Why NATO Matters

July 10, 2018 6:39 am
Updated: July 10, 2018 8:48 pm

Justin Trudeau adding more Canadian troops in Latvia, extending mission

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada is extending its NATO commitment in Latvia by another four years to March 2023 and will boost the number of troops in the country to 540 from the current 455 in a show of ongoing solidarity with the alliance.

WATCH: Canada extending mission in Latvia; adding more troops

Trudeau made the announcement in Riga following a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and indicated that he hopes the increased Canadian commitment to Latvia gets the attention of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

READ MORE: Why Donald Trump’s attacks on NATO might make some leaders less likely to spend more

Canada is part of a NATO battle group in Latvia, which was established as the alliance’s response to Russia’s surprise annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of eastern Ukraine.

“We certainly hope that the message is passed clearly to President Putin that his actions in destabilizing and disregarding the international rules-based order that has been successfully underpinned by NATO amongst others over the past 75 years or so is extremely important,” said Trudeau.

“We certainly hope that Russia will choose to become a more positive actor in world affairs than it has chosen to be in the past.”

The Canadian-led group is one of four in the region, and includes troops from seven NATO allies. Germany leads a similar force in Lithuania, Britain leads one in Estonia and the U.S. leads in Poland.

WATCH: Trudeau reaffirms NATO commitment ahead of contentious meeting

Before leaving Canada on Monday, Trudeau spoke to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg by telephone to stress the “importance of the alliance’s unity and solidarity on defence and security issues.”

Trudeau’s announcement comes a day ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels, where the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, as Canada and other NATO allies prepare to counter the U.S. president’s complaint that they aren’t carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the military alliance.

Trudeau also met in Riga Tuesday with Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis.

READ MORE: Final rotation of soldiers returns to Edmonton from NATO-led operation in Poland

He also laid flowers at the monument of freedom and took part in a number of activities at a military base in Adazi. Trudeau also attended a candlelight vigil at a Latvian memorial to fallen soldiers, a vehicle display by multinational troops and spoke to Canadian military personnel.

Trudeau’s visit to Latvia comes as the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, with Canada and other NATO allies preparing to counter the U.S. president’s persistent complaint that they aren’t carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the 69-year-old military alliance.

LISTEN: Retired diplomat Colin Robertson looks at the history and importance of NATO


Trump’s ongoing efforts to portray Canada and other member states as pinching pennies when it comes to the military spending target of two per cent of GDP – a benchmark agreed to by allies at the 2014 summit in Wales.

Trump has threatened to pull out of the alliance entirely if other member nations don’t pony up.

WATCH: Canadian soldiers in Latvia send messages home for Canada Day 2017

The president acknowledged Monday on Twitter that other member states have increased their defence spending, but repeated his complaint that the U.S. contributes far more than other countries, which he said “is not fair nor is it acceptable.”

If the U.S. were to leave NATO, it would have a “huge and highly negative” affect on Canada, said David Perry, a senior defence analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“If you take his rhetoric at full value … it would actually start to undermine the solidarity alliance, it would be hugely consequential for Canada because NATO has been so important to it.”

Having a forum in which Canada can engage in discussions about key security issues with the U.S. as part of a larger alliance of nations also offers Canada some counterweight that doesn’t exist in North America alone, where the United States is the “800-pound gorilla,” Perry added.

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Latvia visiting with Canadian troops stationed there

But given that Trump has followed through on other threats – including tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and the European Union, as well as a full-blown trade war with China – Perry said allies ought to be concerned about the possibility that Trump isn’t bluffing.

“He does seem to have a habit of doing what he says he’s going to do.”

Concerns about U.S. disengagement have also deepened given that Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin just days after the summit.

Some see the controversial meeting as an undermining of the alliance itself, considering some of NATO’s active military missions – including the one in Latvia – were undertaken in direct response to Russia’s escalating aggression in the Baltic region.

“The Trump-Putin summit could potentially aggravate U.S. allies who want to isolate Putin,” said Jayson Derow, a research analyst at the NATO Association of Canada.

