OTTAWA—The Free Thinking Film Society highlighted the implications of doing business with China at a documentary screening and panel discussion on Monday night at Library & Archives Canada.
“When China Met Africa” examines the exploitation of Zambia through a profile of then-commerce minister Felix Mutati and two Chinese nationals working in Zambia.
We should not be selling ownership of our oil sands to the totalitarian government in Beijing. That is the bottom line.
—David Kilgour, former Canadian cabinet minister
Farmer Liu hires local men and women to do manual labour on his farms but only pays them part of the wages owed and reneges on a promise to buy the Zambians tents to live in.
Mutati likes the way road construction project manager Li Jianguo is getting his job done quickly but seems unaware of the physical cost to the Zambian workers.
Overall, China appears to be colonizing Zambia and holding the balance of power when agreements, loans, and the promise of a grant are signed with Zambian representatives.
Chinese State-Owned Investments in Canada
A panel discussion following the film brought these issues closer to home, focusing on the implications of Chinese state-owned investments in Canada.
The panellists included Jason Loftus, deputy publisher of The Epoch Times Canada; former cabinet minister David Kilgour; award-winning journalist Terry Glavin; terrorism and security specialist David Harris; and Scott Simon, University of Ottawa professor and chair of Taiwan Studies.
The panel discussed China’s ever-expanding move into Canada’s oil and gas industry and cautioned that Ottawa is not doing enough to maintain ownership and control of Canadian resources.
Citing Canada’s $31-billion trade deficit with China that just keeps on growing, Kilgour referred to an Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada survey that found 75 percent of Canadians were opposed to Chinese state-owned companies gaining controlling stakes in Canadian firms.
“We should not be selling ownership of our oil sands to the totalitarian government in Beijing. That is the bottom line,” Kilgour said.
The absence of or the failure of the rule of law in China [is] a fundamental problem that Canada has to take into account in its dealings with China.
—David Harris, terrorism and security specialist
Harris said, “We have to be very, very clear about those possible sales of Canadian assets that could entrench upon our national security and national interest.”
Totalitarian Regime’s Influence and ‘Bullying’
Harris referred to Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Richard Fadden’s warning of attempts by foreign spies to influence government decisions congenial to Beijing.
Government officials need “appropriate rules … to ensure they do not become too cozy with what is after all a foreign and totalitarian regime,” he said.
What kind of Chinese influence might Canadians need to be concerned about in Canada? Loftus highlighted two stories that The Epoch Times newspaper was watching that day in which this influence figured prominently.
Alberta’s opposition party had just raised concerns over the provincial government’s cancellation of performances of Chinese dance company Shen Yun Performing Arts at two major government-run theatres in the province.
The opposition questioned whether the government was “bullying” the group, whose shows are hosted by local associations of Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual belief being persecuted in China.
Guaranteeing that our energy products end up in China rather than a global market will contribute to China’s military rise.
—Scott Simon, University of Ottawa professor and chair of Taiwan Studies
Loftus said that as far back as 2009 there was mention by theatre management that the provincial government had been pressured by the Chinese consulate in Calgary not to rent the theatre to Shen Yun.
In another news item that day, a former teacher at the Confucius Institute at McMaster University had just filed a human rights complaint against the university. She came forward with a document that she was forced to sign in order to get her position, agreeing that she would not practice Falun Gong while teaching at McMaster.
“We are talking about a regime that is engaged in these kinds of activities that are really in conflict with some of our fundamental values,” Loftus said.
Absence or Failure of Rule of Law
Harris added that “the absence of or the failure of the rule of law in China [is] a fundamental problem that Canada has to take into account in its dealings with China.”
“It implies that Canadian businesses can’t reliably count on predictable and appropriate outcomes in some of their own business arrangements,” Harris said.
Simon gave caution regarding energy access for foreign countries. “Guaranteeing that our energy products end up in China rather than a global market will contribute to China’s military rise,” he said.
“I therefore think that we should contribute to the energy security and economic prosperity of our closest allies.”
Glavin spoke about the tremendous growth in the shipment of raw timber and exports of coal to China, and the way Chinese oil giant PetroChina “is nationalizing our oil and gas industry” by having acquired full ownership of one of Alberta’s oil sands projects.He urged democratic countries like Canada not to sell out “the last shred of its decency and its sense of solidarity with the people of China,” where “thousands and thousands of little Arab Springs are erupting now … every week.”
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