Members of Parliament’s standing committee on international trade are planning a trip to Taiwan as early as October, says the group’s chair Liberal MP Judy Sgro.
A potential fall visit to Taiwan by Canadian MPs and senators would come on the heels of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in early August.
Pelosi’s visit — which she characterized as a mission to show Washington’s support for Taiwan and democracies worldwide — enraged the Chinese government, which considers the self-ruled island a part of its territory. Beijing responded by encircling the island and conducting live-fire military drills close to territorial waters claimed by Taiwan and Japan.
Sgro said eight members of the committee — who are all also members of Parliament’s Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group — plan to go on the trip.
“The trade committee is very anxious to go and to visit Taiwan and see what opportunities there are for deeper trade relations between our two countries,” she said.
While acknowledging the “significant strain” on international relations that followed Pelosi’s trip, Sgro said “we certainly will use diplomacy as we proceed” through what she called a “necessary” trip.
“Democracy is cherished and an important part of what we all live in every day. We need to protect other countries that have fought for their freedom and for their democracy,” she said.
“So, yes, you know, I’m trying to be diplomatic in my comments, but clearly I’m proud that Canada is standing up to China as well. And I think that pushback is very important.”
Sgro said planning for the trip began last spring. Whether the trip takes place, she added, will depend in part on the future of Taiwan’s COVID-19 protocols.
Liberal MP John McKay, who has visited Taiwan several times under the banner of the friendship group, said China’s dramatic reaction to Pelosi’s visit should not “in the least” dissuade Canada from following in her footsteps.
“My view is that China is trying to bully Taiwan and indirectly bully the rest of us on a false premise that Taiwan is part of China,” McKay said.
“That is nonsense. The Taiwanese have repeatedly expressed their desire to be an independent country and have behaved in an exemplary fashion.
“Canada should do everything to encourage Taiwan to express its democratic values. This parliamentary trip will encourage that.”
Previous iterations of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group have visited the island in the past, as recently as 2014. Individual MPs also have made trips to meet with Taiwanese politicians for many years, drawing the ire of Beijing.
But a fall visit by the friendship group would come at a time of heightened tensions between the Canadian and Chinese governments.
Defence Minister Anita Anand said China’s decision to conduct military drills following Pelosi’s visit was an “unnecessary escalation.”
“There is no justification to use a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait,” Anand said.
China’s vice foreign minister urged Canada to “immediately correct its mistakes” after the G7 issued a condemnation of China’s actions.
Friendship groups represent only informal relations
The Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group is one of dozens of so-called “friendship groups” on Parliament Hill. There were 89 members of the group in 2021, according to a statement released by the Taiwanese government.
The informal nature of friendship groups allows MPs and senators to maintain relations with a variety of governments and communities outside the scope of official government activities.
Under the One China policy adopted by the vast majority of the international community, Canada has only informal diplomatic relations with the Taiwanese government.
Other active friendship groups include the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary Friendship Group and the Canada-Uyghur Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Friendship groups do not receive administrative or financial support from the Parliament of Canada.
A delegation of German parliamentarians is also set to visit Taiwan in the first week of October.