READ MORE: New best friends? Canada and Latvia have some ties, but some work to do

“However, while U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has surely shaken the confidence of U.S. allies and NATO members across the Atlantic, the alliance is still standing and the Trump administration has taken tangible steps to bolster the alliance and European security, while countering Moscow with the sales of military hardware and its own deployments in eastern Europe.”

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Russian Cyberthreats

European countries sound the alarm over threat of Russian cyberattacks

WATCH ABOVE: American intelligence officials say they are convinced that Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential election was approved by President Vladimir Putin.


Amid growing outrage in the United States over reports that Russian hackers interfered in the election to help Donald Trump, countries in Europe are warning that cyberattacks and disinformation from Moscow could damage upcoming elections.

Intelligence agencies and high-level officials in Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and elsewhere have all voiced concerns over the threat of cyber sabotage by Russia.

WATCH: Donald Trump and the alleged Russian influence over the U.S. Election


The concerns come as the Kremlin denied a report Thursday that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed how information obtained from hackers was used during the election against U.S. democrats and Hillary Clinton.

Germany’s domestic intelligence service (BfV) warned that Russia has been cyber-targeting German seeking to create “uncertainty in German society” and to destabilize the country ahead of the country’s federal elections in October 2017.

“In the political arena we see increasing and aggressive cyber espionage,” said Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of BfV, in a statement last week. “We see a potential hazard to members of the German government, the Bundestag and employees of democratic parties through cyber operations.”

The head of Britain’s internal intelligence agency MI5 said in November that while Russia had been a covert threat for decades, there are currently more methods available for it to pursue its anti-Western agenda.

READ MORE: Did Russia hack the U.S. presidential election? Here’s what we know

Spy agencies in Sweden and France and the Netherlands — both of which have federal elections in the spring of 2017 — also issued similar statements about the increasing Russian cyber threat.

What is Russia’s goal?

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, said there is not only growing apprehension in Europe but also among the Five Eyes — an intelligence alliance between Canada, U.S., U.K.,  Australia and New Zealand.

“This is remarkable,” said Robertson, vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “Countries in Europe with forthcoming elections are very conscious [of the Russia threat].”

WATCH: Russia intervened to help Trump win White House, CIA says

Robertson said Putin’s goal is to expand Russia’s influence on former Soviet countries while undermining members of NATO.

“Russia’s goal is to destabilize the western alliance and to reassert Russia as a great power,” he said. “Putin sees his only means of survival is to continue to expand Russian influence … and cyber espionage is one of his main tools.”

Russia using false news

The spread of fake news and disinformation during the presidential election had many pointing fingers at Russia and now EU countries are worried the troubling trend could affect their democratic processes.

WATCH: Did fake news influence the outcome of the U.S. election?

William Courtney, an adjunct senior fellow at the RAND think tank in Washington and a former U.S. diplomat, told Global News that the spread of false news stories have been a powerful weapon for Russia.

“[Russia] thinks they helped tip the balance in electing Donald Trump and this is only going to encourage them to do more,” Courtney said.

Courtney pointed to a story earlier this year in Germany that stoked immigration fears after a 13-year-old Russian-German teen said she had been raped by migrants. The story was sensationalized by Russian state television but then debunked after the girl admitted to making up the story.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see [political influence campaigns] stepped up in Europe — certainly in Europe — but also in America,” he said.

READ MORE: Hillary Clinton slams ‘epidemic’ of fake news online: ‘Lives are at risk’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her party, the Christian Democratic Union, had been targeted by Russian hackers earlier this year and warned that false information disseminated by Russia could help shift the federal elections toward the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which has received a boost in popularity over the migrant crisis.

“We are already, even now, having to deal with information out of Russia or with internet attacks that are of Russian origin or with news which sows false information,” Merkel said at a press conference in in November, according to The Guardian.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the U.S. or Europe. Trump has also dismissed the reports from intelligence agencies and said in a statement the CIA “are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”

*With files from Reuters


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Justin Trudeau goes to China

Trudeau visits China: 6 things to watch

Prime minister leaves today for his first official visit to Beijing

By Susan Lunn, CBC News Posted: Aug 29, 2016 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Aug 29, 2016 12:48 PM ET

Media placeholder

Trudeau departs for China and G20 1:20

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau departs for his first official visit to China, Canada’s second-largest trading partner, here are six things to watch.

