TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In apparent deference to Beijing, Canada's foreign minister on Thursday (May 7) twice avoided mentioning Taiwan's name when asked to thank the country for donating over 500,000 masks.
During a virtual meeting of Canada's House of Commons on Thursday, Conservative MP Ed Fast pointed out that Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne had sent out a tweet on March 28 to thank China for donating PPE to Canada just three hours after Beijing made the announcement. Fast then noted that much of this equipment was later found to be defective and could not be used.
In contrast, Fast noted that a full two weeks after Taiwan had donated 500,000 surgical masks to Canada, the foreign minister had yet to publicly thank the country for its contribution. Fast then asked Champagne if he would thank this "free and democratic country for its generous gift to Canadians?"
Champagne immediately ducked the question by saying "We are grateful to every nation for helping Canada." He continued to speak in general terms: "We have been expressing our thanks to many nations who have contributed."
The foreign minister then chastised his colleague for bringing up the question, saying: "It is important at [a] time of pandemic that we don't play politics." Champagne then spoke of a broad need for "humanity to come together" and to "work with every nation when it comes to health."
Dissatisfied with Champagne's cagey reply, Fast added that on May 4, Taiwan delivered 25,000 medical masks to the government of British Columbia. He informed the foreign minister that local government officials thanked Taiwan for the masks that day.
He then pressed Champagne a second time, asking "Again, will the minister now do the right thing and on the behalf of Canadians recognize the generosity of Taiwan and thank its government for that timely donation?" Repeating his earlier tactic, Champagne said Canada is grateful to "all who have given supplies" and that we are "grateful to every nation . . . for all those who have agreed to help Canada and Canadians from coast to coast."
When asked by Global News about Champagne's failure to thank Taiwan directly, his spokesperson said that International Trade Minister Mary Ng on Thursday would call Taiwan Economic Affairs Minister Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) to "reiterate Canada’s thanks for this donation." An official also told the news agency that the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei had posted a thank you message on its official Facebook page on April 28 following the announcement of the donation.
Tweet Champagne posted to thank China for its PPE donation:
Thank you for this donation.— François-Philippe Champagne (FPC)
In the face of a global pandemic, supporting each other is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. https://t.co/rE1BZZfrCR