Canada-China Relations — Request for Apology

Hon. Jim Munson: Mr. Leader, it’s very unusual for a foreign minister on a trip to see another foreign minister to be having a meeting with that foreign minister, then being granted a meeting with the Prime Minister. We don’t usually see that sort of thing. I know you’re talking about the preparation for the G20, but I understand as well that China’s foreign minister insisted on seeing Prime Minister Trudeau. I understand the Prime Minister is going to China in August with a big delegation to talk about trade and other issues.

Our foreign minister neglected to step into the breach, so to speak, on a very legitimate question that was asked of him first, not of the foreign minister, thus leaving open this void. Having been part of that scene in the Prime Minister’s Office at one time, can you assure us that in these meetings with Mr. Xi Jinping, who has quite an authoritarian voice and an iron rule of China these days — that is, if you believe what you read from sinologists like Charles Burton of Brock University, and others like Jonathan Manthorpe, writing in iPolitics — when the issue of human rights does come up, it is spoken to directly? There are ways and means for prime ministers to talk to other presidents and prime ministers about the general area of human rights.

Let’s not forget, Mr. Harder, that — Mr. Leader of the Senate —

An Hon. Senator: Oh!

Senator Munson: I said that because of his past diplomatic work on the Canada China Business Council. He knows China.

The other part is that we can’t ignore trade with China. We simply can’t. We also can’t ignore that there are hundreds of dissidents —

Senator Mockler: What’s your question?

Senator Munson: This is an opportunity for me to speak. It’s Friday morning. I had a good rest. I feel pretty good about everything.

Senator Mercer: Pay attention, Percy!

Senator Munson: At least, Senator Mockler, I’m allowed to talk like this inside this chamber, outside of this chamber and anywhere in this country. I couldn’t be talking like this in China, I can tell you that —

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Munson: — because I have visited a number of Chinese jails, including the one in the Forbidden City.

Now that you have me going, do you know what the Chinese government loves to say? I was hauled in by the police a few times and roughed up a wee bit. They would love to say, “Mr. Munson, your stories hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” They always say that. They say that to everybody. I would say, “How can the Chinese people’s feelings be hurt if they haven’t heard my stories, because you won’t allow them to hear my stories?”

All I’m saying in this story this morning is that when it comes to human rights and dissidents in China, can you assure us that Mr. Trudeau will bring up the specific names, particularly that of the Nobel Peace Prize winner — and many others —who are languishing in prison? I think it’s extremely important that Canada shows its face and doesn’t go through a back door as Great Britain has and Germany is trying to do. You can’t talk to the Dalai Lama, and bully politics are happening with the present leadership. I think we need these assurances as a nation.

Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for his statement/question. As one who has been directly engaged in speaking with Chinese officials on issues of human rights as well as economic issues and as one who has attended numerous prime ministers’ engagements with Chinese leadership on these issues, I can assure you that the Government of Canada will continue to exercise its responsibilities in all aspects of the relationship, including the promotion of human rights and inquiries on issues of concern to Canadians and indeed this chamber.

I will take the specific request of the honourable senator to the Government of Canada, but I do want to emphasize that the tradition of Canadian diplomacy has been active on these issues and will continue to be active as we engage the number two economy in the world through their transition as well.