How warm a welcome?

When Stephen Harper first went to China in 2009, the prime minister received a frosty reception and was famously chastised by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao for not visiting sooner.

And that was when journalists were still in the room.

A senior official quipped afterwards that the reception was so frosty, icicles nearly formed on the mirrors in the room at the Great Hall of the People.

Trudeau has been critical of the Harper government’s handling of the relationship.

“Over the past government’s mandate, unfortunately, relationships with China were somewhat inconstant. They went from hot to cold depending on the issue, depending on the day, it seemed,” Trudeau said Monday.


Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai toasts Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during a banquet held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 11, 1973. (Peter Bregg/Canadian Press)

By all accounts, Trudeau should receive a much different welcome.

“The name Trudeau is almost as good as being [revered Canadian doctor Norman] Bethune, because it was, after all, Pierre Trudeau who took the step to recognize China in 1971,” said former diplomat Colin Robertson, who at one point was posted in Hong Kong.

Robertson noted Justin Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping also have something in common: they are both sons of famous fathers.

“So he starts off well past first base, whereas Stephen Harper was still working his way to first base even when he got there.”

Progress on a free trade deal?

As Canada’s biggest trading partner behind the United States, China would like a free trade agreement with Canada.

The previous Conservative government produced studies on the idea that were positive, but not much has been done since.

What will Canada agree to during this visit? Exploratory talks? Or more study?

Robertson said he doesn’t think the Trudeau government has decided yet, and that could be a problem as officials get ready to sit down with the Chinese.

“When you negotiate with the Chinese, despite the tea and buns, they are much more dragon than panda.”

Canada-China Relations 20160127

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he wants to set “a very clear and constructive relationship with China.” (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Canadian investment in Asian infrastructure

Beyond free trade, China would also like Canada to invest in its $100-billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

The AIIB was created to support the development of infrastructure in China. Countries that invest in the bank give their country’s firms preferential access to projects funded by the AIIB.

Canadian firms are keen to get a piece of this business and are hoping Trudeau will send a positive signal during this visit, said former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day, now a vice-president with the Canada-China Business Council.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity for Canadian firms; large firms, mid-size firms. We’re very well acquainted with issues related to developing infrastructure in cold weather and in extreme climates. We’ve got so much to offer there,” Day said.

David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China, disagrees.


David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China. (Pawel Dwulit/Canadian Press)

“I actually think we made the right decision in not joining,” said Mulroney, who’s now president of the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto. “China is, in my view, far from ready for hosting a major multilateral financial institution.

“As they were announcing the launch of the bank they were shutting down the website for Reuters, which is one of the premier financial media outlets in the world.”

Asked about potential investment in the bank, senior Canadian government officials would only say, “We will have more to say on the trip.”

Human rights and global security

Trudeau has promised to balance economic interests with human rights.

“What we want to do is set a very clear and constructive relationship with China that yes, looks at the potential economic benefits of better trade relationships, while at the same time ensuring that our voice is heard clearly on issues of human rights, of labour rights, of democracy, environmental stewardship,” Trudeau said.

He will get a chance to raise thorny issues like human rights, canola exports and the espionage case of Canadian Kevin Garratt when he meets with the Chinese premier and president Wednesday in Beijing.

Garratt family

Kevin and Julia Dawn Garratt, flanked by their son Peter and daughter Hannah, were detained in August 2014 near the border with North Korea. They were accused of stealing Chinese military secrets. Julia Garratt was released on bail on Feb. 5, 2015. (Simeon Garratt)

Day accompanied Harper on two of his visits to China, and he has no doubt Trudeau will raise these issues as well, in the appropriate way, behind closed doors.

“You can make headway sitting down around a table, eyeball to eyeball, and without trying to make political points,” Day told CBC.

Mulroney adds the Chinese are very used to foreign leaders raising these issues.

“You want to address it in a non-confrontational way because you want the conversation to continue. And you want to nudge and move the Chinese system into a direction that’s going to be helpful for Canada,” he said.

