Canada’s troubles with China are only temporary, says former ambassador: ‘Chinese people and Canadian people are good friends’

How unseemly and unethical, cashing in on his brief time as immigration minister and as Canadian Ambassador. And revealing his conversations with the current Minister (or presenting them as such) is equally shameful:

Canada’s troubles with China are temporary and relations with the rising superpower will return to sunnier times, including borders once again open to immigration and investment, John McCallum, the former ambassador fired from his position last year, has told clients of a major Chinese immigration company.

Mr. McCallum served in the federal cabinet, including as immigration minister, before he was named Canada’s ambassador to China in 2017. He was fired in 2019 after repeatedly speaking in support of the release of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive accused of fraud in the U.S. and arrested in Canada, where she is in the midst of extradition proceedings.

But his experience and connections have made him a coveted speaker for Wailian Group, a Shanghai-based company with a 20-year history of smoothing the path for people to immigrate to Canada. Last fall, Wailian paid to have Mr. McCallum speak to clients in five Chinese cities, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the person because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

On Saturday, Mr. McCallum delivered remarks to another event organized by Wailian, this one online, in which he pitched Canada as a worthwhile destination for people from China, and cited his friends in the current cabinet to offer reassurances.

“Basically, I think China-Canada relations will be good going forward,” Mr. McCallum said.

Canada’s economy needs Chinese students, tourists and investors, he said, and the Liberal government is eager to reopen Canada’s borders to large numbers of new arrivals. He based his comments in part on a recent conversation with Marco Mendicino, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, who “plans to admit large numbers of immigrants to Canada in 2021,” Mr. McCallum said.

The government has not publicly disclosed how the pandemic will affect plans to admit 341,000 new permanent residents this year, and 351,000 next year. The global spread of COVID-19 has dramatically slowed the pace of immigration, with many visa and biometrics collections offices closed around the world. At a parliamentary hearing in June, Mr. Mendicino would only promise a “comprehensive update in the fall” on anticipated immigration levels.

Information about the government’s plans, however, is of keen interest to those seeking to immigrate, and to companies such as Wailian, whose business is built around ushering clients through the complexities of the application process.

Mr. McCallum offered reassurances that COVID-19 will create only a temporary pause in Canadian acceptance of new residents. “The Canadian government remains extremely positive about continuing high levels of immigration,” he said, citing his conversation with Mr. Mendicino.

He was equally optimistic about the prospects for Ottawa and Beijing to resolve the “substantial problems” that have arisen following the arrest of Ms. Meng, and China’s subsequent seizure of two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said is an “obvious” effort to put pressure on the Canadian government

The current frictions “are less long-term in nature than the U.S. challenges with China,” Mr. McCallum said. While the U.S. and China wrestle for what he called “top dog” status, “Chinese people and Canadian people are good friends,” he said. He pointed to a history that goes back to Norman Bethune, the ideologically communist Canadian doctor who came to China to treat Communist forces and who was famously eulogized by Mao Zedong. Canada also sold wheat to China in the early 1960s, in defiance of the U.S.

Today again, “economic interests will drive Canada and China to continue to work together,” Mr. McCallum said. For example, Chinese students “cover a lot of the costs” for Canadian postsecondary institutions, so “the last thing in the world Canadian universities would want to do would be to lose their 140,000 Chinese students.”

Similarly, Chinese tourists “spend a lot of money, create a lot of jobs. And they are most welcome in this country,” Mr. McCallum said. On investment, too, he said. “I think Canada will be open for Chinese investment in all but the most sensitive sectors.”

Mr. McCallum made no mention of the broader reassessment of China that has prompted a series of liberal democracies – from Australia to Europe and the U.S. – to erect new barriers to Chinese investment and apply new scrutiny to the motives of Chinese students and researchers with ties to their home country’s military institutions.

Less than six months after he was fired as ambassador last year, Mr. McCallum became a senior strategic adviser for McMillan LLP, the law firm.

He first made a public appearances for Wailian last October and November, when he came to China to deliver remarks and pose for photographs. Over two weeks, he appeared at Wailian events in Qingdao, Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. In each city, he spoke to a room with dozens – in some cases more than 100 – prospective clients for Wailian. The company paid for his attendance through an agreement with McMillan, according to the person familiar with the events.

Wailian promotional materials identify Mr. McCallum only as former ambassador and immigration minister, with no reference to McMillan.

Mr. McCallum in turn has called on his federal government connections.

Mr. Mendicino spoke with Mr. McCallum in mid-June, Kevin Lemkay, the minister’s spokesman, said in a statement. He “reached out to Mr. McCallum as a former colleague to discuss immigration and refugee issues,” Mr. Lemkay said, adding: “At no time did Mr. McCallum ever mention this company [Wailian] to the minister.”

