians are not speaking out within their rights in a democratic framework against their own government, those are two very different things.

We need to study this. We need to examine what foreign governments are undertaking in Canada. Specifically with respect to this motion, we need to find out the full breadth of what the CCP is doing, and what that should look like for our future involvement with them here in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vaughan—Woodbridge.

I appreciate this opportunity to participate in today's debate. Canada has a deep and long-standing relationship with China, and even in difficult moments, we can and must work together to resolve these differences.

That being said, this motion takes a narrow view of Canada's potential in the region, and I would like to speak to the potential here for Canada's future. Our government is prioritizing the Indo-Pacific and developing a whole-of-government approach to the entire region. This is not just a strategy for one region of the world, but a strategy for Canada that will impact our peace and prosperity for decades to come.

Now more than ever, there is a need to reinforce the rules-based international order globally, including with partners in the Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific does not only refer to geography. It also refers to the growing interdependence of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean regions, as well as the important role Canada and our allies play in this region as a whole.

I will put this into context. The Indo-Pacific region is home to 21 of the world's 30 largest cities and 60% of the world's population. Indo-Pacific shipping lanes carry no less than one-third of the world's bulk cargo and at least two-thirds of the world's oil. It is also home to 30% of the world's least fortunate people, and countries in the Indo-Pacific will require an estimated $26 trillion for infrastructure by 2030.

There are also significant global climate change impacts that must be addressed. Fifty-three per cent of global CO2 emissions originate from the Indo-Pacific region. No region will be more important to Canada's interests than the Indo-Pacific. As the prosperity, security and well-being of Canadians becomes increasingly linked to the Indo-Pacific region, Canada is deepening our partnerships and expanding our engagement in the region. We know economies across the region continue to grow quickly.

At the same time, many countries in the region face important challenges in matters of governance, equity, human rights and the rule of law. The region is also, by a wide margin, Canada's top source of new immigrants and students. This is a pattern that over time has made Canadians of Asian origin this country's largest diaspora. In fact, half of Canada's foreign-born population is from the region, and 18% of all Canadians trace their heritage to the Indo-Pacific. On education, more than 60% of our foreign students come from the Indo-Pacific region.

This motion is unnecessary and would simply lead to ostracism and discrimination toward Canadians of Chinese descent, given the shameful rhetoric that continues to be pushed. We know Canada must engage in the Indo-Pacific with an approach that continues to advance trade and economic objectives while also protecting our security interests, defending a rules-based international order, advancing sustainable development goals and fighting climate change.

The region faces challenges that Canada can play a co-operative and supportive role in addressing, such as geopolitical shifts, pandemic management, socio-economic pressures and a disproportionate share of climate change impacts. A climate stable planet also depends on a low-carbon transition in the Indo-Pacific, as over 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions originate there, and this share continues to rise.

The Indo-Pacific also presents opportunities for Canadians. It is the fastest-growing region in the world and likely to make up over half of the global GDP by 2040. I believe taking advantage of these dynamic trade opportunities in the Indo-Pacific will create jobs across Canada. As a Pacific-facing nation, Canada seeks to support economies in the Indo-Pacific to achieve their goals and advance shared priorities.

Like many of our partners, we will promote a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific trade with ASEAN at its core. Canada is committed to keeping democratic values, the rule of law, good governance and human rights at the centre of our foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific. Doing so is the key to working with like-minded governments in support of common values and principles.

In advancing these values, we continue to diversify our engagement with countries and partners. This involves work on all fronts, including diplomacy, security, trade, economics and sustainable development.

Diplomatically, we will work closely with our friends and partners to uphold the rules-based international order and promote inclusive and open regional governance, and key norms and values, as well as open societies, accountable governance and human rights that underpin Canada's approach to global governance.

Likewise, we recognize the need to reinforce our active support for Indo-Pacific regional security and stability in concert with our like-minded partners to ensure that the future security environment is favourable to Canada's interests and those of our friends and allies in that region.