Canada and the G20

China has promised to ratify the Paris Accord to fight climate change in advance of the G20 summit in Hangzhou, which begins Sept. 4.

There are media reports the U.S. will also sign, with China, two days before the international summit.

Canada has promised to ratify the accord by the end of the year. There have been no such reports it plans to do so in China.

Canadian officials are also expected to talk with European delegations about the Canada-EU free trade deal.

Reasonable expectations

The general advice for Trudeau seems to be to not rush into anything with China, but rather to focus on building a long-term relationship.

Day said both parties have an “assured sense” they’ll be dealing with each other for at least the next several years, “so it gives some opportunity to build some types of relationships and decision-making that can have long-term effects and prosperity for Canadians.”

How Trudeau’s visit to China could help the case of a Canadian jailed for spying
Head By Andrew Russell National Online Reporter Global News



WATCH ABOVE: Justin Trudeau hopes to reset relations with China on 1st official visit

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to China on his first official visit, two issues that could be on the agenda as he meets with Chinese president Xi Jinping are human rights and the case of Canadian Kevin Garratt who has been charged with espionage.

Ahead of the official visit, Trudeau said his government would balance strengthening business ties between the two countries with concerns over human rights issues in China.

“What we want to do is set a very clear and constructive relationship with China that yes, looks at the potential economic benefits of better trade relationships, while at the same time ensuring that our voice is heard clearly on issues of human rights, of labour rights, of democracy, environmental stewardship,” Trudeau told reporters last week in Sudbury, Ont.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau hopes to reset relations with China on 1st official visit

The Chinese regime has been accused of targeting activists and dissidents, persecuting people for religious beliefs, and using torture. But China’s ambassador to Canada, Luo Zhaohui, made an attempt to quell fears of his government’s troubled human rights record ahead of Trudeau’s trip.

WATCH: PM Trudeau heads to China to talk trade, human rights. Shirlee Engel reports

“You say you’re concerned about human rights issues? I think this is understandable,” Luo told the Canadian Press. “Every country has their own problems with human rights issues. No country thinks that their human rights situation is perfect.

“(In) China, we’ve got a long way to go to improve the human rights situation, but at the same time we have also made a lot of progress in the past many years.”

READ MORE: Chinese official angered by question from Canadian journalist

Who is Kevin Garratt?

Trudeau will also get the chance to speak with Chinese officials about the case of Kevin Garratt – a Canadian man who was charged with spying and stealing Chinese state secrets. Garratt and his wife Julia — who have lived in China for 30 years — were arrested in August 2014 by the state security bureau. Julia Garratt was released on bail in February 2015.

Their son Simeon Garratt, who lives in Vancouver, has previously denied his parents were involved in any wrongdoing.

Former Canadian ambassadors who spoke with Global News said Trudeau could send a strong message just by raising the issue when he sits down with Jingping on Wednesday.

“Just by raising the arrest of Mr. Garratt he flags to the Chinese authorities that this is something the Canadian government puts some priority on. That alone sends the message.” said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Gar Pardy, the former head of Canada’s consular services, said in rare cases China has been known to release prisoners based on high-profile representation. Garratt’s case was also raised by the former Conservative government.

Pardy said releasing Garratt would be an “easy” gesture for Chinese officials looking to improving the relationship between the two countries.

“Whether or not they will do it no one can hazard any sort of a definite answer,” Pardy said.

Robertson added that Trudeau will be closely watched by the press on the issues following a visit in Juned from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

WATCH: China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs blasts Canadian journalist over human rights question

Tension over China’s jailing of the Garratt’s boiled over after Minister Yi publicly berated a Canadian journalist for asking about the case.

“Your question is full of prejudice against China and arrogance … I don’t know where that comes from. This is totally unacceptable,” Minister Yi said through a translator at a joint news conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion.

Dion, who was sharply criticized for staying silent during the incident, has said that both he and Trudeau raised Garratt’s case with Wang and discussed human rights.

