Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government will ensure members of Parliament consider all the possible consequences of a proposed trip to Taiwan.
Judy Sgro, chair of the Canada-Taiwan Friendship Group, told CBC News earlier this week a group of Canadian MPs and senators is planning a trip to the island as early as October.
But there are fears it could escalate tensions with China, which condemned a visit to Taipei by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this month.
China regards the island of Taiwan as its territory. Beijing imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation for her visit and held military drills around Taiwan.
Trudeau said Friday that MPs make their own decisions about what their committees study and the travel they undertake.
“There are significant reflections going on right now,” he told a news conference in Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Que.
“Canada has a long-standing position around China and Taiwan that we will ensure to respect. China’s belligerence around this and their position is, of course, as it has been for a while, troubling,” he added.
“We will ensure that the parliamentarians making the decision to travel or not will be done with all the reflections of the consequences and the impacts of it.”
Sgro, an Ontario Liberal MP, initially told CBC News the trip will be “specifically a trade committee visit this time.” Her office later said it’s actually the Canada-Taiwan “friendship group” that is organizing the visit, which will be sponsored by the Taiwanese government.
The eight government representatives planning to make the trip are all members of both the friendship group and the standing committee on international trade.
Conservative MP says they don’t want to ‘antagonize China’
The group hopes to visit both Taiwan and Singapore during the journey, although the Commons has not yet approved the committee’s budget for the trip.
New Democrat MP and international trade committee member Brian Masse said earlier this week that Canadians “must support other democracies that have fought for their rights and freedoms.”
Randy Hoback, Conservative MP and committee vice-chair, said MPs in the Canada-Taiwan parliamentary “friendship group” used to go to Taiwan about twice a year before COVID-19 restricted travel.
Hoback has himself visited the island with the group. Taiwan is located about 160 kilometres off the coast of southeastern China.
But the Tory MP said he would want to consult Global Affairs Canada before making the trip now. “There’s no intent on my part to antagonize China,” he said Wednesday.
During Pelosi’s visit, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly urged China to de-escalate tensions, saying legislators often make international visits and they should not be used to justify staging military drills.
A spokesperson for Joly said earlier this week that parliamentary associations and friendship groups travel regularly and she respects their independence.
“Canada continues to have strong and growing trade and people-to-people ties with Taiwan,” Emily Williams said.
“Canada is committed to maintaining the rules that have ensured peace and stability for decades, including across the Indo-Pacific region.”
The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada said it would give the parliamentary committee “full support” for a visit that would allow for further conversations on such issues as trade and investment, education and technology.