Advertisement

Coronavirus: Champagne dodges naming Taiwan when pressed to thank nation for mask donation

Foreign affairs minister says Canada is ‘grateful’ for countries providing medical supplies but won’t name Taiwan
During a virtual sitting of the House of Commons on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said that Canada is "grateful to all who have given supplies" during the coronavirus pandemic, after Conservative MP Ed Fast accused the Trudeau government of not thanking Taiwan for their delivery of 25,000 surgical masks to British Columbia on May 4.

When China donated medical supplies to help Canada in battling the coronavirus pandemic, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne turned to Twitter to thank the country directly.

But after the small island nation of Taiwan did the same, Champagne did not post about the donation on his Twitter account and when pressed to thank the nation directly on Thursday, would not say its name.

READ MORE: 500,000 surgical masks donated to Canada from Taiwan

“Will the minister now do the right thing and on behalf of Canadians, recognize the generosity of Taiwan and thank its government for that timely donation?” asked Conservative MP Ed Fast.

Champagne said lots of countries have done the same thing, and would not name Taiwan.

“Canada is grateful to all who have given supplies to Canada. This is a common endeavour,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“We are thankful, we are grateful to every nation. We will continue to do so. Like I said, when it comes to global health, when it comes to helping each other, I think it is the duty of all to come together.”

Fast tried the question again, and Champagne repeated that he is grateful to all countries that have donated medical supplies to Canada, and again did not mention Taiwan by name.

In response to a question from Global News about Champagne’s response, a spokesperson for the minister said International Trade Minister Mary Ng will thank Taiwan in a phone call Thursday evening.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“The Government of Canada has been working with the Canadian Red Cross to identify and secure essential medical equipment from a number of suppliers around the world,” wrote press secretary Syrine Khoury in an email, noting the masks donated from Taiwan have now been distributed.

“This evening, Minister Ng will hold a long-scheduled call with Shen Jong-chin, Minister of Economic Affairs from Taiwan and will reiterate Canada’s thanks for this donation, which demonstrates that we are all in this together.”

An official also noted that the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei posted a thank you message on the office’s Facebook account after the announcement of the mask shipment.

But that stands in contrast to Champagne’s public thanks to China, in which the minister shared a Chinese embassy tweet announcing the shipment with his followers and thanked the country directly.

Story continues below advertisement

Taiwan has been recognized globally for containing the early spread of the coronavirus despite its proximity to China and several other Asian countries that have battled deadly outbreaks.

Despite that, it continues to be blocked from joining the World Health Organization.

That’s because China maintains the island nation is one of its provinces.

Taiwan continues to maintain that it is independent and not part of China.

READ MORE: EU members to push for formal probe into coronavirus origins, Canadian position unclear

But China is under increasing global scrutiny over evidence it covered up early outbreaks of the virus and did not accurately report its cases to the World Health Organization.

Story continues below advertisement

Critics of the World Health Organization have warned officials there cost the world crucial response time by waiting months to declare a pandemic and by praising the early Chinese response.

China, in response to calls for an investigation, has threatened what Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has characterized as “economic coercion,” but European Union member states are set to push for exactly that at a meeting of the World Health Organization’s decision-making body in two weeks.

There are also rumours that the U.S. plans to propose a draft resolution at that meeting calling on World Health Organization members to allow Taiwan to join as an observer.

Such a move will likely infuriate China, whose diplomats have also been criticized for circulating misinformation on social media accusing the U.S. of being the source of the virus and blaming China to undermine that country’s rise on the world stage.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he believes having Taiwan as an observer at the meetings would be in the best interests of the international community as the world works to limit the virus spread.