China admits human rights concern ahead of Trudeau visit
China admits human rights concern ahead of Trudeau visit

Canadian prime minister aims to strengthen economic ties with China

World Bulletin / News Desk

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left on Monday for his first official visit to China, in a bid to better relations between the two countries.

But one sticking point has already been addressed – that of human rights.

“[In] China, we’ve got a long way to go to improve the human rights situation, but at the same time we also made a lot of progress in the past many years,” Chinese ambassador Luo Zhaohui told the Canadian Press wire service in an interview prior to Trudeau’s trip.

The admission could be considered a preemptive strike to ease tensions since Canada has chastised China on its human rights issues many times in the past. Trudeau had promised to revisit the issue during his week-long visit.

But better economic ties between the two countries is the major objective, Canadian media reported.

Next to the United States, China is Canada’s largest trading partner and China would like to negotiate a free-trade agreement with Canada.

It is not always easy to broker deals with China, according to former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who was at one time was posted to China.

“When you negotiate with the Chinese, despite the tea and buns, they are much more dragon than panda,” he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canada’s state media.

Relations between the two countries was frosty when Stephen Harper was Canada’s prime minister. Trudeau’s Liberals took over government after winning election in the fall of 2015.

“Over the past government’s mandate, unfortunately, relations with China were somewhat inconstant,” Trudeau told reporters Monday. “They went from hot to cold, depending on the issue, depending on the day, it seemed.”

But Robertson said Trudeau has a better chance of reaching deals with China because the prime minister’s father, who is also a former prime minister of Canada, was one of the first Western leaders to recognize communist China in 1971.

Economics again is slated to dominate the visit.

China also wants Canada to invest in its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to the tune of CAN$100 billion.

China is more likely to look favorable on countries that have invested in the bank when it comes to awarding contracts for various projects within China and Canadian businesses are eager for a piece of that, according to the CBC.

On Sunday the G20 Summit in Hangzhou convenes and Trudeau’s stated goal of improving economic ties with China will have a chance to strengthen – leaders are expected to discuss ways to advance global economic co-operation and development, the Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest newspaper, reported.

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Canada China Relations and Press Freedom

une 5, 2016 11:09 am

Chinese may not care Canadians offended by minister’s outburst: ex-diplomat

Former diplomat Colin Robertson and Senator Jim Munson join Tom Clark for a discussion on the visit to Canada of China’s foreign minister, and his tirade against a journalist.

China’s foreign minister made headlines in Ottawa this week for all the wrong reasons when he took exception to a question posed by a journalist. But experts say it’s unlikely the Chinese care about the bad press.

“They’ll have to deal with damage control,” former diplomat Colin Robertson told the West Block’s Tom Clark.

“But I’m not sure that they care. There are a number of things that take place that they feel they’re getting bad press (on) from the western media.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion stood next to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, seemingly stunned into silence, as the Chinese politician ripped into a journalist from news website iPolitics. Wang called the question on the jailing of a Canadian, Kevin Garratt, “irresponsible.” The question had not, in fact, even been directed at Wang.

 WATCH: China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs blasts Canadian journalist

Current senator and former journalist Jim Munson said he was deeply offended by Wang’s outburst on Canadian soil.

“It was very upsetting,” Munson said.

“He couldn’t have picked a worse time, and particularly for me because I’m quite emotional about this issue, having seen children and adults killed in Tiananmen [Square]. There was a massacre in Tiananmen. And to say this on our territory and to say this about a journalist, my goodness, it hit home again to me what is wrong in China.”

READ MORE: Trudeau says Canada expressed ‘dissatisfaction’ with China for berating reporter

Both Munson and Robertson said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now has a responsibility to address themes of press freedom, the consular immunity of Canadians in China and human rights on his next visit to the country.

“Certainly the first public speech that we make over there would probably have to touch on all those three themes,” said Robertson. “Because you do not want to look like you’re going in to deal with the Chinese on the back foot or from a period of weakness.”

— Watch the full panel discussion above.

Episode 37, Season 5
Sunday, June 5, 2016

Host: Tom Clark

Guests: Jim Munson, Colin Robertson

Location: Ottawa

Tom Clark: On this Sunday, China’s foreign minister lashes out at a Canadian journalist for asking about human rights. Well, we’ve got a few more questions.

