Conservative and Liberal Members of Parliament joined Taiwanese leaders on Saturday in Toronto as they called for Taiwan to be given observer status at the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Speaking to True North, the director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Toronto, Jin-Ling Chensaid, “Taiwan has sent a very clear message that we urge the World Health Organization Director General Tedros (Adhanom) Ghebreyesus to invite Taiwan to join the WHA as an observer.”
“Excluding the Taiwanese people from joining this system is unjust, it is unfair and it’s also dangerous to global health issues,” Chen said. “This is our short-term and more urgent target we want to make to the Canadian government and also the world.”
The event was co-hosted by the Overseas Community Affairs Council of the Republic of China and TECO. The Republic of China is the formal name of Taiwan, and is distinct from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). After the press conference, attendees joined in a car parade which concluded on the front lawn of Queen’s Park.
Canada does not formally recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state and adheres to the “One China” policy imposed by the Communist Party of China, which views Taiwan as part of the Communist-controlled PRC.
Because Canada does not have formal diplomatic relations with the island nation, TECO operates as a de facto consulate in Canada.
Director General Chen stressed that Saturday’s press conference was not political.
“We think this is a global health issue. Not a political issue,” Chen told True North.
Liberal MP Judy Sgro told True North that politics is a factor in the ongoing debate around Taiwan but similarly stressed that MPs on both sides of the House support Taiwan’s presence at the World Health Assembly.
“Is there politics behind a lot of this? Clearly,” Sgro said. “China does not want Taiwan to have any access to anything and that is a barrier that prevents their access, as far as I’m concerned and for all I know. Our prime minister and our party as well as all the other parties in the house of commons, we are all very supportive of Taiwan getting access and we just keep up the campaign and we’re hopeful that is going to happen.”
Liberal MPs Salma Zahid and John McKay were also present on Saturday.
Representing the Conservative Party was the deputy leader and Thornhill MP Melissa Lantsman along with MP Michael Cooper, the Conservatives’ democratic reform critic.
Lantsman read prepared remarks to the audience on behalf of Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.
The remarks included references to China’s ongoing aggression and military posturing over the Strait of Taiwan and the CCP-backed intimidation campaign against Conservative MP Michael Chong.
“We need to do everything to support Taiwan and in support of a message of human rights, of liberty, of freedom, of the rule of law and that includes standing up for the participation of Taiwan in the World Health Organization,” Lantsman said.
“(Taiwan) is under attack. We see it in the skies above Taiwan, we see it in the seas around Taiwan, we see it in Taiwan itself and we see that another dictatorship is targeting innocent Canadians of Taiwanese descent right here on our own soil in our own country and that will always be unacceptable. Even in our House of Commons, the pinnacle of Canadian democracy, we see the known harassment of a member of parliament’s family.”
Cooper railed against the CCPs “bullying” of Taiwan within international organizations like the WHO.
“There is only one reason why Taiwan has been excluded for these past six years and that is because of Beijing’s bullying.”
Speaking to True North, Cooper took issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the sensitive diplomatic dispute.
“We have a prime minister that is at best reluctant to express any kind of support for Taiwan. In fact the prime minister didn’t even utter the word Taiwan for several years during the time for which he has been prime minister,” Cooper said. “It’s really unfortunate that Canada has been silent at this important time.”
When the World Health Assembly gathers at the end of the month in Geneva, observer nations will discuss the controversial global accord on pandemic prevention planned for 2024, commonly known as the global pandemic treaty.
The Canadian government is “working closely” with other countries to develop this treaty which the government describes as a mechanism that will “improve global cooperation, strengthen collective action and accountability and address gaps in pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.”
Asked by True North if a Conservative government would support Canada’s involvement in a future United Nations-led global pandemic treaty, Cooper voiced skepticism.
“I would be very skeptical at this present time and I will have to see what happens during the negotiations, but it is important that we make health decisions for Canadians. And the Government of Canada puts the interests of Canadians first.”