Tory MP de­nied visa to visit China; not our prob­lem, Lib­er­als say

Medicine Hat News - - WEST-NATION -

OT­TAWA Con­ser­va­tive MP Candice Ber­gen said the Lib­er­als should have protested when China de­nied her a visa to travel there with other par­lia­men­tar­i­ans this sum­mer, in­stead of leav­ing her be­hind.

The Op­po­si­tion House leader was sup­posed to be among the MPs and se­na­tors from the Canada-China Leg­isla­tive As­so­ci­a­tion who trav­elled over­seas Aug. 14 to 27. She was hop­ing to talk to Chi­nese politi­cians and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials about Cana­dian canola ex­ports and hu­man rights.

She said she was alarmed by some of the per­sonal de­tails China asked of those go­ing on the trip, es­pe­cially since they were trav­el­ling on spe­cial pass­ports, so she de­cided to leave some in­for­ma­tion about her fam­ily out of the ap­pli­ca­tion.

China de­nied her visa a few days be­fore the group was due to leave.

“That was dis­ap­point­ing and shock­ing,” said Ber­gen, who pointed out she was a min­is­ter of state in the former Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment and had been to China be­fore, in March 2016.

What sur­prised her even more, she said, was that when she sent an email to oth­ers in the group ask­ing whether they were go­ing to do any­thing about it, such as can­celling the visit, she never heard back.

“It was just crick­ets,” she said. “No word at all from any­body on the Lib­eral side and they all went on the trip.”

Sen. Joseph Day, who co-chairs the Canada-China Leg­isla­tive As­so­ci­a­tion, said the group did push back on the in­va­sive na­ture of the ap­pli­ca­tion form, but were told by Cana­dian and Chi­nese of­fi­cials, as well as the politi­cians they later met on the trip, they did not have a choice if they wanted to go.

“The Chi­nese were not flex­i­ble on that,” said Day. “It’s re­flec­tive of what other coun­tries are ask­ing for, in­clud­ing Canada, when peo­ple visit those coun­tries, so they wouldn’t change it.”

A spokesman for For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land con­firmed no one should ex­pect spe­cial treat­ment.

“All Cana­di­ans seek­ing to visit a for­eign coun­try should com­ply with the en­try pro­ce­dures re­quired by that coun­try,” Adam Austen wrote in an email Fri­day.

“No Cana­dian is obliged to fill out an ap­pli­ca­tion re­quired to visit an­other coun­try, how­ever, they might be re­fused en­try if they choose not to do so,” he said. “Sim­i­larly, Canada ex­pects that all vis­i­tors to our coun­try com­ply with the ap­pro­pri­ate laws and reg­u­la­tions.”

Still, Con­ser­va­tive MP Cathy McLeod said she also left out some in­for­ma­tion she did not feel com­fort­able dis­clos­ing.

She said she was granted a visa any­way.

Once she learned Ber­gen could not go, she de­cided to stay home too.

Ber­gen said she even­tu­ally heard back from Day, who said China had the right to de­cide who to let in.

She ac­knowl­edged that to be true, but sug­gested Canada would not bar an elected of­fi­cial.

“Can you imag­ine that ever hap­pen­ing and the fall­out from that?” she said.

There was, in fact, a lot of con­tro­versy in 2009 when the Cana­dian Bor­der Ser­vices Agency de­nied en­try to Ge­orge Gal­loway, then a Bri­tish MP.

Day said can­celling the trip would not have been fair to those who did com­plete their forms and wanted to keep build­ing re­la­tion­ships with China.

Ac­cord­ing to records pro­vided by the Se­nate, the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who did go were Day, Lib­eral MPs Geng Tan, Terry Shee­han, Terry Duguid and Ma­jid Jowhari, New Demo­crat MP Jenny Kwan, Se­nate Lib­eral Percy Downe and Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Vic­tor Oh.

A spokesper­son for the Chi­nese Em­bassy in Ot­tawa did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Ber­gen said she thinks the lack of protest has more to do with the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts to se­cure a free trade deal with China.

“This is how they ne­go­ti­ate and it seems the Lib­er­als, even on some­thing like this, don’t seem to have the for­ti­tude to be able to stand up to China and stand up for Cana­di­ans and in this case, a Cana­dian par­lia­men­tar­ian,” she said.

Ber­gen said she re­cently wrote to John McCal­lum, Canada’s am­bas­sador to China, about the in­ci­dent.

Day said it is im­por­tant to main­tain re­la­tion­ships in China for all sorts of rea­sons, not­ing that mem­bers of the par­lia­men­tary group had done their part to help con­vince China to lift a ban on Cana­dian beef im­ports dur­ing pre­vi­ous vis­its.

Candice Ber­gen

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