Economically, while the region was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains a critical hub for trade, investment and production, with important supply chains originating and flowing through it. Canada will continue to promote and support business opportunities and to secure productive investment while fostering a more open, predictable and sustainable regional economic order. As a concrete example of our commitment to deepening commercial ties with the region, Canada has launched free trade agreement negotiations with ASEAN. This marks a significant milestone in the deepening of Canada's economic partnership and engagement across the Indo-Pacific.

Sustainable development is fundamental to Canada's aspirations in the region to strengthen governance and the rule of law.

Aligned with our feminist international assistance policy, Canada will remain engaged as an active supporter of the Indo-Pacific in its efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals. No region will be more consequential than the Indo-Pacific in shaping our ability to meet and exceed global commitments and targets on climate change. Few other regions are more vulnerable to rising oceans, changing weather patterns and natural disasters.

Our government is prioritizing a comprehensive approach to the Indo-Pacific region, which will guide our foreign policy for the next decade. We are going to give Canadians a seat at the table, protect our interests and do it together with our partners and friends, both old and new.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, sadly, the critique of our motion the member advances in the speech she just read is quite disgraceful. I mean, her comment that somehow critiquing the violence being committed by the Communist Party of China and the threat that this poses to our own security is impermissible because that might expose people to prejudices is really missing the fundamental point.

We have great admiration for the Chinese people, and for the contribution of Chinese Canadians and others, but we have to recognize that the primary victims of CCP violence are the Chinese people. The House has recognized that the Government of China is responsible for an ongoing genocide.

To put it in clearer terms for the House, committing genocide against Uighur Muslims is a rather severe form of Islamophobia, and it is something the House should be calling out very clearly and responding to.

We dealt, in the past, with the detention of the two Michaels. Just this week, we had the arrest of a Canadian citizen and democracy activist, Denise Ho, in Hong Kong, as well as the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen, a 90-year-old retired cardinal, who has also been a strong voice for democracy.

Can the member see past her desire to cast this issue in woke domestic political terms and recognize that these horrific acts of violence require a clear and decisive response from Canada and that creating this committee is a part of that response?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, as I said during my speech, this motion is unnecessary and will simply lead to greater ostracism of and discrimination against Chinese Canadians. We have been seeing it for many, many months, the attacks on the Asian community, and these types of motions only seek to perpetrate that kind of discrimination and violence against a certain community.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I find it quite amazing that the Conservatives keep stating that human rights violations basically starting happening in China after a regime change in 2015, after they signed the FIPA trade agreement. It certainly was not a condition of FIPA that human rights were a priority in their negotiations, or indigenous rights for that matter. We know who protested from my riding. The Nuu-chah-nulth people fought that agreement to protect them from the investor state dispute resolution mechanisms that allow for secret tribunals.

I really appreciate my colleague's speech. Would she agree, should this motion pass, that we should take a look at FIPA and the ways we can better protect indigenous people in all trade agreements moving forward and human rights for people in both countries where we are signing a trade agreement?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to say that there are already two committees studying these subjects. One is international trade and the other one is foreign affairs. It would just be redundant to have another committee and stifle debate in this manner.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I am finding it difficult to understand my colleague's logic.

She said that creating this committee would exacerbate reprehensible actions in the area of human rights.

Is she not giving in to bullying?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague for his question, but I do not agree with him.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Green

Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, in my time here I have heard the member speak often with respect to standing up for human rights all around the world. I understand she is not supportive of this motion. I wonder if she would be open to sharing other opportunities that parliamentarians in this place, if we were serious about upholding human rights all around the world, could look toward doing exactly that.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anju Dhillon Liberal Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle, QC

Madam Speaker, I do agree with my hon. colleague, but there are already, as I mentioned, committees studying these issues, and this place is a place of debate where we can openly speak about such matters.

