The Harper Government: Made in China

By: Shawn Alli
Posted: November 16, 2014

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The allegation that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is selling out Canada is broadly true, but also an easy scapegoat answer. Instead of a malicious intent that Liberals constantly complain about everyday, perhaps the real issue is the inability for Harper (and the Canadian government in general), to create foreign policy that defies the Chinese government.


The evidence is apparent beginning in the early '90s with Canadian diplomat Brian McAdam in the Canadian-Hong Kong visa non-scandal:

There was the day he got a phone call from his Hong Kong Police Department source, who was wiretapping a Triad kingpin.

"What shocked the Hong Kong policeman was that the Triad member had phoned someone in the Canadian immigration minister's office in Ottawa," says Mr. McAdam.

"The officer commented: 'With that kind of relationship, you've got a really serious problem.' " [1]


In 1995 the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS, the Canadian equivalent of the FBI), launches an official investigation (Operation Sidewinder). [1] In June 1997 CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) completes their report with the title: Chinese Intelligence Services and Triads Financial Links in Canada (CSIS destroys most of the original draft copies). [2]


In August 1999 26-year RCMP veteran Robert Read becomes a whistleblower when he leaks information to the Vancouver Province. [3] Read alleges that past embassy staff delete hundreds of background checks for Hong Kong applicants, [3] along with the disappearance of 2000 blank visa forms. [4] Luckily, due to great investigative reporting, in April 2000 the Globe and Mail obtains a copy of the original raw Sidewinder report and reveals the alliance between the Beijing government, Hong Kong tycoons and the Triads. [2] The report concludes that their objective is to influence Canadian officials, launder money, and control Canadian companies in various sectors. [2]


And this is the real issue. The Chinese government is exerting tremendous pressure on the Canadian government and industry in the past and present for its own ambitions. The idea that it's "normal" for most household goods in North America to be made in China is merely due to generational conditioning.


There's no reason for an independent government to allow the trade of foreign household goods when they undercut domestic prices by wide margins. Canadian businesses are quite capable of making household goods domestically. The fact that Canadian businesses pay their workers decent wages shouldn't count as a negative attribute.


The fact that Canadian workers can make a decent living in creating household goods should represent the pride of Canada and the shame of sweatshop labour in China.


It's important to note that Chinese investors can own Canadian businesses/corporations/ shares/natural resources; but Canadian investors can never own anything in China because the Chinese government won't allow it. [5] While Variable Interest Entities (VIEs) currently get around this restriction, should the Chinese courts take action, the foreign shares in principal would be worthless. [5] Basically, the Chinese government is saying:

I can buy and own anything in Canada. And you can own stuff "in principal" in China as well. But in reality, you'll never own anything. Those are the rules. Take it or leave it.


In June 2010 Director of CSIS Richard Fadden (now Deputy Minister of National Defence), claims that many Canadian politicians are under the influence of foreign governments, and that the Chinese government is the most aggressive in its influence. [6]


The idea that the Chinese government is a "unique country," in regards to its human rights abuses says Guy Nelson (CEO of Empire Industries), [7] is an understatement. Such notions advocate the idea of relativism, a concept that no intelligent or intellectual individual wants any part of. In an email request for comment I ask Nelson:

1. In a CBC News article, in regards to the Chinese government's human rights abuses, you state: "I would say recognize China for the country that it wants to become, what it is already. And not try to impose our values excessively on this country. It's a unique country." Does this mean that you support the concept of relativism?

Nelson says:

"I have no opinion or comment on your concept of relativism. It is not my area of expertise.

What I would say, in reference to the quote that you referenced, is that it was only part of my thoughts on the subject that I discussed with the CBC, CTV, G&M and Post newspaper scrum in Hangzhou. There are more detailed accounts of what I said found in additional media sources. If you read all of them, you will have my personal view on the subject matter."


First, my concept of relativism is the same as Wikipedia:

Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. [8]


As a philosopher I can say that philosophers in general don't have an academia concept of relativism vs. the mainstream public one.


Second, if CTV News and the Globe and Mail have some "hidden context" of Nelson's words then they aren't published. The National Post quotes him just as clearly as CBC News does:

We have to recognize China for the country if wants to be or is already and not impose our values. How they wish to run their country is their business. [9]


Nelson is advocating relativism. Relativism leads to ideologies such as religious discrimination and human rights abuses being acceptable because it's "relative" to a particular culture/government. This is beyond disturbing.


Though environmentalists will cheer US President Barack Obama's November 2014 agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping about reducing carbon emissions, [10] they'll shed few tears for the human rights abuses by the Chinese government. The same is true for the Harper government. Coming back from his investment trip to China he says:

You may remember there was some controversy in the early days of this government when we conducted relations with China or any other country there were really three elements. That there were not just economic interests, There are also fundamental human values and also our security interests. [11]


Sadly, this is false. There are no ethical human values in the relationship between the Canadian and Chinese government. Simply put, it's just good business. The fact that the governments of China, Saudi Arabia and Russia are on the UN's Human Rights Council, [12] proves that the UN doesn't really care about human rights when it goes against business interests.


