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

Rent-It Centre takes over curbside collection contract in Tofino and Ucluelet

Rent It Centre’s bid was $25,865 lower than the only other bidder, SonBird Refuse and Recycling.

Tofino’s first cannabis dispensary opens

“I don’t know where it’s going, but happy how it’s gone so far.”

Tofino welcomes much needed veterinarian to town

West Coast has not had a full-time vet since Dr. Jane Hunt surrendered her licence in 2004.

Looking back on the West Coast’s top 10 news stories

Tofino and Ucluelet’s top headlines of 2019.

Regional district looks at plans for Alberni Valley and West Coast landfills

Current plans were created in 2012 and require updating

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

BC Ferries hybrid ships arrive in Victoria on Saturday

The battery-operated vessels will take over smaller routes

Theft victim confronts suspects with baseball bat on Vancouver Island

RCMP in Nanaimo seek to identify of two people alleged to have used a stolen credit card

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

VIDEO: Ucluelet kids relish snow day on Vancouver Island

“We only get a snow day once a year, maybe.”

Clerk bruised, traumatized after armed robbery at Nanaimo liquor store

Few details on male suspect in Wednesday incident, says Nanaimo RCMP

Most Read