But Scheer also pointed out that his party has long called for Taiwan’s inclusion in organizations such as the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization, and their work should not be influenced by China’s foreign policy.
“These types of entities which provide guidance and services to folks on the health and safety of people around the world should not be impacted by global politics and by the foreign policy positions of the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” Scheer said Monday.
China views Taiwan as a breakaway province, and while Canada does not recognize its sovereignty, the two do have trade and cultural relations.
Last week, Canada backed an international coalition that includes the United States, Japan, Australia and others, seeking to allow Taiwan to have observer status at a major WHO meeting next week.
Taiwan had early success in controlling the outbreak of the COVID-19, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois−Philippe Champagne has told The Canadian Press that Taiwan’s presence as a non−state observer in the World Health Assembly meetings next week would help the pandemic fight.
The move is also politically sensitive for Canada because it is in its own dispute with China over what it calls the “arbitrary” imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
But Canada approved a verbal demarche to two senior WHO executives during a meeting last week that urged them to allow Taiwan to be admitted as an observer to an upcoming meeting because its input would be meaningful and important. The World Health Assembly meets next Monday in Geneva.
The demarche was issued jointly on Thursday by the Geneva-based ambassadors of Canada, Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Britain, Japan and the U.S.—with the envoys from Washington and Tokyo taking the lead.
Despite co-operation on health and trade since the pandemic’s outbreak, relations between Canada and China have been severely strained since the RCMP arrested Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in December 2018.
China arrested Kovrig and Spavor nine days later in what is widely viewed as retaliation and has levelled accusations of spying against the men. Canada has marshalled a broad coalition of international support calling for their release and that has angered Chinese leaders.
But Canada has pushed forward at the WHO on the Taiwan issue because it takes comfort in the fact it is part of a coalition of countries making the argument, said a senior government official, who has briefed The Canadian Press on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
The government believes that regardless of whatever dispute exists between countries, an organization such as the WHO is supposed to work for the greater good of all people around the world, the official said.
Taiwan is also squarely in the centre of the Trump administration’s dispute with China and the WHO. The U.S. has temporarily halted funding to the organization over its allegedly inadequate assessment of COVID-19’s early threat when the novel coronavirus was breaking out in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
By Mike Blanchfield