Two heavyweight U.S. federal senators wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defense Minister Harjit Sjjan this week to express support for the U.S. think tank Halifax International Security Forum’s plan to award an award to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Armed Services Committee Ranking Republican Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said in a letter Tuesday (April 27) that as co-chairs of the Senate Taiwan Connection, they would like to express their support for the 2021 Halifax International Security Forum (HFX)’s preparations to present the John McCain Public Service Leadership Award to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. McCain Public Service Leadership Award to President Tsai Ing-wen, expressing their support for the plan.
“As long-time friends of Taiwan, we are pleased to hear that Canada will continue to support the Halifax Forum and the award to President Tsai.”
In their letter, the MPs noted that since 2018, the Halifax Forum has presented awards to “individuals from any country who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the pursuit of human justice,” and that the award reflects the Forum’s “mission to strengthen strategic cooperation among democracies.” The mission of the Forum is to “strengthen strategic cooperation among democracies.
Parliamentarians said they were initially concerned about reports that Canada was considering ending its support for the forum due to pressure from Beijing, as Tsai has continued to promote democratic values in the face of aggressive Chinese pressure since her election in 2016 and China’s eagerness to prevent Taiwan from receiving recognition for its democratic achievements.
“We applaud the Canadian House of Commons for passing a motion without dissent in support of the Halifax Forum’s recognition of President Tsai. We must continue to recognize outstanding democratic leadership, personalities and resilience on the global stage. Further, we should not allow China’s coercive tactics to threaten our collective friendship and security.”
The MPs also said they “understand that China is also using aggressive tactics against Canada, including the unacceptable and arbitrary detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and our support for Canada and its people remains strong. “
U.S. online media outlet Politico reported more than two weeks ago that the Washington-based Halifax International Security Forum’s decision late last year to award Tsai Ing-wen an award for her performance in defying Chinese pressure was met with opposition from the forum’s main funder, the Canadian government, and threats of withdrawal of funding.
The report sparked considerable controversy in Canadian politics and public opinion, with opposition members questioning Canadian Defense Minister John Shih in Parliament, but Shih denied that he would withdraw support and funding for the forum, and the House of Commons subsequently passed a motion supporting the award to Tsai at the forum, which is held annually in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said in parliament, when questioned by opposition lawmakers, that the Canadian government would continue to provide funding to support the Halifax forum.