Canada backs U.S.-led effort for Taiwan at WHO over China’s objections

Taiwan is also squarely in the centre of the Trump administration’s dispute with China and the WHO

OTTAWA — Canada has backed an American-led effort to allow Taiwan to be granted observer status at the World Health Organization because of its early success in containing COVID-19.

The move is politically sensitive because China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and views any overture of support as meddling in its internal affairs, and because Canada is in its own dispute with China over what it calls the “arbitrary” imprisonment of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

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.

An Australian newspaper, the Sydney Morning Herald, first mentioned Canada as a country involved in the pro-Taiwan coalition, and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne confirmed that when asked.

“Canada continues to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international multilateral fora where its presence provides important contributions to the public good,” Champagne said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“We believe that Taiwan’s role as a non-state observer in the World Health Assembly meetings is in the interest of the international health community and is important to the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Canada encourages the WHO to engage with experts from Taiwan and to support Taiwan’s meaningful inclusion in global discussions on health.”

Canada approved a verbal demarche to two senior WHO executives during a meeting Thursday that urged them to allow Taiwan to be admitted as an observer to an upcoming meeting because its input would be “meaningful and important.”

A senior government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said 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.

The World Health Assembly meets on May 18 in Geneva.

Canada has a “one China policy” that does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign political entity, although Canada has a cultural and trade relationship with it. Ottawa has had to tread more carefully with Beijing since the RCMP arrested Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in December 2018.

Kovrig and Spavor were arrested nine days later in what is widely viewed as retaliation. China has levelled accusations of spying against the men, and Canada has marshalled a broad coalition of international support calling for their release that has angered Chinese leaders.

Canada 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, and takes comfort that it is part of a coalition of countries making the argument.

Champagne has told his senior officials to carry that message forward and on Thursday it fell to Tamara Mawhinney, Canada’s deputy ambassador to the UN in Geneva, at the meeting with her counterparts, the official said.

The WHO sent Jane Ellison, its executive director for external relations, and Steven Soloman, its principal legal adviser, to the meeting, the official said.

Another Geneva-based Canadian has been at the heart of the Taiwan-WHO issue: Dr. Bruce Aylward, the epidemiologist who led a team of WHO experts to China to study the COVID-19 outbreak in February.

Aylward has repeatedly turned down invitations to testify via video before the House of Commons health committee. Last month, the committee issued a summons for Aylward to testify — after he twice snubbed it — but it is only enforceable if he returns to Canada.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has raised concerns about the accuracy of the WHO’s data on the pandemic, and China’s influence on the international body’s decisions.

Conservative committee member Matt Jeneroux, an Edmonton MP, has said he wants to be able to question Aylward about the effusive praise he has had for China’s virus-control efforts.

“In fact, the WHO has gone above and beyond to congratulate and thank China for their response which has been to mislead the world on the gravity of the virus,” Jeneroux told the committee last month.

Jeneroux said Taiwan has managed to “flatten the curve” of the virus but the WHO won’t acknowledge its accomplishments because it doesn’t want to anger China.

The Trudeau government has appeared reluctant to speak about Taiwan or wade into the U.S. dispute with the WHO and China. Champagne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have said that finger-pointing and lessons-learned exercises can come later, after the pandemic has been controlled.

But Trudeau praised Taiwan by name during his Friday briefing after a report that it had donated 500,000 surgical masks to Canada.

“I’m happy to thank Taiwan for its generous donation,” Trudeau said. “It is important at this point that Canadians and all people around the world pull together to be there for each other because this is a global challenge that is going to face a global response.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

100 Women Who Care make a donation to Sylvan Lake Food Bank and Bethany Care Centre. Photo By Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
100 Women Who Care donate to four Sylvan Lake groups

The Food Bank, Bethany Sylvan Lake, Community Partners and the Library all received a donation

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Most Read