How lobsters trumped human rights and the rule of law in Halifax

May 31, 2019

Consider if you will, for a moment, this lobster below.

And beside it, China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, and Nova Scotia Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil.

Both pictures were taken in Halifax on Wednesday. The lobster isn’t posing. The politicians are. The nameless, unknown lobster will likely end up in some very hot water sooner or later. The high profile politicians? Likely not so much.

This email will advance the thesis, though, that the lobster, on the left, at $12.50/lb, trumps human rights and the rule of law for the two people on the right. Or at least, did so on Wednesday night in Halifax. How so? What does this have to do with us at Suits and Boots? Stay with us.

As you know, we’re involved in two significant campaigns at Suits and Boots.

The first one – the Bill C69 fight – is high profile, attracting significant attention and nearing a close, with a huge win in sight, but still not acquired. The second – our #StandUpToChina campaign – is just beginning to get traction and will grow steadily in profile, just like our C-69 effort did. It will be longer, tougher and possibly rougher – but it, too, is a fight that needs to be fought. And it will be, with your support.

Bill C-69 is now back in the Senate with 200 amendments for the Senate to study. If all goes well, the Senate will recommend that all, or nearly all, of these proposed amendments go back to the House of Commons.

Here is a link to the Committee’s report to the Senate with all of its proposed amendments: https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/report/74834/42-1. And here are the Senators that we need to convince to vote in support of this full slate of amendments to be sent back to the House. Call them today. Reach out to them by email and/or phone and ask them to vote in favour of the full slate of amendments. If they do, it will go back to the House, and we’ll then take up the battle there. We have three or four weeks to go in this campaign that started last September. It’s no time to let up.

And now, back to the lobster.

Our #StandUpToChina campaign started out two weeks ago as a campaign to support farmers on the Prairies who have seen China block off imports of Canadian canola, as well as soybeans, peas and pork. As we’ve worked on this it’s becoming clear that we are embracing an issue here which is even bigger, and more important, than canola. Beyond what we thought when we started.

And that issue is this: how does Canada deal with this superpower – China – that clearly does not respect the rule of law or the fundamental principles of liberal democracy? The same country that blocks our agricultural products has two Canadians on death row and two others in dark prison cells some where on trumped up charges that are clearly political retaliation for Canada fulfilling its duties on an extradition issue with our largest and best ally, the US.

The minimum we should be doing is standing up and speaking truth to power. You’d think that’s obvious. Sadly, it’s not. At least, not in Canada on this issue so far.

What we’ve seen in the last few weeks since we launched #StandUpToChina is not pretty. In fact, it’s very disappointing. Private sector business leaders in Canada who should be calling out China for their abuse of both human rights and the rule of law are backing down, not standing up. The best example of this was Wednesday night in Halifax.

As we mentioned to you in our May 24th email, Premier McNeil and the leaders of the  Canada China Business Council had a golden opportunity to call out China’s Ambassador to Canada over his country’s flagrant abuse of human rights and the rule of law. They could have stood up for canola farmers across the Prairies.

But they didn’t. Not a word about these issues was spoken in front of a glittering audience of 300 business and political elites in Halifax. The Chinese ambassador called the Canadian premier “a great friend”. The Canadian premier called the Chinese ambassador “a champion” of expanding trade ties. They smiled for a photo op – see above, on the right – but took no questions from reporters.

Why is that? Because Nova Scotia lobster, which used to fetch $5.00/lb. to $6.50/lb. is now fetching $12 lb/ – and China is now buying pretty much any lobster that Nova Scotia can scrape off the sea bottom. Nova Scotia exports to China – mainly lobster – have more than tripled from $275 million in 2014 to nearly $800 million last year.

Who would risk all this lobster cash by raising the plight of political prisoners or canola farmers in front of the Ambassador? Not Premier McNeil. Not any of the blue-blood business types at the Canada China Business Council.

It takes courage to #StandUpToChina. We’re not talking about the level of courage of the “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square in China. We’re asking simply that anyone doing business with China raise the issue, make it clear that’s not how we expect our trading partners to treat our countrymen and our country. Simply stand up, speak the truth, and let China know that we’re not going to be rolled over – just like US Vice President Pence said in Ottawa yesterday morning.

Next Tuesday, June 4th, is the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. That morning we’ll update you with the next steps in our campaign – steps that will help make pragmatic, measurable and visible steps that show China and the world that many of us in Canada believe it’s important to stand up and speak truth to power. That for many of us, lobster, no matter how expensive, doesn’t trump human rights or the rule of law.

Stay tuned. And please help us with a donation if you support our cause.

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