In November 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rightly stated that while “Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide … I don’t think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values.” Prime Minister Harper promised that Canada would not “sell out” Canadian principles to the “almighty dollar.” Sadly, at the end of 2012, the Canadian government signalled its willingness to do just that, first by approving the takeover of the Canadian energy company Nexen by a state-owned Chinese company, and then by unveiling the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPA).
The Chinese government continues to systematically violate the most basic freedoms of its people, and in particular the rights of religious minorities. In 2012, government authorities continued their campaign of widespread arrests in an attempt to eradicate the house church movement in China. In official documents obtained by human rights organizations, the Chinese government has also adopted a clear policy designed to crack down on expressions of Christianity on university campuses. Far from being limited to the Christian community, the persecution by the Chinese government has also targeted other religious minorities such as the Uyghurs and Falun Gong. In what is but one example of the horrific treatment of religious minorities, Chinese authorities have detained hundreds of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, several thousand of whom have been killed in order to harvest their organs.
Despite these egregious human rights violations, in December 2012 the Canadian government approved the takeover of Nexen Inc. by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). Critics have rightly pointed to the economic dangers of giving up control of Canadian natural resources to foreign interests.
The Chinese government continues to systematically violate the most basic freedoms of its people, and in particular the rights of religious minorities.
However, even more important than the economic ramifications is the willingness by the Canadian government to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. In addition to the general human rights violations by the Chinese government outlined above, our sources within the Falun Gong community indicate that CNOOC directly participated in the persecution of over 100 Falun Gong practitioners employed in several of its branches within China.
While the takeover has received final approval in Canada, the deal cannot be completed without the approval of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment and, ultimately, President Barack Obama. Therefore, we are calling on all our partners and supporters in the United States to make their voices heard in opposition to this deal.
Of even greater concern is the Canada-China Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA), which could be officially ratified any day without any public debate through an Order-in-council by the Canadian cabinet. The dangers of this deal to Canadian sovereignty are well-documented. Not only would this agreement prevent the Canadian parliament from enacting public policy measures that may affect Chinese investment interests in Canada, it would also expose the Canadian people to secretive arbitration awards handed down by arbitrators unaccountable to Canadian courts or the Canadian people.
More importantly, however, the FIPA, which does not contain any mention of human rights, let alone substantive human rights provisions, sends a clear message to China and the international community that Canadian human rights values are indeed “for sale.”
Canada must take a stand and make clear by its actions, not only its words, that it will not overlook the suffering of religious minorities around the world.
The government of Canada cannot allow the issue of religious persecution to be lost among the myriad of other matters informing its policy decisions. While we understand the economic realities facing the Canadian government and the need to attract foreign investment, Canada must take a stand and make clear by its actions, not only its words, that it will not overlook the suffering of religious minorities around the world.
We believe that Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government are concerned about the human rights violations against minorities in China. However, these two decisions are troubling and send a dangerous message to both the Chinese government and the international community. Therefore, we call on the Canadian government not to ratify the FIPA with China and make it clear to the world that Canada will not conduct “business-as-usual” with countries that violate the fundamental human rights of its citizens.
Rev. Majed El Shafie is President and Founder of One Free World International -- OneFreeWorldInternational.org.
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