Tom Clark: Well, in Ottawa last week, China’s foreign minister lashed out at a Canadian journalist for having the temerity to ask about human rights in China. And it happened right in front of Canada’s Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion who remained silent throughout. Take a listen to what happened:

Voice of Interpreter speaking for Wang Yi: I have to say that your question is full of prejudice and against China and arrogance where I don’t know where that come[s] from. And this is totally unacceptable.

Tom Clark: Well joining me now is senator and former journalist Jim Munson and former diplomat Colin Robertson. Welcome to you both. You know what’s ironic about this in some sense is this whole thing comes on the 27th anniversary of the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. You were there Jim, I was there. The Chinese then didn’t apologize, haven’t apologized since, and it seems to me that they’re not about to apologize now for what they’ve said in Canada. What’s your take on that it Jim?

Jim Munson: Tom, look Tiananmen never happened as far as the Chinese government is concerned, as far as this foreign minister is concerned. Talk about timing with Mr. Wang Yi in what he said earlier this week. It was very upsetting. He couldn’t have picked a worse time, and particularly for me because I’m quite emotional about this issue, having seen children and adults killed in Tiananmen. There was a massacre in Tiananmen. And to say this is on our territory and to say this about a journalist, my goodness, it hit home again to me what is wrong in China. And it hasn’t gotten any better, I think, in terms of censorship. In terms of an iron-fisted rule of government, it’s gotten even worse.

Tom Clark: Well I can back you up on what happened in Tiananmen Square, both you and I were there. But Colin, from a diplomatic point of view, does this even enter into a sphere of a diplomatic faux pas or is this just something that we have to put up with when it comes to China?

Colin Robertson: Oh, I think a faux pas. Because it’s going to make it more difficult for the government which is anxious to have some kind of a free trade arrangement with China and we do want to sell more to China to be able to frame this in a way that we don’t look as a supplicant. That’s one of the challenges is that we don’t want to look like we’re trying to give up more. And so that’s why the Chinese, from their perspective, this was what I call in baseball terms, an unforced error. This was unnecessary because they too want to have a good relationship with the new Trudeau government. They’ve made a big deal about Mr. Trudeau and they’ve linked it back to when his father was there with Zhou Enlai. They would like to have this go along seamlessly, so this was unforced error. But I do think that in terms of their attitude towards western media, this was entirely reflective, not just of foreign minister, but at the same time that he was in town we had vice-chair from the (inaudible) in and he said similar kinds of things about the media and irresponsible reporting and highly prejudiced.

Tom Clark: And that was behind closed doors that you heard that.

Jim Munson: And aren’t diplomats supposed to use diplomatic language? I mean I’ve been inside the room with a prime minister when these kinds of things go on in human rights in China with prime ministers and with the president and the prime minister of China. I thought he would at least use diplomatic language. You know he could have come into town, left. Nobody knew he was here and yes, laid the groundwork for an economic free trade agreement. But that did not happen.

Colin Robertson: That’s why I say, Jimmy, unforced because the question wasn’t even to him, so unnecessary to do so. And now they’ll have to deal with damage control. But I’m not sure that they care. There are a number of things that take place that they feel they’re getting a bad press from the western media both on human rights and on cyber. I think there’s certainly much more on cyber which they have to be accountable for that we have to hold them accountable.

Tom Clark: I just want to jump in here for a second just to bolster your credentials. Of course Colin, you served time in China in Hong Kong representing Canada.

Colin Robertson: Yes, I was there through Tiananmen Square in Hong Kong and people coming out.

Tom Clark: Listen, part of the story now becomes how did the Canadian government react to this? I mean here we had somebody who, in my analogy, walked into our living room and defecated on our carpet. And we saw that Stéphane Dion, the Canadian foreign minister, stood their stone-faced, didn’t reply, didn’t say anything at all. But I want you to take a listen. On Friday, Stéphane Dion had a conference call and somebody asked him about this incident. And just listen for a second as to what he said:

Stéphane Dion: “I consider Madam Connolly as a professional with a thick skin and she does not need me to go to her rescue.”

