The mandate letter laying out priorities for Canada’s new foreign affairs minister makes no mention of China.

The Prime Minister’s Office published Justin Trudeau’s ministerial mandate letters Thursday, nearly three months after the federal election. His letter to Mélanie Joly, who replaced Marc Garneau as foreign minister in October, makes eight mentions of “climate” and five of “gender,” but none of “China.”

“As Minister of Foreign Affairs, you will advance Canada’s interests and values in a world facing increasingly complex threats and issues,” Trudeau writes in the letter. “Throughout your work, you will place the promotion of democracy, human rights, gender equality and the rule of law, as well as combatting climate change, at the core of Canada’s foreign policy.”

Earlier this month, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned that Chinese interference operations in Canada “have become normalized.”

In September, detainees Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were released from China on “bail” as Canada and the United States abandoned their efforts to extradite Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou after a years-long display of hostage diplomacy by China.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong called out the absence of China from Joly’s mandate letter in a statement to True North.

“Not only are the prime minister’s instructions in the mandate letter to Minister Joly months late, they fail to provide clear direction on a long-promised, but never-delivered policy on China,” Chong said.

“The word China does not appear even once in the mandate letter. Canada’s closest ally, the United States, has repeatedly said they are waiting for the Trudeau government’s policy on China. The Trudeau government’s repeated failure to deliver a new policy on China is increasingly isolating Canada on the world stage and putting at risk the safety and security of Canadians.”

Chong pointed to Canada’s exclusion from the AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue as examples of the unseriousness – or absence – of Canada’s China policy on the global stage.

“Canada’s Conservatives will work closely with our democratic allies to defend Canadian values and stand up to Beijing’s communist leadership,” Chong added.

In March, Chong was among several Canadian officials sanctioned by the Chinese government over condemnation of China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province.

The House of Commons unanimously passed a motion condemning China’s Uyghur genocide, though the Liberals skipped the vote, with only Garneau in attendance to abstain on the government’s behalf.


  • Andrew Lawton

    A Canadian broadcaster and columnist, Andrew serves as a journalism fellow at True North and host of The Andrew Lawton Show.