I thank him also for acknowledging that human rights is a very important and crucial issue, especially in this place. I will continue to work with him and other colleagues across the aisle to make sure that we have respect for human rights.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, it is great to speak to this motion and to be in the House this afternoon.

First off, May is Asian Heritage Month, a time to reflect on and recognize the many contributions that Canadians of Asian heritage have made and continue to make to this blessed country that we call home, Canada.

This year also marks 20 years since Canada officially declared May as Asian Heritage Month, and with this year's theme, “Continuing a Legacy of Greatness”, we highlight the rich and varying contributions made by generations of Canadians of Asian descent in Canada, and everything they have overcome. We continue to have a responsibility to come together, from coast to coast to coast, to combat anti-Asian racism and discrimination in all its forms.

During this month we have an opportunity to learn about the many different Asian cultures and communities through the arts, films, literature and beyond. I know the city of Vaughan is home to a very vibrant Asian Canadian community. I interact with them on a daily basis. Whether they are from Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Hong Kong or elsewhere, it is great to learn about their heritage and culture and how they enrich the social fabric of this country.

With respect to today's motion, brought forth by the official opposition, I want to provide my personal view on Canada's relationship with China. I view it in terms of three principles: We compete in global markets; we collaborate when the opportunity presents itself, and we must challenge the Chinese government when our values conflict with its actions and values. Those three Cs, as I call them, competition, collaboration and challenge, are something I feel very strongly about.

I would also say that I look to the words of someone who I have a deep respect for, not only in his current capacity as the prime minister of Italy, but in his former capacity as the president of the European Central Bank. Last year, at a G7 meeting, he noted with respect to China, and this really represents my view, “It’s an autocracy that does not adhere to multilateral rules and does not share the same vision of the world that the democracies have. We need to cooperate but we also need to be frank about things that we do not share and do not accept. The U.S. president said that silence is complicity.”

That is my personal view when I think about the Canada-China relationship. Yes, there is competition and collaboration, but we must also challenge and always stand up for the values we in Canada have with respect to minority rights, human rights, the rule of law, democracy and, yes, multilateral institutions.

I will now move on to my formal remarks. I will be highlighting human rights in my remarks this afternoon.

The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada's foreign policy and will continue to guide our government's engagement with China. Canada is deeply concerned about the ongoing repression and targeting of ethnic minorities and religious and vulnerable groups in China, including the Tibetan Buddhists, the Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, women and girls, and members of the LGBTI community. Canada has consistently called on China to uphold its international commitments to protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief of all Chinese citizens.

Canada is also concerned about the ongoing efforts by Chinese authorities to curtail media freedom in China and Hong Kong, where there have been increasing obstacles for independent reporting, including censorship, visa restrictions, intimidation and even imprisonment affecting journalists. Canada has raised these issues bilaterally with the pertinent Chinese government individuals at all levels. Canada has also raised the human rights situation in China on numerous occasions at the UN, including before the UN Human Rights Council and at the UN General Assembly.

For instance, on June 22, 2021, at the 47th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Canada led a joint statement on behalf of 44 countries regarding the human rights situations in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet.

Canada is also proud to have launched, in 2021, the “Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations”, which has been endorsed by over 65 countries. This is a commitment of Canada's resolve to uphold the rules-based international order and the core principles and values that underpin it.

At a time when many are questioning the future of multilateralism, and of diplomacy altogether, Canada is committed to showing up and playing an active role in shaping the norms and engaging the institutions that underpin our global community. However, we know that only so much can be changed in the halls of power. Absent the voices of those being oppressed, change cannot last, nor can our policies be effective.

That is why we continue to engage directly with diaspora communities, activists, civil society, journalists and human rights defenders. Without their expertise and without their bravely sharing their stories with the world, including online, human rights violations and abuses would be swept under the rug. They are how the world knows about crackdowns on freedom of assembly and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, including the recent arrest of a Catholic cardinal, I believe, which Canada has spoken out against, alongside our international partners. For instance, on May 9, 2022, the G7 foreign ministers issued a joint statement on the selection process of the chief executive in Hong Kong, underscoring our grave concern over this process as a part of a continued attempt at assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms.

