A former Canadian secretary of state for Asia-Pacific points to three issues the new foreign minister must deal with quickly.
Dear Foreign Minister Garneau,
Canadians generally want Canadian values, including respect for human dignity, to assume a major role in our dealings with Beijing. Nine in 10 of us told a Nanos opinion survey even before the COVID-19 pandemic that we distrusted China’s government. Events since can only have re-enforced this view.
1. The release of the two Michaels
Former Canadian ambassador to China David Mulroney wrote almost two years ago: “We have to secure the freedom of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor … we’re also still in the grips of a misguided vision of China, one especially dear to the Canadian governing and business classes, that naïvely embraces almost everything Beijing has on offer … we must finally be open to the idea that, when it comes to engaging Beijing, smarter is better than comprehensive – and less is almost certainly better than more.”
Since China’s 2001 admission to the World Trade Organization, about 600,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost across Canada, partly because Beijing doesn’t respect international agreements. Guy Saint-Jacques, another former ambassador to China, says: “(Canada) should put more effort into trade diversification and consider expelling Chinese athletes training in Canada for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics … (Canada must) be firm because this is the only language that China understands.”
This probably should include barring all imports to Canada from Xinjiang province, because so many are made by forced Uyghur labour. Importers could be required to rebut the presumption that their products are not the results of forced labour.
3. Respond vigorously to ongoing genocide
In 2017, Xi Jinping began erecting a “re-education” gulag for Muslims similar to that established for Falun Gong practitioners across China after mid-1999. Inmates have been arrested without any pretence of a hearing or appeal. Organ-harvesting from Uyghurs preceded that from Falun Gong (which began in 2001). Responsible governments and businesses worldwide, including Canada, should join the U.S. and Australia in boycotting anyone doing business in Xinjiang.
“Magnitsky” legislation makes it easier for governments, including Canada’s, to impose targeted financial and visa sanctions on human rights-abusing officials in Beijing. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act,” now under consideration by the Senate. The bill declares that unless U.S. Customs can verify that goods are not produced using forced labour, they cannot enter the United States. This is the most significant attempt to-date to pressure Beijing over its mass detention of Muslim minorities.
As you settle in as Canada’s new foreign minister, I urge you to pursue new policies with Beijing, both bilaterally and multilaterally.
David Kilgour was Canada’s Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) from 2002 to 2003. This piece was written in collaboration with Peter Lamont, a retired military judge and former federal prosecutor with experience in extraditions