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.