TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After dodging the question on Tuesday (Jan. 28), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally agreed on Wednesday (Jan. 29) that Taiwan should be allowed to participate in the World Health Organization (WHO) as an observer while the world grapples with the China coronavirus outbreak.
On Tuesday, during a meeting of the Canadian parliament, when Conservative leader Andrew Scheer asked if Canada would support observer status for Taiwan, Trudeau spoke in vague terms about providing support for Canadians in China and working with the WHO and "allied countries around to the world to ensure that we're dealing with this health challenge." Scheer then repeated his yes/no question as to whether the prime minister would support Taiwan's observer status in the WHO.
Trudeau responded that Canada supports multilateralism and collaboration between countries around the world in dealing with the health crisis. He then claimed that conservatives "like to play politics with international affairs. We're focused on keeping Canadians safe."
At another session of parliament on Wednesday, Conservative Party member Michael Cooper deliberately spelled out "T-a-i-w-a-n" and added, "This is a question about Taiwan!" He said the health and safety of Canadians rely on an effectively coordinated international response to the coronavirus and pointed out that Taiwan had previously confirmed five cases (now eight).
Cooper then asked, "Does the government support the inclusion of Taiwan in international discussions about the virus? Again, Taiwan, yes or no?" Cheers and applause from MPs immediately erupted throughout the chamber.
Trudeau responded by reading from a prepared statement:
"Yes Mr. Speaker, as we did during the time of the SARS virus, we support Taiwan's meaningful participation in international multilateral forums. Especially when its presence provides important contributions to the global public good. We believe that Taiwan's role as an observer in World Health Assembly meetings is in the best interest of the international health community and also is an important partner in the fight against this epidemic."
After a brief interruption by rowdy MPs, Trudeau implied that Canada had for some time supported Taiwan's participation in the WHO, stating, "We welcome participation by the entire international community to promote global health, and that is why we have long taken this position."
When Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in 2016, she refused to recognize the "1992 Consensus" and only acknowledged that the 1992 Taiwan-China talks were a "historical fact." In response, China has been seeking to punish Taiwan by stealing away diplomatic allies, intimidating government bodies into de-listing Taiwan as a country, and excluding it from international organizations such as the WHO.