Tue. May 21st, 2024

Green… the color of Canadian diplomacy | Canada-China Relations

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Dec23,2023

Have climate discussions become Canada's new tool for maintaining dialogue with countries that have strained relations with Ottawa?

Green… the color of Canadian diplomacy | Canada-China relations

Open in full screen mode

Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault.

  • Valérie Gamache (View profile)Valérie Gamache

This year, Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Steven Guilbeault, was the first Cabinet minister to visit China in five years, since the Meng Wanzhou affair.

He is also the only one to have met a member of the Indian government since Ottawa raised suspicions about New Delhi's participation in the assassination of a Sikh leader in Canada.

Interview with a minister who manages to slip behind enemy lines.

Open in full screen mode

Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault.

Canada-China Relations

Consult the complete file

Canada-China relations

Consult the complete file


I spoke with my Indian counterpart at COP28, with my Chinese counterpart, things are going really well…, says Steven Guilbeault candidly. However, the last two G20 meetings have highlighted the conflicting relations between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Indian and Chinese leaders.

It's easier for me because I don't need to talk to the Chinese or Indians about things that divide.

A quote from Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

It was the organization of COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal which was the starting point for Minister Guilbeault. When the UN asked Canada to host the meeting chaired by China due to the pandemic, Justin Trudeau was not keen on the idea.

The Prime Minister was not sure at first and eventually he said OK. But, it’s your head that’s on the block and you have to deliver, remembers Steven Guilbeault.

Then, in the months that followed, the pressure mounted a notch when new diplomatic twists and turns further clouded relations between Beijing and Ottawa and, consequently, slowed down the organization of the summit.

When it was announced that Huawei would not be able to participate in the 5G network, there was no more sound, no more image, says The Minister. For a month, China did not return emails and planned meetings were canceled.

Quietly, contact was re-established, even if tensions between China and Canada have not dissipated, quite the contrary. When the Prime Minister and President [Xi] had a bit of a fight at the G20, I said to myself: ''Ouch!!! There, they won't talk to me for two months! “ he says.

Open in full screen mode

Huang Runquio, Minister of Ecology and Environment of China , was the co-president of COP15 on biodiversity in Montreal.

However, his fears were not borne out and the dialogue was maintained. Just like when Canada forced Chinese companies with ties to the regime to divest their interests in Canada's critical minerals industry.

< p class="Text-sc-2357a233-1 imohSo">At one point, they decided that on the climate, on biodiversity, on environmental issues, we were a reliable partner, then that's how it is since.

A quote from Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The relationship between the two Ministers of the Environment was never again compromised by diplomatic cool-offs between Beijing and Ottawa, so much so that Steven Guilbeault was invited to China last summer by his counterpart. A visit which produced results beyond environmental issues, according to him.

Just being able to go there and then being able to reconnect. The ambassador allowed her to meet people from the Chinese government whom she had not yet managed to meet since her arrival, he explains.

This visit in the name of the climate, however, attracted a lot of criticism. This trip took place at a time when political parties were trying in Ottawa to agree on the terms of a public commission of inquiry into Chinese interference. The conservatives did not hesitate to call him naive and accuse him of acting like an amateur by playing Beijing's game.

For the minister, however, the experience was so conclusive that it will be repeated in 2024. And this time, Steven Guilbeault might not being the only minister to make the trip.

Maybe since this is going to be my second time going, there's someone else in the gang who's going be able to come, because' They will be more comfortable, he said.

Open in full screen mode

Steven Guilbeault meets Indian Minister of the Environment, Bhupender Yadav.

Canada and India have an agreement to cooperate on environmental and climate issues, but collaboration has stalled since Justin Trudeau said he had reason to believe India could be involved in the murder of a leader Sikh from British Columbia.

Despite this, Steven Guilbeault is not giving up. He also met his Indian counterpart during COP28 in Dubai. We set ourselves the goal of trying to keep it going. I'm not sure I can say that it will continue, but we said to ourselves that we'll try, he summarizes.

Just as he continued to work with Egypt's environment minister after a row over visas erupted between Ottawa and Cairo earlier this year.

Height of irony, it was the Chinese Minister of the Environment who brought them together during the COP on biodiversity in Montreal asking them to act together as facilitators. A role that they took up again during COP28 this fall in Dubai.

Open in full screen mode

Egyptian Minister of the Environment, Yasmine Fouad, and Steven Guilbeault during COP28 on the UN climate.

The minister makes no secret of it, he wants to take advantage of the advantage of being able to establish a dialogue on the environment without first having to address the disputes. I think it's really this recognition that we're all in the same boat, and that if we don't row together, we won't get there, that allows these discussions, he believes.

I think we would like to continue that. It allows us to have conversations with people with whom it is difficult.

A quote from Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

He now hopes that his dealings on behalf of the environment will at the very least keep the channels of communication open… or even more.

We are really trying to see how the contacts I develop can be useful, not just to me and the environmental issue, but to the country and our diplomacy , he concludes.

With the collaboration of Marie Chabot-Johnson

  • Valérie Gamache (View profile)Valérie GamacheFollow
Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my natasha@thetimeshub.in 1-800-268-7116

Related Post