Tom Clark: Need me to go to her rescue. It seems to me that he completely missed the point. This was not about defending a journalist. Surely this is a question of defending some basic values. He was a guest in this country and yet the government has remained almost mum on it. Is that acceptable, Jim?

Jim Munson: Not acceptable. I thought that Mr. Dion from the get-go could have stepped into that at a moment, maybe used some humour at that time and just talked about this is Canada, Mr. Foreign Minister. I’ll answer the question for you. We’ll have lots of time to talk about these things. And foreign ministers do have a responsibility to protect the press. Very briefly, after Tiananmen, I was thrown in the Forbidden City jail covering the anniversary of Tiananmen and still living in Beijing. Well there was a former minister, Barbara McDougall who worked in the Mulroney government, who was given a call to get me out of that jail. I mean Canadians are Canadians are Canadians. This happened on our soil. I mean we can be outraged and upset, but I think that Mr. Dion could have used humour, better language to get out of that situation.

Tom Clark: Colin, let me turn this around a little bit, do we have the capacity when you look at the power imbalance between Canada and China. Do we actually have the power or the capacity to say no to China?

Colin Robertson: Well to say no to what?

Tom Clark: Well say no in the sense of if the Chinese say this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to come in, I’m going to say these things, I’m going to demand that I meet with your prime minister and you’re going to step up to the plate on trade deals. Do we have to take it in other words?

Colin Robertson: I think that we want a positive relationship with China. It will serve our long-term interest for us to have a much improved relationship than what we had. I think the prime minister gets that entirely, so he is reaching to the Chinese leadership that as Senator Munson says that it was a missed opportunity by our foreign minister at that point. But with that done, he moved forward. I think the prime minister has responded and said look we stand up for journalistic freedom. This is an opportunity for him but it does make it harder for the government now to move forward because you’ve seen the Opposition criticism that where the Conservative Party’s coming from in particular and with the relationship with China which was always a bit schizophrenic. But this was an opportunity to stand up on both consular immunity of Canadians, Mr. Garratt, as well as human rights and journalist freedoms. So I think that’s something that you’ve seen echoed now by Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Dion in their subsequent comments. And certainly the first public speech that we make over there would probably have to touch on all those three themes for this very reason because you do not want to look like you’re going in to deal with the Chinese on the back foot or from a period of weakness.

Tom Clark: In the minute we’ve got left, that’s a really interesting point. Do we, when Justin Trudeau goes to China in the fall, does he have to say something on Chinese soil that addresses this whole question of a free press?

Jim Munson: He better do that. He must do that. Mr. Trudeau has an opportunity to be straightforward and talk directly to the Chinese people. We’ve had that about 10 years ago when Mitchell Sharp, our former foreign minister, went to speak at a university in Shanghai to students. Under a previous regime, it’s not that long ago, they didn’t seem to be that fearful of Canada’s voice. You know it’s not a big voice in China but it’s an important voice in China. So absolutely, Mr. Trudeau has to speak in a strong language. What are the Chinese leaderships scared of? Because I mean everything that is said in China is censored anyway, but at least it would give our country a good feeling that our prime minister can speak out, not just for journalists, but for free speech.

Colin Robertson: And consistent with how other prime ministers have done so and foreign leaders. So yes, I think Mr. Trudeau will have to and will do so.

Tom Clark: I want to thank you both for this insight from two people who really know China extremely well. Collin Robertson and Senator Munson, thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it.



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Canada Seeks UN Security Council Seat

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially launched Canada’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council In the lobby of the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 16, 2016.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau officially launched Canada’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council In the lobby of the United Nations headquarters in New York on March 16, 2016.
Photo Credit: ICI Radio-Canada

Prime minister seeks UN Security Council seat


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to United Nations headquarters to officially launch Canada’s campaign to get a two-year temporary seat at the Security Council for the 2021-22 term. Among his arguments for were Canada’s leadership at the Paris summit on climate change, its acceptance of 25,000 Syrian refugees, and what he called “Canada’s pivotal role” in peace and security.

