As China pressed over Russia stance, Canada’s MPs revive special committee on ties

Click to play video: 'NATO chief criticizes China over stance on Russia-Ukraine conflict'
NATO chief criticizes China over stance on Russia-Ukraine conflict
WATCH: NATO's secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg criticized China on Thursday over its stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, saying that the country has been "unwilling to condemn" the aggression and "Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of nations to choose their own path." – Apr 7, 2022

Canadian opposition parties on Monday voted to revive the high-profile special committee studying Canada’s ties with China.

The Liberal cabinet and caucus opposed the motion to bring back the committee, which had been put forward by the Conservatives. But with NDP and Bloc Quebecois support, the motion passed.

That special committee will be tasked with studying “all aspects of the Canada-People’s Republic of China relationship including but not limited to diplomatic, consular, legal, security and economic relations.”

It will be made up of 12 members: six from the Liberals, four from the Conservatives, one from the Bloc and one from the NDP, and all the evidence heard during the predecessor special committee on Canada-China relations is now going to be referred to the new incarnation of the committee.

A first organizational meeting will take place within one week of the other special committee, currently probing Canada’s response to the Taliban seizing of Afghanistan, wrapping its final report.

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That is expected to happen in the coming weeks.

The motion to create the committee also included an unusual provision that appears to take aim at filibustering, which Liberal MPs on committees have used several times over the past year during debate on calls to summon witnesses from the government including political staff.

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That provision states that when the committee is studying a motion “to exercise the committee’s power to send for persons, papers and records,” that debate will come to an end either after four hours of debate or one sitting week after the motion was first moved.

“And in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the motion shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.”

Click to play video: 'Will China help Russia in the war against Ukraine?'
Will China help Russia in the war against Ukraine?

Unlike standing committees, which return as a matter of course when Parliament returns after dissolution, special committees do not revive automatically and need to be specifically created by MPs.

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The last Canada-China special committee started in late 2019 and was dissolved at the call of the last election.

It mainly focused on China’s aggressive conduct in Hong Kong, and the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians seized by Chinese authorities in what is widely recognized as retaliation for Canada arresting Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou at the behest of American law enforcement.

Kovrig and Spavor were released in September 2021.

Now, China is under increasing global scrutiny over its lack of condemnation and continued trading ties with Russia despite that country’s unprovoked and bloody invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign democracy.

Canadian security officials have said the world’s unprecedented response to that invasion, with successive rounds of sanctions targeting Russian leaders and oligarchs as well as billions worth of military equipment being rushed to Ukraine, should give China pause over any plans to invade Taiwan.

“I would say that prior to a week ago, we were very concerned about China and in fact wondering if China would take the opportunity to accelerate their plans for greater control of their near abroad, specifically Taiwan,” said Maj.-Gen. Michael Wright, the Canadian military’s defence intelligence chief.

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“I would hope that with the reaction of the international community, and specifically NATO and the West, that China would have pause for any of their authoritarian plans in the future.”

Canadian officials are also working to craft a new Indo-Pacific strategy for the country — one that Defence Minister Anita Anand said explicitly earlier this month will reflect “growing Chinese activity in the region” as a factor.

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