Why? Well, perhaps he could have explained to Patterson why he believes that Canada and China can “learn from each other in matters of rights, justice, civil service reform and corporate social responsibility.”
Perhaps he could explain to Patterson why he thinks China - which he named along with North Korea and Libya in a 2005 lecture to Amnesty Ireland as the world’s three biggest human rights abusers - has made more progress on human rights lately than any country in the world, including Canada.
Or maybe the Liberal leader could have explained to Patterson’s little daughter Hannah where her daddy went.
You see, Patterson’s husband, a noted, 39-year-old Beijing artist was - as described in a recent Toronto Star story from their Asia bureau - “recently detained without charge, beaten by police and taken to a detention centre where he has sat for the last 36 days.”
Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. It’s quite common there.
Keep in mind that Ignatieff, as an academic, routinely spoke out against China and at one point even criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not being tough enough on that brutal regime. This was the same Ignatieff who, when running for the Liberal leadership, after Harper had been harshly critical of China’s abysmal human rights record, then turned full circle and accused Harper of “megaphone diplomacy,” saying criticizing China would only make matters worse.
Earlier this year, in fact, Ignatieff told a group of Calgary students that Canada had a duty to speak out against human rights abuses regardless of where they happen. “Just because China is big and powerful doesn’t mean that Canada should back down on this issue,” he said.
But wait a minute. Given the opportunity to speak publicly in China on that country’s human rights record, Ignatieff told a group of selected university students that, yes indeed, “We must be ready to speak plainly with one another about human rights.”
Who can argue? Except, of course, he didn’t go on to speak plainly at all about China’s record. Instead, he praised them.
He even went so far - and no, I’m not making this up - as to actually praise the so-called Cultural Revolution, a period where hundreds of thousands of innocent Chinese citizens were murdered or starved to death in what the National Post properly describes as “part of a larger pattern of Communist crimes against humanity that caused tens of millions of deaths.”
But our brave Liberal leader did say it was time for plain talk on human rights abuses.
So what did he do? He criticized Canada’s human rights record, telling his adoring, government-approved audience that “I am not blind to the gap that exists between our ideals and reality for some of my fellow citizens.”
To be sure, Canada isn’t perfect when it comes to human rights. But it’s a hell of a lot better than China in that sphere - as is nearly the entire world.
And for the man who wants to be prime minister to offer a moral equivalence between the democratic rights of Canadians and the dictatorial oppression of the Chinese is, well, obscene.
Ignatieff did not even mention some of China’s most egregious human rights abuses, e.g.its brutal oppression of such ethnic minorities as the Tibetans and Uyghur Muslims and of the Falun Gong spiritual movement and even Christian missionaries. He didn’t even bother to point out the fact that Canadians’ enjoy democracy and free elections. Chinese don’t.
But hey, when you’re trying to impress your hosts, why get bogged down in detail, eh?
Here’s an idea. For the next several weeks, Ignatieff is flitting around Canada on a partisan bus tour, stopping wherever he can for burgers and dogs and hoping to turn around his sagging political fortunes before the next election.
If he comes to your town - as he likely will - why not take a moment out to wander over to Ignatieff and simply ask him to explain that given his previous hardline comments on China and the opportunity to demonstrate that he really means it, why was it than when he finally went to China he decided to criticize Canadians instead and portray a false image of that regime in a cowardly attempt to please his Chinese patrons and - no doubt he hopes - perhaps pick up some Chinese-Canadian votes in the next election?
Let me know if he has an explanation.