Markham, ON. 1 Jan 2022.
What do we value as Canadians? Freedom? Human rights? Democracy? All excellent answers, and answers I’m sure we can all agree with, without a second thought. If we hold that to be true, then surely denouncing a country that denies its people their freedoms, human rights, and democratic input should be the easiest thing for even the most hidebound of politicians to do. So, why exactly has our response as a nation been so ineffective in regard to the People’s Republic of China and their systemic human rights abuses? Does our government pivot so often to appeasing China when we should be doing more to hold them accountable?
Why is Trudeau’s government so silent when it comes to China’s human rights abuses?
Personally, I blame our Prime Minister. When he was first campaigning, one of Trudeau’s key arguments was that it was necessary to pursue a trade relationship with China. At the time, this comment was meant to set him apart from his liberal contemporaries and to showcase his concern for Canadian prosperity. Nowadays, it rings somewhat hollow, as business between our two nations appears to consist primarily of China strong-arming Canada to get its way and failing to deliver when it comes to sensitive matters like COVID vaccines. However, it must be noted that the Trudeau’s government has a truly alarming habit of avoiding confrontations and seeking appeasement from the PRC, rather than standing up against that country’s continued bad behaviour.
Consider, for instance, the political dithering around labelling the circumstances of the Uyghur Muslims of China as genocide. The argument against, it seems, is that it is simply too cumbersome and ineffectual for us as a government to call what is plainly a crackdown on a particular ethnic minority a genocide. Why is that? We are told that there are sanctions being worked on, we are told that our government is discussing potential remedies to the problems facing innocent people under the PRC’s thumb, and yet we aren’t willing to use the word “genocide.” Why is that? Why is this discussion happening in the Senate, and with the PM and his cabinet absent from it? And if we must be truly mercenary, why must we tolerate this behaviour from a country that doesn’t even have the decency to let us trade goods with its people?
Trudeau should think twice about “Basic Dictatorship” and its Worth; Tyranny is Tyranny - China.
There’s another comment of Trudeau’s from the 2013 election cycle that is making the rounds these days; one wherein our Prime Minister described his admiration of the “basic dictatorship of China.” The quote is a little misleading and not presented in context; it was given in answer to the question, “what foreign nation do you admire?” and was predicated on the idea that China could simply turn its economy on a dime and favour green energy. For a would-be politician campaigning in the obstruction-prone Harper era, especially one whose campaign promises included expanded economic prosperity stemming from Chinese trade, it’s an easy answer to give and indicative of little. It does, however, showcase Trudeau’s naivety for all the world to see. This was the opinion of a man who felt he could “deal” with China. I wonder how long it will take for that dream to fade.
If this pandemic has proven anything, it is that China’s authoritarian structure is just as prone to stumbling and inaction when it comes to both their own affairs and to dealings with Canada, and that there’s no such thing as a “basic dictatorship.” If there were, would it have been so slow to notice the virus spreading through its own population?
Canada, our country, is a constitutional monarchy, favouring democracy and established rules over monolithic power. That has its difficulties, for sure. It’s easy to want a straightforward answer to governmental stodginess. But let’s not make the mistake of admiring a cruel, tyrannical government instead. Even a brief look at global history, suggests that nothing good can come out of that.
The Trudeau Government isn’t exactly squeaky-clean when it's about relationship with China
Of course, it wouldn’t be a full discussion of Trudeau’s policy and image without discussing our illustrious Prime Minister’s own faults. His government is somewhat prone to mishandling incidents that pertain to China-Canada relations. The Senate meeting on the Uyghur Muslims was perhaps the most obvious, but there are other worrying events worth mentioning. The alleged fracas around cutting funding to the Halifax International Security Forum, for instance. The fact that we even have to ask, “did the government threaten to pull funding from a security-related event in order to avoid angering China” is disconcerting enough by itself.
Consider also the incident where two scientists and their grad students were removed from the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) in Winnipeg for allegedly supervising a shipment of Ebola and Henipah samples to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, leading to the President of the Public Health Agency of Canada being reprimanded for his lack of transparency. What could have been a simple removal from duty has, thanks to poor handling, ended up becoming an impenetrable cloud of smoke.
So, What Are We Left With? What Is Our Problem as a Nation? How Should Canada Face China?
What do we value as Canadians? There are many things I wish could be improved in Canada. One thing I really wish could be improved is the public’s ability to trust in our government. We need to be able to know that our leaders will not falter in the face of the whims of the People’s Republic of China, especially not where human rights are suppressed and abused.
Moreover, we need to be able to trust our government to act effectively and transparently. It does us no favours to be stuck in a position like this. We need to demand more from our leaders. Human rights must be respected, and we mustn’t be afraid to hold those who abuse them to account.
We must Do More When it Comes to Human Rights - Canada should stand firm against China
As a nation, we need to stand up against the malpractices of the PRC more often. One of the best ways to do this, by my reckoning, is to decrease our dependence on Chinese labour and imports. We can do this by increasing trade with other countries, and by increasing the import tariff on products originating from within the PRC. As far as the former is concerned, I think it would be best to increase our trade with Taiwan. Doing so would be taking a strong stance against China, and would provide some stability and protection for the Taiwanese who do not wish to be a part of the People’s Republic. Let our dollar speak for itself, I say.
Above all else, however, we must take a firm and vocal position. It isn’t enough to talk vaguely of sanctions; the Trudeau government must publicly, internationally condemn the abuses of human rights committed against the Uyghur Muslims and the people of Hong Kong. Boycotting the Winter Olympics is a good start, but the boycott must be total. Our government officials should not attend the Games, in the same way that officials from Biden’s government in the United States will not attend. It’s a good start, but it cannot be all we do. We must be loud, and we must be constant. That is how a message is sent.
Summary on How Canada can stand firm against China:
Decrease imports from China - increase tariff on Chinese products
Increase imports from other countries that respect human rights
Condemn human rights abuse - Uyghur and Hong Kong
A Total boycott of the Winter Olympics