President Joe Biden, in his speech to Canada’s Parliament, thanked China when he praised lawmakers for a new deal to slow migration at northern border.
‘I applaud China,’ he said before quickly correcting himself to Canada. The lawmakers roared with laughter in response.
‘Excuse me. I applaud Canada,’ the president said. ‘You can tell what I’m thinking about China. I won’t get into that yet.’
But the president shortly pivoted to his thoughts on that, slamming Beijing’s human rights record as he praised the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, dubbed ‘the Michaels’ by Canadian press.
The two men were freed in September after more than 1,000 days in Chinese custody, after the U.S. effectively dropped charges against Huawei heiress Meng Wanzhou.
Biden noted the U.S. and Canada ‘value our citizens as citizens, not bargaining chips. They’re not diplomatic leverage. They’re human beings with lives and families that must be respected. And I’m very glad to see the two Michaels – Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor – brought safely back to their family after 1000 days -1000 days – in detention.’
President Joe Biden made in a gaffe in his address to Canada’s Parliament, thanking ‘China’
The Michaels were arrested in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng on a U.S. extradition request. Many countries labeled China’s action ‘hostage politics.’
China freed the Michaels just after Meng, Huawei’s chief finance officer and daughter of the company’s founder, reached a deal with the U.S. Justice Department over fraud charges and flew from Canada to China.
Their attendance at Biden’s speech was their first public appearance since their release. They are reported to be on the guest list for Friday night’s state dinner.
Biden is wrapping up a quick visit to Canada, his first to America’s northern neighbor. He and Jill Biden will attend a state dinner Friday night and, as soon as it’s over, board Air Force One to head to Wilmington, Delaware, for the weekend.
Barack Obama was the last American president to address Canada’s Parliament. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced Biden, praising the two countries strong friendship.
In his address, Biden paid tribute to the long, close relationship between the United States and Canada, noting all the two countries have in common.
‘You know the incredible diversity that defines each of our nations is our strength. And Prime Minister Trudeau and I know this is a belief that you and I share. We both build administrations that look like America, look like Canada. I’m very proud. I’m very proud that =. Both of us have cabinets that are 50% women,’ he said to tepid applause.
‘Eve if you don’t agree, guys, stand up,’ the president advised.
President Joe Biden sits next to first lady Jill Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau before he speaks to the Canadian Parliament
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor stand as they are recognized in Parliament
Biden didn’t bring up any touchy subjects, such as Canada’s reduced spending on defense. Ottawa is not meeting its NATO obligations and there are questions about whether it is contributing enough to NORAD.
The president specifically pointed to both countries’ commitment on Ukraine as he pointed out contributing to NATO keeps both nations safe.
‘And as we look forward to the 75th anniversary of NATO next year, Canada and the United States share responsibility and commitment to make sure NATO can deter any threat, defend against any aggression from anyone. That’s the bedrock of the security of both our nations,’ he said.
Last year, Trudeau’s government promised $4.9 billion in Canadian dollars (which is $3.6 billion) over the next six years to modernize NORAD.
American presidents have long pushed Canada to spend more on its military, including Obama in his 2016 speech to Parliament and Donald Trump during his 2019 visit, particularly when it comes to NATO spending.
For all the NATO nations, Canada is sixth from the bottom in terms of national defence commitments. NATO members are supposed to spend 2% of its national gross domestic product on defence. Canada spends about 1.5%.
Meanwhile, Biden and Trudeau have come to a deal to close Roxham Road, a point of massive migration on the northern border, and Canada, in return, will allow 15,000 slots for migrants from the Western Hemisphere to enter legally.
‘I applaud Canada stepping up with similar programs, opening new legal pathways for 1500 migrants to come to Canada from countries in the western hemisphere at the same time,’ Biden said in his speech.
Both the U.S. and Canada saw an increase in migration across the northern border.
More than 39,000 refugees entered Canada last year via unofficial crossings, the vast majority via Roxham Road, which links Quebec and New York State.
At issue was a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires asylum-seekers already in the US to petition there rather than show up at a Canadian port of entry.
But that policy does not apply to Roxham Road because it’s an unauthorized entry point – literally a road that dead-ends into the border and then picks up on the other side.
Trudeau said last month the only way to shut down Roxham Road is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement. And that is what the two countries did
The agreement also is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to increase the consequences for people crossing the border illegally.
Sophie Gregoire Trudeau kisses her husband Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with President Joe Biden
Biden prepares to address Parliament
And the president’s gaffe on China wasn’t the only time he entertained the crowd of Canadian officials.
He got a standing ovation when he mocked the Maple Leafs – a Canadian hockey team.
“I like your teams, except the Leafs — I’ll tell you why,’ Biden said. ‘They beat the Flyers back in January, that’s why. I married a Philly girl, if I didn’t say that I’d be sleeping alone. I like you guys, but not that much!”
First lady Jill Biden, who attended the speech to Parliament, is a big fan of the Philadelphia Flyers. She applauded the president’s line.