Debates of May 4th, 2023
House of Commons Hansard #191 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session.
Opposition Motion—Interference by the People's Republic of China
Business of Supply
Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the NDP House leader, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby.
This is such an important debate, and let me put this in some context for all members in the House.
A hundred years ago, the government of the day brought in the Chinese Exclusion Act to say that Chinese peoples were not welcome in this country, to make a very clear statement on that. After that, those who came to Canada to help build the railway connecting British Columbia to the east, from coast to coast, which allowed for Canada to exist today, after all their blood and sweat, they were also put in a position of extreme discrimination, with the most dangerous work and the least amount of pay. Many died in that process.
Let us be clear that this is Canada's history.
A hundred years later, we are in the House debating foreign interference. In the passing years, what has happened? Discrimination and hate has ebbed and flowed.
I immigrated to Canada as a little girl back in the 1970s. When I landed here with my family, I experienced discrimination right from the get-go. I looked different. I dressed differently. I did not speak very much English. I was mocked. I grew up denying, working so hard to do what? To belong. I worked to deny myself of my own natural heritage. I did not know any better as a little child how to belong, except to say that I was not Chinese.
Now I am smarter, thank goodness, than I was when I was just a little girl. Over the years I have come to realize what a gift my parents afforded me, to immigrate to Canada to give me the opportunities to thrive, to have access to education and to be me, free of pressures and to enjoy the freedoms that Canada affords me, and all of us. Let it be very clear that I am Canadian and I have a natural heritage.
The situation that is going on today is so distressing to me. Somehow members of the House, both on the Liberal and the Conservative sides, think that this is just about politics. It is not just about politics. It is about people and the lives of those people. It is about our collective future.
I cannot imagine what it is like for the member for Wellington—Halton Hills to find out that he and his family are being targeted by the Chinese regime. When I think about that, the dread washes over me. Let us be clear for the member that he has privileges too. He is a member of the House and he has afforded to him, and rightfully so, various protections. However, many other Canadians are faced with these kinds of threats and they do not have access to any protection. They do not even have a voice, and their lives are in danger.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Aside from having experienced discrimination growing up and all the way through, even now, I am receiving hate mail, but I will not bore members with that. My grandfather, who came before me, used to tell me stories when I was a little girl about how, when he went on the bus, he was thrown to the back of the bus and pushed off it. He has now passed. He shared horrific stories of the discrimination he experienced. We have had to fight so hard to make gains and get to where we are today.
What is happening? During COVID, people said to my face that it is the “Kwan virus”. That is what they said to me. Since that time, with all of this hyperpartisanship that has gone on, my teenaged daughter got on the bus to go to school. What happened to her? Someone spat on her and yelled racial slurs at her. This is what is happening on the ground and how it is impacting people. Let us just set aside partisan politics for just one minute.
Right from the get-go, when this issue came up, the NDP said that we should have a national inquiry into this foreign interference. The NDP moved the motion back in February in committee and gave notice. After much filibustering by some members of the House, the motion finally passed. After that, in March, the NDP brought that motion to the House of Commons to be voted on and got support from all the opposition members, as well as the independent members. That motion also passed. However, instead of doing the right thing, the government decided that it would have another process. Therefore, it escalated the situation, forcing dribs and drabs of information about the risks we face to be released through the media.
In the meantime, what are we doing? We are undermining our democratic system and continuing to cast that cloud over people who look like me. That is what is happening, and in that process, people get hurt.
Someone who is engaged in the pro-democracy movement for Hong Kong contacted me to say that they received a death threat. That is how serious it is. Now, I was born in Hong Kong, and it absolutely breaks my heart to see what is going on in Hong Kong right now. That person reported the death threat to the RCMP. Then what happened? Nothing happened. Who do we think will come forward to say that this is happening to them when there is no recourse? Who will dare to speak up when even a member of Parliament and his family could be threatened?
This is the situation we are faced with, so let us take a breath and stop this partisanship. We should stop this bickering and get on to doing what is right. Our lives depend on it. People who look like me get hurt every day because of it, and some people do not have a voice.
The worse thing of all is that the undermining of Canada's democracy; this democracy is something that I cherish and do not take for granted. Where my parents and grandparents came from, they did not have the right to democracy. Chinese people had to die and go to war to fight for that democracy here in Canada. That is our history. That is what has happened in Canada.
I think that the national inquiry also has to be completely independent and transparent. It has to meet the political tests of all parties. Maybe we can all just sit down and say, “Hey, let us sit together and get this inquiry under way, get the mandate under way and get a completely independent person to do this job so that we can stop this in its tracks.” That is what we need to do.
Moreover, we need to send a clear message to those countries that attempt to meddle with our democratic process. China is definitely one of them, but there are others as well. It may be Russia, Saudi Arabia or even the United States, which we know also meddles in our democratic system. Let us just be honest about that and get to the bottom of it once and for all.
I implore all members of the House to set aside their partisanship and do what is right for people, for humanity and for democracy. If we say we are against discrimination, racism and hate, then we should take a breath and stop the gamesmanship that is being played right now. All that does is escalate the situation. This is not good for Canada, and it is not good for our democracy.
Kelly McCauley Edmonton West, AB
Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I want to apologize to the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for an unparliamentary comment I made about his question. He is a gentleman, and I enjoy working with him. I apologize and withdraw the comment.
The member for Vancouver East gave a very passionate and strong speech. She brought up an amazing amount of great points that we need to follow up on. I only have one question. How does the member think we should put together an inquiry process that is non-partisan and independent? What is the best way to make sure that it is truly non-partisan and independent?
Jenny Kwan Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank the member for owning up to the fact that what he said was inappropriate and making that apology. I do appreciate it.
To the question about what would be a completely non-partisan public inquiry, which is absolutely essential, it would be for all the party leaders to come to an agreement on the mandate and who the commissioner is. It has to be completely above board and completely transparent. It needs to pass every single test, because so much rides on it.
If there is a shadow of a doubt being cast anywhere in that process, it undermines all the important work that needs to be done, and people like me will never get out from under it. It is too important for that. Too many people's lives have been put in danger, and too many people have died fighting for democracy for Canada.