The House

Why China is so focused on Canada's election

This week on The House, Japanese Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane talks about what his country has learned from dealing with China. We also speak to Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett about the new settlement for sexual assault victims in the military. Finally, we look at President Trump's racist tweets and identity politics with professor Victoria Esses.
Japanese Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane, in an interview with CBC News, on April 24, 2019, said his country is looking for closer defence cooperation with Canada in the areas of information-sharing, peacekeeping, humanitarian and disaster relief. (Andrew Lee/CBC News)

If China doesn't see a way to get what it wants from the current Canadian government, it would wait for the next one before resolving its diplomatic dispute with Canada, Japan's ambassador to Canada says.

The fact that China's leaders don't have to worry about power changing hands every four years means they can bide their time, Kimihiro Ishikane told The House.

"If they think things will change after the election, they can wait," he said.

Ishikane shared some of Japan's experiences from a years-long dispute with China that followed a similar pattern to what Canada is embroiled in now: detentions, trade disruptions and diplomatic silent treatment.

China froze out Japan diplomatically for a number of years starting in 2012 in a dispute over which nation had jurisdiction over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea — uninhabited but valuable because of potential mineral reserves and fishing rights in the surrounding waters.

Canada and China have been engaged in an escalating diplomatic brawl since the December arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the U.S. Shortly after Meng was arrested, China detained Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

The Trudeau government has been pushing for their release ever since, enlisting the help of allies like the U.S., Australia and the U.K. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

But Ishikane said those moves don't seem to have yielded results so far — and China isn't bound to an agenda based on our rapidly approaching October election.

"If they ever think that they can cut a better deal if they wait for a couple more years, they will never talk to you," he said. "So on the matter of principle, I think you need to be quite firm."

China and Canada have each other's citizens detained. Will the government be able to end this standoff anytime soon? Japan has been undergoing a similar diplomatic quarrel with China since 2012, and is only now getting things back on track. Do they have any tips on how to handle this? We ask the ambassador.

Sexual-misconduct settlement includes several initiatives to address military culture change

Canadian Armed Forces personnel serving on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission listen as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to them following a turkey dinner in Gao, Mali, Saturday, December 22, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

More people coming forward to report sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces indicates a growing confidence in — and comfort with — speaking out, Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett told The House.

Her comments come after the federal government agreed this week to set aside $900 million to settle class-action lawsuits from Forces members and Department of National Defence (DND) employees who alleged sexual misconduct.

Of those funds, $800 million will cover current and former members of the Armed Forces and $100 million will go to DND employees who experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation on the job.

Class members will be eligible for compensation of anywhere between $5,000 and $55,000 depending on what happened to them. Members who experienced "exceptional harm" and who were previously denied benefits could be eligible for up to $100,000 more.

Yet even as the settlement was being negotiated, there were reports that little had changed within the military.

CBC News reported in May that 900 members of the regular Canadian Armed Forces, or 1.6 per cent, reported being victims of sexual assault, compared to 1.7 per cent two years earlier.

"It's not just a hard problem for the military. Other institutions, and in fact, society is struggling with this because it's tremendously difficult to come forward and make a report," Bennett said.

The government has reached a settlement with victims of sexual assault in the military. Will it fix the environment which led to the lawsuit in the first place? For answers we've reached Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett, director general of litigation implementation for the Canadian Armed Forces.

"When we are measuring our results and looking at progress, we need to consider when reports go up. It means that more people are feeling confident and comfortable to come forward. That's extremely critical to us to be able to address the issue."

The Federal Court will decide in mid-September if the proposed settlement is reasonable and then, if so, certify it.

No wall to prevent Trump's white-identity politics from crossing the border into Canada

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on July 18, 2019. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

An expert in ethnic relations says the white-identity politics employed by U.S. President Donald Trump could gain traction here in Canada.

"I hope it won't happen, but I think there is a potential," Victoria Esses, director of the Network for Economic and Social Trends and a psychology professor at Western University, told The House.

"Human nature doesn't differ because of country boundaries," she said.

Trump tweeted Sunday that "Progressive Democrat Congresswomen" of colour should "go back" to where they came from.

But all four — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — are American citizens.  Three were born in the U.S. and Omar is a naturalized citizen who arrived as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.

Later this week at a rally in North Carolina, Trump supporters took up his message by chanting "Send her back!"

Victoria Esses, a professor of psychology at Western University, talks about President Donald Trump's racist tweets and how identity politics is beginning to take hold in Canada.

"That is not how we do things in Canada," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in response to Trump's rhetoric. "A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian."

A pre-election survey conducted for CBC News this spring suggested Canadians are divided on immigration, with clear limits on the kind of migration they find acceptable.

Just over three-quarters of respondents to the survey agreed Canada should do more to encourage skilled labourers to immigrate to the country, while 57 per cent said Canada should not be accepting more refugees.

Esses said Trump stokes people's fears, leading them to believe they are under threat from non-white immigrants.

"When people feel that they're under threat, who they consider part of their group and who they feel should be entitled to resources and membership shrinks."


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