Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is backing the Liberal government’s efforts to include Taiwan in the World Health Organization’s discussions on COVID-19, a position that China opposes.
“Conservatives have long called for Taiwan to be allowed to participate in organizations like the WHO and the Civil Aviation Authority,” Scheer told reporters in Ottawa today.
Scheer said Canada enjoys a mutually beneficial trading relationship with Taiwan.
“These types of entities which provide guidance and services to focus on the health and safety of people all around the world should not be impacted by global politics and by the foreign policy positions of the [People’s Republic of China],” he said.
“We would be very supportive of Taiwan’s participation in these types of organizations.”
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China views Taiwan as a breakaway province, and while Canada does not recognize its sovereignty, the two nations do have trade and cultural relations.
Last week, Canada backed an international coalition that includes the United States, Japan, Australia and others seeking to allow Taiwan to obtain observer status at a major WHO meeting next week.
Taiwan had early success in controlling the outbreak of COVID-19. Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne has told The Canadian Press that Taiwan’s presence as a non-state observer in the World Health Assembly meeting next week would help the pandemic fight.
The move is also politically sensitive for Canada because it is in its own dispute with China over what it calls the “arbitrary” imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
But Canada approved a verbal demarche to two senior WHO executives during a meeting last week that urged them to allow Taiwan to be admitted as an observer to an upcoming meeting because its input would be meaningful and important.
The World Health Assembly meets next Monday in Geneva.
The demarche was issued jointly on Thursday by the Geneva-based ambassadors of Canada, Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Britain, Japan and the U.S. — with the envoys from Washington and Tokyo taking the lead.
Taiwan and the WHO
Despite co-operation on health and trade since the pandemic’s outbreak, relations between Canada and China have been severely strained since the RCMP arrested Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in December 2018.
China arrested Kovrig and Spavor nine days later in what is widely viewed as retaliation and has levelled accusations of spying against the men.
Canada has marshalled a broad coalition of international support calling for their release an that has angered Chinese leaders.
But Canada has pushed forward at the WHO on the Taiwan issue because it takes comfort in the fact it is part of a coalition of countries making the argument, said a senior government official, who has briefed The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The government believes that regardless of whatever dispute exists between countries, an organization such as the WHO is supposed to work for the greater good of all people around the world, the official said.
Taiwan is also squarely in the centre of the Trump administration’s dispute with China and the WHO. The U.S. has temporarily halted funding to the organization over its allegedly inadequate assessment of COVID-19’s early threat when the novel coronavirus was breaking out in the Chinese city of Wuhan.