Canada’s new ambassador to China meets detainees Kovrig and Spavor

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor have been imprisoned for nearly a year

Dominic Barton responds to a question during an interview with The Canadian Press Thursday, May 19, 2016 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canada’s new ambassador to China has met with two Canadian men the People’s Republic imprisoned nearly one year ago.

Dominic Barton led his first consular visits with Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on Friday and Monday, respectively, said a senior government official.

Barton was appointed in September, one week before the federal election call, to fill a big diplomatic gap and help repair fractured relations with China after Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1 on an extradition request by the United States.

Days later, China imprisoned Kovrig, an ex-Canadian diplomat, and Spavor, an entrepreneur, and accused them of undermining its national security.

It has held them without access to lawyers or their family, or formally charging them in what is widely seen as retaliation for arrest of Meng.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have routinely branded Kovrig and Spavor’s incarcerations as arbitrary.

In January, Trudeau fired his previous China ambassador, former cabinet minister John McCallum, following a number of public comments that broke with the government’s line.

Barton, who was a well-connected business consultant, was tapped for the diplomatic post because of his high-level business experience in China and throughout Asia, which included serving as the global managing director of consulting giant McKinsey & Co.

Barton also led the Trudeau government’s influential economic advisory council.

RELATED: Protesters decry China-sponsored reception for B.C. municipal politicians

The government has also tried to leverage broad international support from several dozen countries, including the United States, to win the freedom of Kovrig and Spavor.

That effort has angered China, which has banned imports of Canadian canola and other agricultural products.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

CARE Network opens new dog daycare facility near Tofino-Long Beach Airport

“Through and through, this community keeps showing how compassionate they are.”

West Coast company brings virtual whale watching experience to youth with disabilities

About 40 Easter Seals BC/Yukon children, youth and adults with disabilities were… Continue reading

Visitors and non-residents entering closed Hesquiaht territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Missing teen visiting Courtenay found safe

She had last been seen going for a walk on Aug. 6

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

Fitness non-profit challenges citizens to invent a game to be physically active

The campaign was launched after a study showed only 4.8 per cent of children and youths in Canada met required standards of the 24-hour movement guidelines

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Most Read