But none of this should be surprising. The cost of capitalism is mass surveillance, human rights abuses and the erosion of constitutional rights. In November 2011 Li Fengzhi, a former Chinese intelligence officer, says that Canadian politicians, military officials, engineers, scientists and businessmen are all targets for blackmail by the Chinese government. [13]


In September 2012 CSIS warns the Canadian government that takeovers from Chinese state-owned corporations may be a threat to national security. [14]


In October 2012 Phoenix Energy Holdings (the Canadian subsidiary of PetroChina), partners with TransCanada to build a $3 billion pipeline. [15]


In December 2012 the Harper government approves the $15.1 billion Nexen takeover deal. [16] A state-owned Chinese corporation now owns a Canadian oil and gas corporation.


In September 2014 Harper ratifies the Canada-China FIPA agreement which will remain in effect for another 31 years. [17]


In an email request for comment I ask the Office of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird:

1. Is the Harper government under extraordinary pressure from private interest groups to create foreign policy that benefits the Chinese government at the cost of Canadian sovereignty?


None of them respond.


I ask the same question to two Canadian professors.


Charles Burton (Brock University):

"Well "extraordinary" might be a bit strong. Certainly there are associations of business people with interests in China and of some fractions of Canadians of Chinese origin who lobby the Government to allow more access for Chinese state firms to our energy and natural resources sector, and engage in "quiet diplomacy" on human rights and espionage concerns."


Gus Van Harten (Osgoode Hall Law School):

"It's difficult to comment on your question. I don't have enough information to say what overall pressure may have been brought to bear by private interests.

However, I can say that the decision by the federal government to ratify the Canada-China FIPA was, on its legal terms, an extraordinary concession to China, not just on values of sovereignty but also legal reciprocity, open markets, democratic choice, and judicial independence. It also appears from the context of the FIPA that it was the price demanded by China for possibly opening its markets to Canadian oil and buying into Canada's resource sector. If so, it was a steep price which will last for generations in Canada, especially since China still holds the cards on whether to open its markets and buy in to anything. Whether or not they pressured the federal government I cannot say, but the primary beneficiaries appear to be private actors looking to sell a piece of their stake in Canada's resource sector to China. I see this as being at the expense of Canadians as a whole given that Canada clearly lost out on the terms of the FIPA."


It's easy to say that Harper is selling out Canada's natural resources to the Chinese government. But if the Harper government is incapable of going against the wishes of the Chinese government due to economic and international political pressure, then future Canadian generations might want to start brushing up on their Mandarin and Cantonese.




[1] Jacobs, Donna. One man's China crusade. Ottawa Citizen. August 25, 2008.

[2] Mitrovica, Andrew and Sallot, Jeff. China set up crime web in Canada, report says. Globe and Mail. April 29, 2000.

[3] Read v. Canada. Canadian Federal Court of Appeal. May 3 and August 22, 2006. p. 6 of 27 of pdf.

[4] Canadians investigate security breaches in Hong Kong consulate. Associated Press. August 27, 1999.

[5] Clover, Charles. Alibaba IPO shows foreign investors able to skirt restrictions. Financial Times. May 7, 2014.

[6] Some politicians under foreign sway: CSIS. CBC News. June 22, 2010.

[7] Lunn, Susan. Stephen Harper raises religious freedom concerns with China. CBC News. November 7, 2014.

[8] Relativism. Wikipedia.

[9] Fisher, Matthew. Stephen Harper courts Alibaba's Jack Ma, opens 4 trades office in visit to China that so far is all business. Postmedia News. November 7, 2014.

[10] Hoye, Matt and Yan, Holly. US and China reach historic climate change deal, vow to cut emissions. CNN. November 12, 2014.

[11] Lunn, Susan. Stephen Harper 'very pleased' as China trip wraps up. CBC News. November 10, 2014.

[12] Current Membership of the Human Rights Council, 1 January - 31 December 2014. United Nations Human Rights Council.

[13] Ivison, John. China's 'honey pot' spy games: Canadians must be wary of sexpionage. National Post. November 30, 2011.

[14] CSIS warns of foreign takeover risks in annual report. Canadian Press. September 20, 2012.

[15] VanderKlippe, Nathan. China takes new step in oil sands. Globe and Mail. October 29, 2012.

[16] Payton, Laura. Government OK's foreign bids for Nexen, Progress Energy. CBC News. December 7, 2012.

[17] Lunn, Susan. Canada-China investment treaty to come into force Oct. 1. CBC News. September 12, 2014.