Andrew Scheer got this one right: Liberals in the House didn't support his motion.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

December 13th, 2019



Readers will know that it is not often I agree with Andrew Scheer. But I was encouraged by the part of his rebuttal to the throne speech, where he raised resolution of the year-long China problem. And again, I applauded Scheer’s follow-up motion to strike a committee to that end, a motion supported by all the opposition parties, though not the Liberals.


Scheer’s motion to strike a committee that would look into Canada China relations was a good move.

It’s possible the government knows what it is doing on this file and has it under control. But that’s not good enough. Canadians are in the dark and want some answers. The Chinese leadership’s anger over the detention of the nation’s Huawei executive is unmeasured and precipitous. Seizing innocent Canadians and torturing them to make a point and then declaring a trade war are pretty hostile acts for a nation which used to consider Canada one of its best friends in the west.


Dr. Norman Bethune saved the lives of millions of Chinese soldiers and civilians during the second Sino-Japanese war. He is credited with bringing modern medicine to rural China.

Canadians were once held in high regard. Our own Dr. Norman Bethune saved the lives of millions of Chinese soldiers and civilians during the second Sino-Japanese war. He is credited with bringing modern medicine to rural China, having treated sick villagers as well as wounded soldiers. His selfless commitment made such an impression that Mao Zedong wrote a eulogy to him on his death – one that had been celebrated by generations of Chinese people.

That may be too long ago for today’s Chinese leaders, but even they might have heard that it was Justin’s father, Pierre, who made Canada the first western country, since before the Korean War, to it grant it recognition as the rightful government of China. Canada also played the lead role in bringing China into the World Trade Organization, something which stinks of irony now that we are having to sue them over their illegal blockade of our oil seed and meat exports.

China is our second biggest trading partner. But the trade is horribly lopsided. We import much more than they buy from us. In 2016 we imported over $40 billion more than we exported to China. Much of that trade is in the kind of disposal-ready stuff one sees at the Dollar Store or Walmart, aka China Inc. Chinese-made goods have virtually helped decimate our textile, book making and other manufacturing industries.

And Canadians are starting to get fed up. For example, a recent Pew Research survey showed that two-thirds of Canadians now view China negatively. But we don’t see that reflected in the limited actions our federal government has taken so far, actions which have failed to bring about the kind of behavioural changes we should expect.

So people are speaking up. The Senate recently suggested using the Magnitsky law to sanction Chinese officials. Somebody else has mused that we should ban commercial air freighters from over flying Canada. Of course banning Huawei from investing in Canadian telecom infrastructure, as most of our five eyes partners have done, is a no brainer.

Emerald ash bore wings open

Emerald ash borer: The insect arrived from China in some kind of wood product and is now eradicating ash trees across this province.

Even though China is in the WTO, the nation is anything but a fair trader, it has a long history of ‘dumping’ goods on foreign markets, stealing intellectual property and manipulating its currency. We could retaliate in kind. For example banning all Chinese forest products as a precaution against something like the emerald ash borer ever happening again. The insect arrived from China in some kind of wood product and is now eradicating ash trees across this province.

The Trudeau government has promised legislation to ban single use plastics. We could virtually ban imports from all nations, including China, which are packaged in plastic – or at least insist that all exporting nations take its waste back for recycling… and not just dump it in the ocean.
And then there is the question of foreign investment. Mr. Trudeau, like his processor Mr. Harper has appeared indecisive and inconsistent, seemingly making up policy on the fly, when trying to decide just how much of our door we can safely open to the second largest economy on earth.

Today’s China is a rapidly militarizing autocratic state with a president-for-life. And given the upshot from this Huawei extradition morass it is clear that China understands neither the rule of law nor how to conduct non-combative diplomacy. One just needs to consider Tibet, Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong, Uighurs and now Hong Kong where 300,000 people with Canadian citizenship live.

Tianamin square

Tiananmen Square and the courage of one man – changed the world.

This is a complicated and even dangerous file, and lives are at stake. In addition, China has been touted as one of the potential markets for all that extra oil and gas which Alberta and B.C. keep saying they can export. But how likely is that if Canada responds in-kind and the spat escalates?

Andrew Scheer did the PM a favour by striking this committee, something which Trudeau may learn to appreciate, despite his knee jerk rejection. Perhaps he is concerned about control. Though chaired by the PM’s party, Liberals are not in majority. And the PM and ministers can be called to testify as witnesses. And why not? Call it full disclosure. Call it burden sharing. Call it how minority government should work – that is, cooperatively.