Under Canadian law, Mr. McCallum is barred from lobbying the federal government for five years after leaving office. He said his conversation with the minister did not constitute lobbying. Mr. Mendicino “approaches me from time to time for general discussion as a friend and former minister,” Mr. McCallum said in response to questions from The Globe and Mail.

Still, the former ambassador’s comments risk giving a wrong impression, said David Mulroney, who previously served as Canada’s top diplomat to China.

“I would find any public reference in China by Mr. McCallum to a conversation with a current Immigration Minister very troubling,” said Mr. Mulroney. Such a reference could be seen in China as an indication of “continuing guanxi or connectedness, the idea that the former office holder retains a continuing degree of influence. Canadians in that position, like Mr. McCallum, should be very careful about business relationships in China for this very reason.”

Wailian describes itself as a major immigration company, with some 500 employees across 12 Chinese cities. Reached by telephone, a representative for the company described Mr. McCallum as a special guest.

Critics equate past friendly policies toward China to “appeasement” and say it is time for reconsideration of how Western countries interact with the rising superpower.

“It has become impossible to remain ambivalent on China,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, who was Canada’s ambassador to China before Mr. McCallum’s appointment.

Mr. Saint-Jacques pointed to China’s management of the early outbreak of the pandemic, its treatment of the largely Muslim Uyghur population, its imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong and “the way they have treated Canadians and Canada. To turn around and say, ‘Well, this is just a bump in the road and things will get back to normal’ – I don’t understand how someone can say this.”

In his comments to the Saturday event, however, Mr. McCallum called on long-standing arguments for why people from China might choose Canada as an immigrant destination, citing its quality of life, its beauty and its open attitude toward people arriving from other countries.

He was careful to point to its appeal to the well-heeled who might consider Canada a destination for profit as well as immigration. Canadian free-trade agreements make the country a favourable place to relocate to, he said, while “with the United States becoming less friendly to China, I think that increases the attraction of Chinese companies to invest in Canada.”


Niqab appeal by Ottawa is questioned over motivation

CIC Minister Alexander trying up to come up with a convincing rationale for the niqab ban bit mixing up the niqab at citizenship ceremonies with domestic violence issues (which are not, needless to say, unique to niqabi women) is clumsy.

PM is more convincing when he spoke about the symbolism of “joining the Canadian family,” as niqab signals separation, not integration, in a way that other religious symbols (hijab, kippa, kirpan) do not:

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, who was named as the respondent in Ishaq’s case, said Friday that people need to be identified and need to “commit to the oath.”

“We also are a government, and I think a people, that is concerned about protecting women from violence, protecting women from human smuggling, protecting women from barbaric practices like polygamy, genital mutilation, honour killings,” Alexander said.

“I worry when some of those defending the idea of keeping a woman behind a niqab in a citizenship ceremony are also those who say that we don’t need these protections for women from violence and from abuse. It’s something we’re all passionate about in Canada, there is no place for violence against women or any domestic violence in this country.”

Alexander said not showing your face is not a requirement of Islam and the “vast majority” of Muslim groups have said the 2011 law in question is fair and does not violate their freedom of religion.

Amira Elghawaby, human rights coordinator at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said many Muslims and Canadians disagree with the idea of the niqab, but if it’s someone’s sincere religious belief, the right to wear one is a legal matter protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

New Canadians take the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Dartmouth, N.S. in 2014. A Federal Court ruling that women who wear a niqab do not have to remove it to take the oath is being appealed by the federal government. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

“Our opinions about these things really are irrelevant, what’s important is what it means to be Canadian and what it means to have freedom of religion and consciousness in this country,” she said.

“I think that unanimously, people who understand our Charter of Rights understand that this is a right that should be protected. She is not harming anyone by deciding to keep her niqab on … and whether I agree in it or not, I do not have the right to tell her to remove it because the law does not support that and the constitution does not support that.”

NCCM forgets that freedom of religion, like other fundamental freedoms, is not absolute.

Niqab appeal by Ottawa is questioned over motivation – Politics – CBC News.

The muted reaction of other political parties:

Federal opposition parties trod carefully Friday on the issue of whether a Toronto Muslim woman should be allowed to wear a niqab while taking the oath of citizenship.

NDP multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash said the Conservative government was conflating matters of security and ceremony by appealing a court decision permitting the woman to wear the facial covering.

“It’s unfortunate that in matters of ceremonial issues, Conservatives are willing to play partisan politics to simply ratchet things up to win votes,” Mr. Cash said.

Liberal immigration critic John McCallum said that the matter is before the courts. And party spokesman Cameron Ahmad said that “the responsibility to present the case falls on the government.”