ListenLeader promises to revitalize historic peacekeeping role

He emphasized Canada’s role as a peacekeeper and vowing “to revitalize Canada’s historic role as a key contributor to United Nations peacekeeping, in addition to helping advance current reform efforts…

“And Canada will increase its engagement with peace operations, not just by making available our military, police, and specialized expertise, but also by supporting the civilian institutions that prevent conflict, bring stability to fragile states, and help societies recover in the aftermath of crisis,” said Trudeau.

Previous bid lost, an embarrassing defeat

Canada’s previous government had withdrawn from United Nations activity and was seen to have made a lacklustre run for a seat on the Security Council in 2010. It withdrew when it became evident Portugal would win the vote instead.   It was the first time in 50 years that Canada lost a bid to win a seat on the council.

‘Time for Canada to step up once again’

After that government was defeated, newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Canada is back” as a player on the UN stage. Echoing the same message in the lobby of the UN Trudeau said, “It’s time. It is time for Canada to step up once again.”

Canada’s chances of winning the vote for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council are good, in the opinion of Colin Robertson, former diplomat and vice-president and fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He notes the Canadian public is proud of Canada’s pioneering role in peacekeeping and is likely to approve of Trudeau plan to take a more active role in international affairs.


Reality check: Is securing a seat on the UN Security Council necessary for Canada?
By Monique Muise National Online Journalist, Politics Global News

WATCH: Global News chief political correspondent Tom Clark discusses what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s strategy is for raising Canada’s influence on the world.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began a two-day trip to New York City on Wednesday, and kicked things off with what will likely prove to be the centerpiece of his visit to the United Nations.

The prime minister confirmed that Canada will seek to re-join the powerful UN Security Council after failing — for the first time ever — to secure a seat around the table in 2010.

The upcoming bid for a two-year term starting in 2021 is part of a broader rapprochement between Canada and the United Nations that began with Trudeau welcoming UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Ottawa in February.

Observers have noted that the warming trend may be politically advantageous for Trudeau as he attempts to position himself as a champion of UN priorities like refugee resettlement, tackling climate change and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.

READ MORE: Trudeau at UN promotes parental leave for fathers, gender parity

But beyond the politics, what, if anything, would a seat on the Security Council really achieve for Canada?

WATCH: Canada lost its last bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2010, something Justin Trudeau is looking to change with a trip to New York. Jacques Bourbeau reports.

According to Paul Heinbecker, who served as Canada’s UN ambassador during a period when it sat on the Security Council in the early 2000s, membership will allow Ottawa to influence policy at a high level, and that can be critical when dealing with health emergencies like the Ebola crisis, or mass refugee migrations.

“Canadians are looking at the world now and they’re seeing a lot of upset, a lot of instability, a lot of risk that they didn’t think that they faced before from terrorism,” said Heinbecker.

“These things come to your doorstep … so I think it’s very important that we have the opportunity to influence events.”

Colin Robertson, another former Canadian diplomat and now vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, agreed with that assessment.

“If you think of, say, the House of Commons, you move from the back-bench to sitting in the cabinet. The Security Council is essentially the cabinet for the United Nations,” Robertson said.

Canada is also one of the major beneficiaries of stable international trade, added Robertson, and by securing a seat, the country “can take an active role in helping to create and preserve that system. Instead of being a watcher, we would become an active participant.”

Additionally, membership on the council fits in with the longstanding tradition of having Canada at the table, Robertson noted, and that’s not as small a consideration as some might think.

“It’s part of what our self-identity is about, more so than other places. Britain and France have long histories, this country doesn’t have a long history. But the history we do have is, in part, as a player on the international scene.”

Conservatives will support bid

Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said his party will support the Liberal government’s efforts to regain a seat on the Security Council in 2021, but “we would hope that the government doesn’t compromise the principled foreign policy positions that our government took, and which contributed in large part to our lack of success in 2010.”

The Conservatives have always contended that Canada lost out to Portugal because the Harper government took unpopular stands on gay rights in Africa, staunchly defended Israel and flagged human rights issues in countries like Sri Lanka.

“There were a number of countries who … in the end, on the day of the vote, those votes when elsewhere,” Kent said.



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