It is been a rare moment when this columnist actually agreed with the leader of the Conservative party. And then Mr. Scheer has the gumption to up and resign, apparently because he was under attack for using party funds to send his kids to private school. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to give Scheer my blessing.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Trudeau Legacy China –     China History

Throne Speech –    Magnitsky

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2 comments to Andrew Scheer got this one right: Liberals in the House didn’t support his motion.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Minister Karina Gould’s Response to the, Proposed special committee on Canada-China relations

    “Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to address the motion
    brought forward by the member for Durham. I would like to begin by first
    acknowledging that today marks one year since Michael Kovrig and Michael
    Spavor were arbitrarily detained in China. It must be stated that they are
    and will remain our absolute priority as a government and as Canadians.

    Canada’s relationship with China is deep and long-standing. In these
    difficult times, we must work together to resolve these differences, keeping
    in mind that the safety and security of Canadians remains our top priority.

    With perseverance, care and determination, we are working to bring them back
    to Canada.

    Despite the breadth of these bilateral ties, as with any diplomatic
    relationship ours is not without its challenges, and we are going through a
    particularly difficult period. Canadians, as we have heard on all sides of
    the House, are deeply concerned by the arbitrary detentions of Michael
    Kovrig and Michael Spavor and the arbitrary sentencing to death of Robert

    Canadians are also concerned by the human rights situation faced by Muslim
    Uighurs and other minorities in China. The recent developments in Hong Kong
    are of particular concern to Canadians, given the 300,000 Canadians living
    there. The Government of Canada continues to share these concerns and has
    spoken out consistently.

    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. As the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs
    have clearly stated, all levels of government are involved in the cases of
    the Canadians who have been arbitrarily detained and convicted in China.

    We salute Mr. Kovrig, Mr. Spavor and their families for their courage and
    moral fortitude under exceptionally trying circumstances. Today, December
    10, marks exactly one year since Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were
    arbitrarily arrested by Chinese authorities. Neither man has had access to a
    lawyer or any contact with their families or loved ones since they were
    first detained.

    The government has made it very clear that the detention of these two
    Canadians is unacceptable, that they are being arbitrarily imprisoned and
    that they must be released without delay. We have raised this issue with
    every level of the Chinese government, and we will continue to do so every
    chance we get until these men are freed.

    Ambassador Barton, the diplomatic team in China and our government will
    continue to support these men and their families by providing consular

    This matter is not just a concern for Canada. but a concern to all who seek
    to defend the rules-based international order. Arbitrary detention and
    sentencing Canadians absolutely betrays the principles of the rule of law.

    Several countries, despite what my colleague across the way has said, have
    spoken out to echo concerns about China’s actions, including Australia, the
    Czech Republic, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, the
    Netherlands, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Spain, along with the European
    Union and NATO.

    Leaders in academia, in the private sector and across civil society have
    also joined the chorus. An open letter signed by diplomats and scholars from
    19 countries is just one example of how the concern over China’s actions
    extends well beyond Canada’s own borders.

    We will continue, along with Canada’s ambassadors around the world, to speak
    to foreign counterparts and other stakeholders about the issue, emphasizing
    the troubling precedent represented by these arbitrary measures.

    Indeed, Canada is not alone as citizens of many countries have been

    It is important that China recognize that its actions are harming its
    reputation in the eyes of many other countries, not only Canada, and sending
    the wrong message to the international community.

    We understand that the arrest in Canada of Ms. Meng Wanzhou is a matter of
    utmost concern for China. Ms. Meng was arrested in accordance with Canada’s
    international legal obligations under the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty.
    This was not about our relationship with China nor about our relationship
    with the United States. This was about Canada’s unwavering commitment to
    uphold the rule of law and fulfill our legal obligations.

    Canada has over 50 bilateral extradition agreements and we uphold them all
    with equal vigour. As China also has dozens of active bilateral extradition
    agreements, this is a process that should be well understood.

    For Canada, the rule of law is not optional. It is the bedrock of our
    Canadian democracy and a core Canadian value. Canada will not compromise nor
    politicize the rule of law and due process.

    Canada is conducting a fair, unbiased and transparent legal proceeding with
    respect to Ms. Meng. Canada granted consular access to China within hours of
    Ms. Meng’s arrest and Ms. Meng was granted bail. Ms. Meng is represented by
    an experienced counsel and will be given every opportunity to raise any
    issue that she or her counsel believe to be relevant throughout the legal

    This is timely, as today, December 10, is also Human Rights Day around the

    Canada has consistently called on China to respect, protect and promote the
    freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and
    association and freedom of religion or a belief of all Chinese citizens.

    We continue to raise human rights and the rule of law issues with our
    Chinese counterparts at all levels.

