Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday thanked the island nation of Taiwan for donating medical masks to Canada amid the coronavirus pandemic, one day after his foreign minister dodged repeated requests to do the same.
During a daily briefing with journalists outside Rideau Cottage, Trudeau was asked about Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne refusing to specifically name and thank Taiwan for its donation of 500,000 masks despite publicly thanking China for its separate donation.
“Your foreign minister wouldn’t thank the country by name. Will you?” asked a journalist.
“I’m happy to thank Taiwan for its generous donation,” Trudeau responded.
“It is important at this point that Canadians and all people around the world pull together and be there for each other because this is a global challenge that is going to face a global response. We need to do this together and we will.”
Trudeau was also asked about remarks by former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in a new memoir in which Turnbull said the world should stand up to China’s “bullying” behaviour, and whether Canada would do so.
He did not directly answer the question.
“My responsibility as prime minister is to make sure that we are providing for Canadians and keeping Canadians safe. That’s the job people expect me to do and that is exactly what I’m doing,” he said.
“We’re going to ensure that Canadians have the equipment, the supplies, the support they need to make it through this pandemic. Of course, at the same time, we will be asking difficult questions about how we’re making it through this pandemic, how this came to happen, how we can learn from this.”
He continued, adding: “There’ll be plenty of time for questions in the months to come. My focus, rightly, is on doing everything I can to help Canadians through this.”
Champagne had been asked repeatedly by Conservative MP Ed Fast to thank Taiwan for its mask donation during a virtual parliamentary meeting on Thursday but repeatedly would not do so.
Instead, Champagne said “we are grateful to every nation” that has shared medical supplies with Canada.
That stood in contrast to Champagne’s decision to share a tweet from the Chinese Embassy announcing its donation of masks — later found to be faulty — with his 34,000 Twitter followers, along with his thanks.
In response to questions about why Champagne would not thank Taiwan by name, a spokesperson for his office said that International Trade Minister Mary Ng would be speaking by phone with her Taiwanese counterpart on Thursday evening and would thank the country then.
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.