Taiwan Night: Democracy a Shared Value, Bond between Canada and Taiwan

April 15, 2016 Updated: April 16, 2016

OTTAWA, Canada—The annual Taiwan Night celebration—an evening of food, drink, and cultural performance in celebration of Taiwan—is always a big draw for members of Parliament in Ottawa. The democratic traditions of the two countries has become a strong bond, one that draws MPs hoping some other Asian countries will follow Taiwan’s example.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ottawa held its 20th annual Taiwan Night at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier on April 13. The dinner event has become a tradition for the dozens of MPs and senators who attend.

Many of these men and women take turns at the podium to speak about the friendship, economic ties, and shared values between Canada and Taiwan. But democracy is the overarching theme, a basic ideal that sets the foundation for the Canada-Taiwan relationship.

Liberal MP Judy Sgro has been coming to Taiwan Night since she started on Parliament Hill 16 years ago. But this was the first time she came as the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Taiwan.

“I am honoured,” said Sgro, who is heading to Taiwan on May 18th for the inaugural ceremony of the newly elected president Tsai Ying-wen.

Fellow Liberal MP Hedy Fry, another long-time attendee, talked about how much she looked forward to the event each year. “The food is always good, the culture and everything is always really spectacular,” she said.

Fry said she was in Taiwan during the election. She wanted to see how well the electoral system worked there.  

“There is much we can share with Taiwan in terms of democracy,” she said.

Veteran Affairs Minister Kent Hehr said he was still getting used to Ottawa but was thrilled to be at the event.

“The true spirit of what both of our countries have and share together is what happened on October 19 here in this country,” he said, referring to the last election. “The amazing thing is, it is done without the shot of a gun.”

The same can’t be said of many other Asian countries, notably China, the land from which many of Taiwan’s citizens originated, fleeing with the Kuomintang nationalist government after it lost a civil war with the Chinese Communist Party. Former defence minister Jason Kenney took aim at the common refrain that China’s current regime invokes when criticized for its lack of democracy.

Taiwan, I would say, is the one-word rebuttal to the notion that Chinese culture is not compatible with democracy.
— Conservative MP Jason Kenney

“Taiwan, I would say, is the one-word rebuttal to the notion that Chinese culture is not compatible with democracy,” he said.

Kenney recalled his time as Canada’s immigration minister when he gave Taiwan a visa exemption that saw Taiwanese visitors to Canada triple.

Former treasury board president Tony Clement, a 15-year veteran of Taiwan Night, touted his own friend-of-Taiwan credentials, noting his efforts to push the World Health Organization to give Taiwan a seat at the table.

“Taiwan must be, must continue to be, must be in the future, a full member of the family of nations,” Clement said.