Ambassador to China to brief MPs on detained Canadians
Rachel Gilmore, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Thursday, January 17, 2019 12:43PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 18, 2019 6:58AM EST
John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, will appear before a House of Commons committee Friday to brief members on efforts to secure the release of the two Canadians detained in that country.
McCallum is expected to brief the committee in a closed door meeting at 10 a.m. on Friday. The development comes after a joint Conservative and NDP motion gained Liberal support in a committee meeting Thursday.
“We are requesting that an emergency meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development be held to consider the current state of Chinese- Canadian relations and to hear directly from the Canadian ambassador to China,” the motion reads.
But the Liberals had one caveat: that the meeting be closed to the public. Opposition MPs pushed back by requesting that a small portion of the meeting be made public. However, the Liberal majority on the committee quashed that option and ensured the meeting will be hidden from the public eye.
“We should err on the side of caution. Lives are at risk,” Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj said.
China detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in apparent retaliation for Canada’s December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. Meng’s arrest was undertaken at the behest of the United States, which has an extradition order against her.
The Canadian Press reported in late December that the lights are kept on constantly and Kovrig is questioned three times a day, according to a source who is aware of the conditions of Kovrig’s detention. The two are also allegedly being denied access to lawyers and have only had consular visits once a month since being detained in December.
Meanwhile, experts have warned the China dispute is likely to drag on for at least a year.
It’s possible that China will hold the two Canadians for at long as Meng is held in Canada, former foreign affairs minister John Manley and former CSIS director Richard Fadden told CTV Question Period host Evan Solomon during a panel on Sunday.
And that process is slow, the former top-ranking officials said.
“It’s optimistic to think that our processes are going to actually resolve this for Meng in a year,” Manley said.
Meng is scheduled to appear before a Canadian court on Feb. 6.