President Joe Biden, in his speech to the Canadian Parliament, thanked China as he praised lawmakers for a new deal to curb migration at the northern border.
“I applaud China,” he said before quickly correcting himself to Canada. Lawmakers cracked up in response.
‘Excuse me. I applaud Canada,’ said the president. ‘You can tell what I’m thinking about China. I won’t go into that yet.
But the president soon changed his mind on the matter, criticizing Beijing’s human rights record while hailing the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, dubbed ‘the Michaels’ by the Canadian press.
The two men were released in September after more than 1,000 days in Chinese custody, after the US dropped charges against Huawei heiress Meng Wanzhou.
Biden noted that the US and Canada “value our citizens as citizens, not as bargaining chips.” They are not diplomatic influence. They are human beings with lives and families that must be respected. And I’m very happy to see both Michaels, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, safely returned to their family after 1,000 days, 1,000 days, in detention.
President Joe Biden made a mistake in his speech before the Parliament of Canada, thanking ‘China’
The Michaels were arrested in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng on a US extradition request. Many countries labeled China’s action a “hostage policy.”
China released the Michaels just after Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of the company’s founder, settled with the US Department of Justice on fraud charges and flew from Canada to China.
His attendance at Biden’s speech was his first public appearance since its release. It is reported that they are on the guest list for the state dinner on Friday night.
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 on Friday night and, as soon as it’s over, will board Air Force One for Wilmington, Delaware, for the weekend.
Barack Obama was the last US president to address the Parliament of Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced Biden and praised the two countries’ strong friendship.
In his speech, Biden paid tribute to the long and close relationship between the United States and Canada, noting what all the two countries have in common.
‘You know that the incredible diversity that defines each of our nations is our strength. And Prime Minister Trudeau and I know that this is a belief that you and I share. We both built administrations that look like the United States, look like Canada. I am very proud. I’m very proud of that =. We both have cabinets that are 50% women,’ he said to warm applause.
‘Eve, if you don’t agree, guys, stand up,’ the president advised.
President Joe Biden sits with First Lady Jill Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau before addressing the Canadian Parliament.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor standing while being recognized in Parliament
Biden did not mention any sensitive issues, such as reducing Canada’s defense spending. Ottawa is not meeting its NATO obligations and there are questions about whether it is contributing enough to NORAD.
The president specifically noted the commitment of both countries to Ukraine, noting that contributing to NATO keeps both nations safe.
“And as we look forward to NATO’s 75th anniversary next year, Canada and the United States share a responsibility and a commitment to making sure that NATO can deter any threat, defend against any aggression from anyone. That is the foundation of the security of our two nations,’ she said.
Last year, the Trudeau government pledged $4.9 billion in Canadian dollars (that’s $3.6 billion) over the next six years to modernize NORAD.
US 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 NATO nations, Canada ranks sixth from the bottom in terms of national defense commitments. NATO members are supposed to spend 2% of their gross national product on defense. Canada spends about 1.5%.
Meanwhile, Biden and Trudeau have reached an agreement to close Roxham Road, a mass migration point on the northern border, and Canada, in return, will allow legal entry for 15,000 immigrants from the Western Hemisphere.
“I applaud Canada for stepping up similar programs, opening new legal avenues for 1,500 immigrants to come to Canada from countries in the Western Hemisphere at the same time,” Biden said in his speech.
Both the US and Canada saw an increase in migration across the northern border.
More than 39,000 refugees entered Canada last year through unofficial crossings, the vast majority through 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 apply there instead of presenting themselves at a Canadian port of entry.
But that policy doesn’t apply to Roxham Road because it’s an unauthorized entry point – literally, a road that ends at the border and then continues on the other side.
Trudeau said last month that the only way to close Roxham Road is to renegotiate the Safe Third Country Agreement. And that is what the two countries did.
The agreement is also part of the Biden administration’s efforts to increase the consequences for people who cross 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 China gaffe wasn’t the only time he entertained crowds of Canadian officials.
He received a standing ovation when he made fun of 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 in January, that’s why. I married a girl from Philly, if I didn’t say I’d be sleeping alone. I like you guys, but not that much!”
First Lady Jill Biden, who attended the speech before Parliament, is a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan. She applauded the president’s line.