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Canada: New U.S. ambassador to Canada confident the two countries 'will be aligned' on China policy

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U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, December 7, 2021. © Provided by National Post U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, December 7, 2021.

OTTAWA — Canada and the United States are on the same page when it comes to dealing with China, the new U.S. ambassador said Tuesday shortly after the ceremony in which he was officially welcomed by Governor General Mary Simon.

“I have a high level of confidence that Canada and the United States will be aligned on our China policy, including our policy with respect to the Olympics,” David Cohen said outside Rideau Hall.

On Monday, the U.S. announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics. While U.S. athletes will compete, the United States won’t send diplomatic or official representatives due to China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

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Canada has not yet decided whether to follow suit. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told reporters Canada is “still having conversations that are required in the circumstances.” She said Canada shares concerns about allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and that the government has been speaking with allies about this issue.

Both the NDP and Conservatives are in favour of a diplomatic boycott, and the Bloc Québécois wants Canada to take an even stronger position.

Cohen said Tuesday that while U.S. President Joe Biden declared a diplomatic boycott, “you have to have a tip of your hat to Prime Minister Trudeau who surfaced that issue himself on behalf of Canada several weeks ago.”

While Canada has “not made or announced a final decision yet,” Cohen said “the verbiage that Prime Minister Trudeau used is virtually identical to the verbiage that the United States used yesterday.”

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During his confirmation hearing, Cohen said that the U.S. was waiting on Canada to release its policy on China. Asked whether he’s heard anything from the Canadian government about the policy since those comments, Cohen said both Canada and the U.S. are “working on a reformulated China policy.”

“I think the two countries share a commitment for the defence and the pursuit of human rights and a social and just society, things that China does not share a commitment to,” Cohen said.

“What I was looking for, what I am looking for, is for Canada and the United States, in the tradition of our countries to once again come together and reaffirm our commitment to those values, and to work together to make sure that our abhorrence of the way in which China conducts its policy toward human rights, that we are unified in expressing our opposition to that.”

Cohen also said one of his priorities is the commercial relationships between Canada and the U.S., which he would like to see built back to “where they were before the pandemic.”

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Later this week, Biden will host a virtual “Summit for Democracy.” Cohen noted in his opening statement that Canada will participate in the summit, which he said will “give our leaders an opportunity to work together to find new ways to defend our societies against authoritarianism, address and fight corruption and promote respect for human rights at home and abroad.”

China’s ambassador to Canada criticized the U.S. diplomatic boycott at an event Tuesday. Cong Peiwu said the U.S. boycott is politicizing sports and said that allegations China is engaged in genocide in Xinjiang are “the lie of the century.”

Earlier this year, the House of Commons declared human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as genocide. That vote followed a report by a House of Commons subcommittee which concluded the situation does constitute a genocide under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Nearly two million individuals in Xinjiang are housed in what witnesses described as concentration camps. They are forbidden from speaking their language and practising their religion, subject to mass surveillance, forced labour, and to what the committee said were “inhuman measures” to reduce the population, among other abuses.

Cong also said Canada should ignore “invented” warnings from the United States about Huawei, and not go ahead with a ban on the Chinese company’s equipment in Canada’s 5G networks. A decision on whether Canada will ban Huawei equipment is expected within weeks.

Experts have said Canada has no choice but to go ahead with some form of ban, given all of our Five Eyes allies have either banned or restricted Huawei equipment.

– With additional reporting by The Canadian Press

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