Canadian lawmakers vote in favour of forum's decision to award Taiwan president with prize

An official spokesperson said that while the government supports the forum financially, it is not involved in its planning.

Julia Yeo | April 15, 2021, 09:23 PM

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The Canadian House of Commons has unanimously voted in favour to support the Halifax International Security Forum’s decision to award a major prize to Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-Wen.

Parliament passes motion to support forum if Tsai is awarded with major prize

Previously, Canadian officials reportedly told organisers that they would withdraw funding from the forum should it award Tsai with the prize.

"President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan is a well-respected international leader, female president of Taiwan and a strong global advocate for democracy," Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Chong said as he introduced the motion, which he said was created in consultation with all political parties.

"She would certainly be an ideal fit for this award," he said, according to Politico.

Canadian officials previously reportedly said govt would pull funding from forum

Canada is one of the top sponsors of the Halifax International Security Forum.

Politico reported that in late 2020, the forum's organisers decided to award Tsai with the John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service, citing several sources familiar with the matter.

Tsai was chosen to receive the award for "standing strong against China’s relentless pressure", according to Politico.

However, Canadian officials reportedly told organisers that they would withdraw funding from the forum should it honour Tsai with the John McCain Prize.

As organisers have yet to make a decision on the award recipient, the dispute is still ongoing.

Trudeau says he has always supported Taiwan's participation in multilateral international forums

On Apr. 14, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was pressed by Chong on the Canadian government's commitment to funding the forum, even if organisers gave the award to Tsai.

In response, Trudeau said, "the government has supported and provided funding to the Halifax Security Forum throughout our time in office, and the minister has participated every year and will continue to."

He added that he has always supported Taiwan's "meaningful participation in multilateral international forums".

He also said that Canada has "strong and growing trade and people-to-people relations with Taiwan".

Canadian government not involved in forum's planning

A spokesperson for Canada's defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, told Politico that while the Canadian government has supported the forum financially, it is "not involved" in the forum's planning.

While the spokesperson denied that the Canadian government had threatened to pull out, he declined to answer if the government will endorse Tsai for the award.

Sajjan has previously said in late 2019 in a speech at HFX that China is not an adversary.

A year later, however, he expressed "significant" concerns that Canada has about China, such as the latter's "unpredictability", increasing assertiveness, as well as refusal to abide by international rules and norms.

Canada recently joined in a coordinated Western effort to sanction Chinese officials for alleged human rights violations in Xinjiang.

The country has also made moves to limit Chinese strategic presence in the region, blocking the sale of a gold mine in its Arctic territory to a Chinese state-backed firm, according to Defense News.

Canada's increasingly fraught relations with China

Relations between China and Canada had dipped when Meng Wanzhou, the Chief Financial Officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada in 2018.

Days later, China detained two Canadian citizens on espionage charges that the Chinese government had not elaborated on.

Saying the charges were "trumped-up", Canadian President Justin Trudeau has been trying to get China to release them.

Criticising China in March, Trudeau said the country "needs to understand" that more than just two Canadians, it is about the "respect for the rule of law".

China's decision, however, relies more on the U.S., which has charged Meng for breaching sanctions with Iran.

But while the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has raised the issue at the high-level meeting between China and the U.S. in Alaska, it remains to be seen if the U.S. President Joe Biden is willing to press the issue with China.

Top image via Getty, Tsai Ing-Wen's Facebook