Soldiers of Chinese People's Liberation Army demonstrate their skill during an open day of Stonecutter Island naval base, in Hong Kong in August, 2019.(AP file)
Soldiers of Chinese People's Liberation Army demonstrate their skill during an open day of Stonecutter Island naval base, in Hong Kong in August, 2019.(AP file)

Canada govt objected to military decision to cancel training with Chinese Army: Reports

The Peoples Liberation Army had been invited for joint training at the Canadian Forces Base at Petawawa in the province of Ontario.
By Anirudh Bhattacharyya | Hindustan Times, Toronto
UPDATED ON DEC 10, 2020 02:33 PM IST

The Trudeau government invited the Chinese army for training in Canada last year just months after the arbitrary arrests of two Canadians, including a former diplomat, and was miffed when the military cancelled the drill, media reports have said citing documents.

The Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) had been invited for joint training at the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) at Petawawa in the province of Ontario. The exercise was cancelled by Canadian Armed Forces to the chagrin of the government, according to the documents cited by the Globe and Mail, Rebel News and other media outlets.

A department of defence official stated in a document, “The winter training will not take place this winter. Future options have not been considered.”

Instructions from a general were that the department “tailor a message” that the training could not be conducted “at this time.”

However, a note from the Trudeau government to the Armed Forces indicated its displeasure over the cancellation. “Given the heightened scrutiny, any decision by Canada to reduce-cut ties should be carefully considered to avoid sending any unhelpful or unintended messages,” it said.

In a Memorandum for Action, Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign ministry, noted that the Canadian Armed Forces’ Chief of Defence Staff had “unilaterally elected not to proceed” with the 2019 programme.

The cancellation came in the wake of the detention of Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive of the Chinese telecomm giant Huawei in Vancouver on December 1, 2018 in a case related to bank fraud to sidestep sanctions on Iran. Days later, two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested by China, where they just completed two years in captivity on December 10.

Commenting on that, the Memorandum added, “While resolving the consular cases is the Government of Canada’s top priority, ensuring a certain amount of continuity in other parts of the Canada-China relationship remains important.”

In another email, Ian Shugart, deputy minister at Global Affairs Canada said it be “consulted before any activities are cancelled/postponed, particularly initiatives previously agreed to between DND/CAF and the People’s Liberation Army.”

He added that Canada did not want to be a “partner that is reducing normal bilateral interactions” and there was “still a desire to maintain an ongoing relationship with China, while recognising and managing the risks.” Shugart is currently Clerk to the Privy Council, Canada’s senior-most bureaucrat.

A defence official pointed to the concern within the Five Eyes (the intelligence and security alliance including the US, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand) over the “winter survival” exercise with the PLA, while a Global Affairs official questioned, in an email, whether this was connected to the Donald Trump administration’s changed stance towards Beijing.

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