Now is not the time for Trudeau to call Chinese president, says ambassador

OTTAWA — Diplomacy needs more time before the prime minister tries personally to settle the fight between Ottawa and Beijing that has left two Canadians detained in China and another facing the death penalty, Canada’s ambassador to China said Friday after appearing at a Commons committee.

“The prime minister calling the (Chinese) president is essentially the last arrow in our quiver,” McCallum said after testifying behind closed doors to the standing committee on foreign affairs and international trade. “I think other actions have to be taken first.”

The Opposition Conservatives have been insisting that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau call President Xi Jinping to resolve the diplomatic dispute that began with the arrest in Vancouver last month of a senior executive from Chinese tech giant Huawei.

China escalated tensions shortly after Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou’s arrest — which was carried out at the request of U.S. authorities who want her extradited to face fraud charges — by detaining Michael Kovrig, a Canadian diplomat on leave, and entrepreneur Michael Spavor on vague allegations of endangering China’s national security.

Since then, Canada and China have traded accusations of making “politically motivated” arrests and questioning each other’s judicial processes.

The two countries have also issued travel advisories, warning their respective citizens about the potential dangers of “arbitrary” detentions.

China also recently revisited a 15-year prison sentenced issued in 2016 against Robert Schellenberg of British Columbia for drug smuggling, imposing a death sentence instead.

Western analysts have deemed the arrests of Spavor and Kovrig, and the harsher sentencing of Schellenberg, to be attempts by Beijing to pressure Canada to release Meng, whose company has been accused of being an agent of Chinese intelligence.

Before the protracted dispute worsens, the prime minister needs to step in, Conservative MP Erin O’Toole repeated Friday. O’Toole is his party’s foreign-affairs critic.

“The prime minister seems to be holding back, waiting for an opportunity where he can have success,” O’Toole said as he left the committee room. “But sometimes leadership means fighting for success.”

Prior to testifying at the committee meeting, McCallum told reporters he believes it is safe for most Canadians to travel to China, despite the current rocky relations between the two nations.

But he warned anyone who has had a run-in with Chinese authorities to think twice about visiting the country.

“If they have any bad connection with the Chinese law in the past, or a situation of that kind, they should be extremely wary,” McCallum said.

“But I think for most people, subject to considering their own situation, it’s all right to travel to China.”

McCallum testified behind closed doors after Liberal MPs on the committee raised concerns about the sensitive nature of what he would tell them.

Without elaborating, McCallum said he agreed to speak in private because there are some details about the detentions of Spavor and Kovrig that their family members would not want aired publicly.

McCallum, who was a Liberal cabinet minister before taking up his diplomatic post, revealed earlier this week that the two were each being interrogated by Chinese authorities for up to four hours a day.

On Friday, he again credited the Trudeau government’s efforts to get allies to rally in support of Canada’s position, saying it was important to send a unified message to Beijing that arresting people arbitrarily warns everyone off doing business in China.

Later in the day, as he wrapped up a meeting of his cabinet in Sherbrooke, Que., Trudeau said that the world should be deeply concerned about the apparent “blending” by China of its commercial interests with its political positioning.

“This is something that I think should be of concern not just to Canadians but to people around the world.”

Just Posted

Vikings Days a celebration of Danish immigration, culture

The Danish Canadian Museum near Dickson held its annual Viking Days celebration… Continue reading

Red Deer would be the site of potential TV show

A potential TV show aims to bring Red Deer kids across the… Continue reading

Oilsands firms considering diluent recovery units to boost crude-by-rail volumes

CALGARY — Ongoing pipeline project delays and growth in crude-by-rail capacity from… Continue reading

WATCH: ‘Lots to see and do’ at Pioneer Days in Red Deer

Sunnybrook Farm Museum is celebrating its 24th annual Pioneer Days this weekend.… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Thursday The Red Deer and District Garden Club hosts its annual Flower… Continue reading

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

OTTAWA — The United Kingdom is shirking its share of the international… Continue reading

Federal and provincial leaders to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

MONTREAL — A number of federal and provincial leaders are expected in… Continue reading

Regina woman suing after tip of son’s penis cut off in circumcision

REGINA — A Regina mother has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence after… Continue reading

Maxime Bernier tells party faithful he will make it into the leaders’ debates

OTTAWA — Maxime Bernier argued that not inviting him to take part… Continue reading

Alberta suspects lead Mounties on chase before their capture in Camrose

CAMROSE, Alta. — Mounties from the Wetaskiwin, Alta., detachment had their hands… Continue reading

Man dies in hospital after aggravated assault in Winnipeg, police say

Winnipeg police say a man is dead after he was allegedly assaulted… Continue reading

Advocates ‘internationalize’ the fight to free Raif Badawi from Saudi prison

MONTREAL — More than seven years after Raif Badawi was thrown in… Continue reading

Most Read