Neither party would say outright whether it backed Zunera Ishaq’s bid to keep her face covered during the swearing-in portion of the ceremony.

Federal opposition parties tread carefully on issue of niqabs during citizenship oath

Minister knew Canada wouldn’t meet Syrian refugee commitment

Caught out. At best, misleading the House and Canadians.

Four days later [March 25, 2014], C.I.C. officials told Alexander in a briefing note that the government “will not meet its Syrian private sponsorship commitment by the end of 2014” because “it takes time for private sponsors to organize and raise the funds to welcome a refugee to Canada.”

Highlighting the point, officials provided Alexander an update on June 10 that showed just 58 private sponsorship applications had been approved since January.

The update, which did not say how many, if any, had actually arrived in Canada, was provided the day before Alexander hung up on CBC’s As It Happens when he was being asked about the government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

The minister later said he hung up because he was late getting to question period. But the incident prompted suspicions the government was lagging in its promise to resettle 1,300 Syrian refugees.

Alexander had repeatedly said more than 1,150 Syrians had received “Canada’s protection,” a figure he also cited in the House of Commons throughout the spring.

However, the documents show that number refers to all Syrian refugees accepted since 2011, including 942 who had travelled to Canada on their own before applying for asylum in the country.

Only 219 had actually been resettled from overseas, of which 93 had arrived in 2014 and would count toward the commitment to take in 1,300.

Liberal immigration critic John McCallum says the fact the Conservative government won’t meet its own “pathetically, ridiculously small” commitment demonstrates it has no real interest in accepting Syrians into Canada.

“They don’t care,” he said Friday. “It’s not a priority. If they cared, they could get the United Nations and people out in the field to give them huge numbers. There’s no shortage of needy people out there.”

NDP immigration critic Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe said the documents could explain why Alexander has been extremely evasive when asked to provide concrete numbers about how many Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada as part of its commitment to the UN.

“I would be very ashamed if I was the minister and I wasn’t able to fulfil such a small commitment in that massive crisis,” she said. “There’s nothing to be proud of in how the government has answered the international call.”

Always safer to stick to the truth, provide an explanation for some of the difficulties, rather than being ‘clever’ and  evasive. Eventually, the truth will come out.

Minister knew Canada wouldn’t meet Syrian refugee commitment | Ottawa Citizen.

Alexander blasts critics of immigration bill as C-24 goes to second reading

On the eve of Second Reading of C-24 Citizenship Act revisions, a broadside by Minister Alexander against the critics of the Bill.

Not quite in the Pierre Polievre school of how to promote your Bill, but quite remarkable given Alexander’s previous career as a diplomat where language was more nuanced, to say the least (see Konrad Yakabuski’s earlier profile Chris Alexander balances his portfolio and power).

Always unfortunate when a Minister feels more comfortable attacking those opposed to legislation as hypocrites, rather than arguing the merits of the Bill.

But the opposition also has some responsibility. While active in Committee, there is by no means the same focussed attention on C-24 as there was for Bill C-23 (elections), C-13 (cyberbullying and surveillance) and the ongoing Temporary Foreign Workers controversy. Opposition parties also make choices on how hard to push issues on both policy and political grounds. Their calculation appears to favour more pro-forma opposition, albeit based upon legitimate concerns over some aspects of the Bill, rather than a more high profile effort. Unless I have missed it, have not heard either opposition leader say much on C-24:

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander is accusing the opposition of “folly and hypocrisy” as the government prepares to shepherd its controversial citizenship bill over its next legislative hurdle.

“Both the Liberals and the NDP remain offside with Canadians who recognize the immense value of Canadian citizenship and the importance of protecting its integrity,” Alexander said in a statement.

“It is shameful that activist immigration lawyers, who never miss an opportunity to criticize our governments citizenship and immigration reforms, are attempting to drum up business by promoting the interests of convicted terrorists and serious criminals over the safety and security of Canadians.”

As to the “drumming up business” line, all of those supporting or opposing the Bill do so from their perspective, values and interests. This does not necessarily diminish the value of their comments, for or against.

And while some elements of C-24 may “reduce the business” for immigration and refugee lawyers (i.e., revocation for fraud at Ministerial discretion, rather than the courts), other may “drum up business”  (i.e., revocation for terror and treason). Somewhat ironic to say the least.

Last night’s somewhat perfunctory Parliamentary debate at Second Reading allows C-24 to proceed to a vote today.

We will see how the next stages proceed and whether the Government will consider any changes to the Bill (some C-24 supporters recommended some process changes). In any case, the Bill will make it through by the summer recess.

Alexander blasts critics of immigration bill as C-24 goes to second reading.