The mounting evidence of a systemic campaign of repression in Xinjiang cannot be ignored. In Xinjiang, there is substantial, credible evidence that documents masked arbitrary detentions of Uighur and other Muslim ethnic minorities, directed by the central and regional Chinese governments under the false pretext of countering terrorism and violent extremism. Evidence provided by academics, NGOs, human rights defenders and journalists and the testimony of victims show that Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities face cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, obligatory patriotic and cultural education, forced labour, and arbitrary, forced separation of children from their parents by authorities. Throughout this region, Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities also face repressive physical and digital surveillance. It is unacceptable.

Our government is also deeply disturbed by the recent reports from victims of sexual violence at the hands of the authorities in Xinjiang. Canada condemns these dehumanizing acts in the strongest terms. We stand with victims and survivors, and call on all governments to seek justice and hold the perpetrators to account.

Canada also remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation affecting Tibetans, including the restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and the protection of linguistic and cultural rights. In the 21st century, there is no excuse to be unaware of these issues.

Canada is committed to engaging unilaterally as well as alongside our partners to advocate for the human rights of those individuals, those citizens in China. We will continue to call for unfettered access to Xinjiang for international independent observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and to work closely with Canadian firms doing business in or with China to help them understand and mitigate the risks of doing business with entities possibly implicated in unspeakable forced labour.

We will continue to oppose China's persecution and prosecution on the basis of religion or belief, including for Muslims, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists and the Falun Gong. We will continue to support restored respect for civil and political rights in Hong Kong, in line with the legally binding joint declaration signed by China and the United Kingdom, which Canada has continually called on since 2018, including through joint statements with G7 and Five Eyes partners.

We will also continue to oppose the death penalty and undertake clemency interventions in all cases of Canadians facing execution in China. Canada will continue to call for the abolition of the death penalty internationally. A Canadian is a Canadian, regardless of the position taken by a foreign government. Canada will stand up for Canadian citizens' consular rights, even when the Chinese do not recognize these rights.

Canadians expect their government to stand up against injustices around the world, and this is exactly what our government is doing. As elected officials, let us bear this spirit in mind and work together in our fight for human rights and the rule of law. Canada will always engage with China in our own interests. There remain areas of pragmatic co-operation between our two countries, such as on climate change or the global fight against COVID-19. The path forward must include coordination with our partners, and Canada will work with others to hold the Chinese government accountable for its international obligations and to defend the rules-based international order.

Finally, Canada will continue its collaboration in pursuit of national interests. We will also vigorously defend our values and our principles of democracy and human rights, and we will protect the security of Canadians at home and abroad.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Canada-People’s Republic of China RelationshipBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Madam Speaker, I certainly appreciated the speech from the member opposite in the House today.

What I would like to talk to the member about is the issues that arise specifically with Canada and China that do not fit neatly in the box of any particular committee in this place. With the Minamata Convention on Mercury, Canada has an excellent record on the reduction of mercury, to make sure it does not poison our environment, our fish or our people. However, Canada's rates of mercury are much higher, particularly in indigenous people up north. Why is this? Well, it is because many Asian factories dispose of mercury by simply throwing it into the fire, and it comes up and lands on the second-largest land mass, that of Canada.

This is an issue that does not fit neatly in the environment committee, because we are a signatory to this convention, but we need to press the Government of China on the Minamata Convention and on the harm it is doing to indigenous people and other Canadians.

I would ask the member: Does he believe that this issue needs to be pursued? Will he support this motion to have a special committee formed so that we can take these issues that are important to Canadians and to our indigenous people and make sure we have some accountability on these matters of the environment?