Canada's NDP


May 12th, 2022

MP Mathyssen's Statement on a Canada-China committee

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for bringing forward this motion today. I also would like to thank my hon. colleague from Edmonton Strathcona for sharing her time with me and for her incredible insight on this. I am always so grateful to share these issues with her, and I learn from her every day.

The member for Edmonton Strathcona put forward a lot of really key points in her speech about what the House needs to think about. While I certainly think it is important to re-establish the special committee to examine and review all the aspects of the relationship between Canada and the People's Republic of China, I think we have to do so with all of the issues that she has brought to the point here in mind and with an understanding that this is a specific committee, a special committee. However, it needs to be brought forward in such a way that we get to the heart of what we need to determine the international foreign policy that Canada holds.

I also want to note that when I refer to China today, I am referring to the People's Republic of China and not the people of China. There have been a lot of references to the need for further discussion about future studies from this special committee, and of course, the continuation of issues that were already brought up by the former committee but that have not been fully addressed yet.

As a member for the Standing Committee on National Defence, I know we are wrapping up a study on security threat analysis, Canada's position in this quickly changing world and the deterioration of relations with China. These were part of the study, and they are very concerning. It is inadequate to simply say that China is an integral component of our international future, whether it be in trade, the economy, or social or security actions and considerations. It is about how we are moving forward in this world.

At a time when insecurity is heightened due to Russia's illegal war in Ukraine, we must ensure that China does not follow suit, and an example of that is with Taiwan. Last night, I had the honour to attend Taiwan night, which is a celebration from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, and many from this place spoke last night about the incredible contributions of Taiwan to the world. It was one of the first countries that helped Canada during the pandemic by sending much-needed PPE, and Taiwan has shipped over 50 tonnes of medical supplies to Ukraine because of its urgent humanitarian considerations.

This must continue and grow. We must support that. I am proud that Canada has joined with many allies in the world to fight for and hold true to the democratic principles of the rule of law and the international rules-based order in Ukraine. Again, as my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona so wonderfully, so eloquently, so rightfully noted, Canada does not do this consistently.

We can no longer pick and choose which human rights we will uphold. It is time that all parties, mine included, take a long look at our own internal policies, our determination to fight against the violation of human rights domestically and internationally for our allies, and those who are not yet aligned but hopefully will be in the future, to clearly define the principles of international human rights and a rules-based order for all.

As I mentioned, I am a member of the national defence committee, and we have clearly heard from witnesses at that committee that China is a security concern. Canada sent the HMCS Winnipeg through the Taiwan Strait as a signal of support and a showing of strength against that aggressive posturing of the People's Republic of China.

That is simply one example of why I support this motion and the re-establishment of this committee. The global security environment should be a focus of this committee. I would also insist that the committee study the vital need to fix the diplomatic crisis between Canada and China. We need to do a deep dive into the past four years and the mismanagement of this diplomatic disaster.

The incarceration of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor continued for more than three years. They experienced severe conditions and a failure to have legal counsel or contact with their families. This was a horrendous situation. Although they were thankfully released, as my colleague noted, there are so many that still remain incarcerated. I know that Canadians from coast to coast to coast are still very concerned about this issue.

Canadians asked us to work together and New Democrats are always willing to do that work. We must work together to make life better for Canadians and for everyone all over the world.

Canadians are concerned about what is going on in China. The protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong have been of much concern for a long time now. Canadians are concerned as to what is happening to the people of Hong Kong and Canadian citizens in Hong Kong. They are concerned about human rights in Hong Kong and the imposition of the government of China’s one country, two systems policy. It is a complex relationship, certainly from a human rights perspective.

Concern for the Uighurs is extremely high in Canada. We have to find ways to put pressure in whatever way possible to seek to resolve some of these issues. Of course, we have long-standing concerns about Tibet as well.

Again, we have that complex relationship and significant trade relations with China. We have seen how disruption in that trade can so quickly and seriously affect Canadians, particularly as we have seen for Canadian farmers with canola, soybeans, peas, beef and pork, which have cost millions and millions of dollars for Canadians and farmers. Some of these issues have been resolved, but others are still outstanding. This important relationship is something we have to take very seriously.

This motion could put into effect the kind of collaboration that Canadians want to see in the government of Canada. We still have a Liberal government, at which I shake my head sometimes, but we have other voices that will come to the table. I believe that the continuation of this committee in another Parliament is an important part of the collaboration.

Interestingly, my colleague, Jack Harris, the former member of Parliament for St. John’s East, spoke to the first Conservative call for this special committee in 2019. He spoke about that collaboration. While he is recently retired from this place, I am sure he heard his fair share of rhetoric and raised tempers in the House, and maybe sometimes it was his own. I would have to say that I believe those have increased since he left. In his speech to the House, Jack spoke to the former special Canada-China committee, stating:

That is an opportunity for a special committee to look at that whole [nation-to-nation] relationship and see if there are ways that we can improve that relationship beyond what is being done now and in different ways. There may well be things that are being overlooked. There may be other opportunities.

I certainly hope that the government would see this as an opportunity to reset the tone, to set up a new relationship and send a signal to China about what we want and how we want to achieve that in ways that we could not do in another form in this Parliament. Of course, I cannot prejudge what will happen at the committee, but New Democrats certainly do not want this to be another point for political battle between the opposition and the government or to see finger pointing. We do not think that is going to help the circumstances.

As my colleagues have rightfully mentioned at the foreign affairs committee, as well as other committees, this can be where things get held up, when we do not get to the key issues or talk about all the incredible ways that Canada could be an important part of that human rights conversation. It is one thing to be critical, of course, of the government's failures. I am, and they are certainly obvious in some cases.

In his discourse, Jack Harris stated:

We have to recognize that diplomatic relations are just that, diplomatic, and they have to be carried out in a spirit of willingness by all members in this House who might participate in this committee, and by all parties in this House, and that must be kept in mind in the operation of such a committee. Without that spirit of collaboration, there could be a danger that the relationship could be harmed. It is a leap of faith of the members of this House, a test of the notion of collaboration and a test of the maturity of this Parliament to be able to operate such a committee in a way that meets the needs of Canada in trying to find a solution, but it is also an opportunity for constructive criticism or at least for attempting to find out what does work and what does not work.

I will conclude my remarks by saying that we do support this opposition motion. A Canada-China committee is an important tool for parliamentarians to study the many issues that affect Canadians in our relationship with China. We support that reset of that relationship. We support Canadians knowing that they are safe and that they will benefit from this important and challenging relationship.

Please see full debate here: