If someone opposes trade or investment with China, does that make them Sino-phobic?
Does being Sino-phobic make one a racist?
That question came to the forefront this week in the Yukon.
The Speaker of the Yukon legislature was forced to formally reprimanded premier Darrell Pasloski for his comments on Tuesday, implying that the NDP were opposing the China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Act (FIPA) for racist reasons.
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According to the Whitehorse Daily Star, Pasloski went on the defensive when the NDP asked him why he wasn't standing-up for "Yukoners' interests" with regards to FIPA:
"Any company that comes to the Yukon to do business will abide by our labour laws, will abide by our environment laws and regulations and our health and safety regulations as well. Those companies will pay our taxes and they will pay our royalties as well.
"It's interesting to note, again, that there are other state-owned enterprises that operate in this country that there has been no controversy from the NDP about. I mentioned Statoil from Norway, which does operate in this country today.
"There are over 20 of these agreements — foreign investment promotion and protection agreements — that occur right now that Canada has signed around the world.
"So I have to wonder, what is the problem? Is it just that the NDP don't like the Chinese? Is it the fact that they are not only anti-Chinese…."
The Speaker characterized Pasloski's comments as "not in keeping with a fundamental principle of parliamentary procedure" saying that members are to treat one another as "honourable."
"In suggesting that the members of the official Opposition oppose the investment agreement because they are anti-Chinese, the premier attributed to members of this house an unworthy motive, specifically a bias against an identifiable group of people," he said, according to the Whitehorse Daily Star.
Chinese trade and investment is obviously not just a concern in the Yukon. Over the past couple of months, Canadians across the country have loudly opposed the CNOOC takeover of Nexen, FIPA and Chinese citizens coming to British Columbia to work in a mine.
There are issues with with regards to China's record on human rights, their system of government and the allegations of them stealing intellectual property. And I think the opposition parties in Ottawa have done good job articulating those concerns to the Canadian public.
Certainly the Yukon premier's insinuations in the legislature were out-of-line and inappropriate but — outside the realm of parliament — at what point does anti-trade with China become anti-Chinese?