    The promotion and protection of human rights is fundamental to Canada’s
    foreign policy and remains an unwavering priority for the Government of
    Canada. Although China’s economic growth has resulted in a general
    improvement in the standard of living of the country’s population, there has
    been a worrisome deterioration in respect for civil and political rights in
    China. Freedom of religion or belief is also threatened.

    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 LGBTQ community.

    Canada has expressed concerns about the shrinking space for civil society in
    China. The intensification of actions against human rights defenders, such
    as lawyers, journalists and civil society actors, is also worrisome.

    Our government has consistently raised concerns with our Chinese
    counterparts about human rights in China, including the situation in
    Xinjiang. We have spoken publicly at the UN Human Rights Council, urging
    Chinese authorities to release all Uighurs arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang.
    This includes statements in September 2018, November 2018 and March 2019. In
    July 2019, Canada stood alongside 21 countries, including Australia,
    Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Japan
    and the United Kingdom, and presented a letter to the Human Rights Council
    expressing these concerns.

    More recently, on October 29, the United Kingdom, on behalf of 23 countries,
    including Canada, expressed their concern regarding the arbitrary detention
    of Uighurs and human rights in Xinjiang, China, at the third committee of
    the UNGA with the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination. We
    will continue to raise these and other human rights concerns at every
    possible opportunity and to call on the Chinese government to ensure that
    the human rights of its citizens are fully respected.

    Canada continues to monitor closely the current unrest in Hong Kong. Canada
    urges all sides involved in the current crisis to exercise restraint, to
    refrain from violence and to engage in peaceful and inclusive dialogue.

    With 300,000 Canadians living in Hong Kong, Canada has a vested interest in
    Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. We continue to support the right of
    peaceful protest and Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the basic law
    and the one country, two systems framework.

    Canada commends the people of Hong Kong for the peaceful election of its
    district council on November 24. This was an important opportunity for the
    people of Hong Kong to express their point of view. We hope that the
    election will help pave the way for dialogue and peaceful reconciliation.

    Despite the challenges we face, it is important to recognize that Canada’s
    bilateral relationship with China has always included many different areas
    of valuable co-operation. In recent years, we have enhanced our framework of
    formal engagement mechanisms. While we regret that the Government of China
    has chosen to restrict collaboration, Canada continues to pursue dialogue at
    every level.

    With the recent exchange of ambassadors in Ottawa and Beijing, we remain
    hopeful that formal and informal dialogues will continue. My colleague, the
    Minister of Foreign Affairs, raised his expectations for continued dialogue
    when he met with China’s foreign minister on the margins of the G20 meetings
    in Nagoya at the end of November.

    The Government of Canada is deeply concerned by the decision of the Chinese
    authorities to restrict imports of Canadian canola, and we are pressing for
    the complete resumption of trade in bilateral discussions in the WTO.

    Our pan-Canadian efforts have led to the resumption of trade in pork and
    beef, and we will continue to press for Canadian interests at every

    There are many clear sectors of valuable, practical engagement. Climate
    change and the environment require global solutions, and China will be an
    essential partner in this pursuit. Canada has built productive collaboration
    with China in this area and will continue to do so.

    Health is an example of the importance of ongoing collaboration and dialogue
    to advance practical co-operation. Global pandemics pose significant risks.
    Canada and China have long-standing bilateral co-operation on health issues,
    including on international health.

    Culture is another important area of bilateral co-operation between Canada
    and China. We are witnessing a growing number of independently organized
    exchanges by arts organizations. These exchanges help enrich both of our
    cultures and contribute to shared knowledge and understanding. Canada must
    build a stronger understanding of China.

    These and other areas of bilateral engagement are a valuable reminder of the
    importance of ongoing dialogue with Chinese counterparts.

    I would like to emphasize that Canada will continue to navigate this
    challenging period with China through careful and strategic engagement.
    Engaging with China is important to realizing and promoting Canada’s
    interests globally. This is why it is essential that the channels of
    communication remain open, while ensuring that Canada communicates clearly
    to China our firm commitment to securing the release of Michael Kovrig and
    Michael Spavor and to uphold Canadian values and principles.

    Ultimately, China must realize that asserting pressure on another country
    through arbitrary measures against foreign citizens sends the wrong message
    to the international community. It is not an effective way to resolve
    bilateral challenges.

    We will pursue and all-of-Canada approach and continue to endorse a united
    front. This is not a partisan issue nor does it help Mr. Kovrig and Mr.
    Spavor to play politics with this issue.

    Canada will continue to stand on its principles and the rules-based
    international order that has sustained global and 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

    Full debate may be found at:

  • Joe Gaetan

    And I agree with you Ray. Good article. High time HNIC stopped using Huawei ads.