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China—Protocol During Visit of Chinese Delegation—Right to Protest

Hon. Linda Frum: Leader, it is easy to make things look bright and sunny when you build a wall to hide the bad news. That is exactly what happened last week when a wall was erected in front of the Westin Hotel to hide peaceful democratic Canadian protesters from the view of the Chinese premier and his visiting delegation. And walls are Trumpian, by the way.

Leader, can you tell us what role, if any, Global Affairs Canada and/or the department's Chief of Protocol played in signalling to the Chinese delegation and the Westin Hotel that this affront to our Canadians values of free speech and free assembly was even remotely acceptable?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I can assure the honourable senator that in all aspects of visits by heads of state, heads of government or prominent individuals with whom there is an attached point of difference or demonstrations against that visit, the protocol of Global Affairs and the incoming government representative are in close collaboration with assuring, from a Canadian point of view, that the very legitimate rights of protest that you so rightly refer to are able to be conducted as they represent Canadian values; and to ensure that the incoming visitor is well aware of the democratic practice in this country. I have no doubt that that was entirely the case in respect to the visit last week.

Senator Frum: So can I infer from that answer that, in fact, the protocol officer from Global Affairs would have been aware of this wall and did nothing to stop it?

Senator Harder: I can neither confirm nor deny. I don't know.

What I can tell you on practice that I am well aware of is that any visitor, the prominence of which that visit represented, would be reminded by protocol of the ability of Canadians to protest, the right to demonstrate that Canadians enjoy so rightly.

Senator Frum: Was it only a reminder that the Chinese delegation received?

Senator Harder: Again, I wasn't privy to the discussions, but a reminder is in fact a statement of our expectations of the right to protest and to show difference from a Canadian point of view. They would want to make sure that was well understood by all sides, particularly the incoming visitor side.


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