Trudeau links global campaign on arbitrary detention declaration to China

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada cited an international statement denouncing government sponsored arbitrary detentions for China’s decision to detain Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada cited an international statement denouncing government sponsored arbitrary detentions for China’s decision to detain Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.

Trudeau first made the connection on Friday during an appearance in the federal election campaign in Windsor, Ontario.

When the federal government announced in February that it had formed a coalition of dozens of countries denouncing the practice, it downplayed any context that it was specifically targeting China, which is angry with the statement.

Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said at the time that the declaration was “country agnostic” and intended as a broad indictment of coercive practices in numerous countries, including Russia, Iran and North Korea.

When asked about Canada’s expulsion from a new US-Australian-British alliance to exchange intelligence in the Indo-Pacific region, however, Trudeau revealed a number of other Canadian geopolitical alliances on Friday, including his historic role in NATO and his relatively recent efforts to get around Call for state sponsored arbitrary detention.

“We continue to be a strong advocate of multilateralism, even when it comes to pushing things like the international arbitrary detention agreement, which apparently emerges from the arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, but which affects all countries around the world.” said Trudeau.

While the government routinely branded the Chinese arrests of Kovrig and Spavor as arbitrary and called for their release, it went to great lengths not to portray the new arbitrary detention initiative as something directed directly against China.

China has accused the two men of being spies, a claim that has been rejected by Canada and its allies. The arrests are widely viewed in retaliation for the RCMP’s arrest of Chinese high-tech executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 following a US extradition request.

The new declaration emerged from a year of international diplomacy behind the scenes in 2020 and was led by Garneau’s predecessor as Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. More than 60 countries have since joined the new pact, which has no mechanism to force the offending countries to abide by it.

China has sharply criticized all of Canada’s attempts to build an international coalition to press for the release of Kovrig and Spavor. And it dismissed the Arbitrary Detention Declaration as essentially toothless and without the support of the majority of countries.

The unexpected new alliance announced earlier this week between the US, UK and Australia, known as AUKUS, is raising questions internationally as well as in Canada and the US

It became a campaign issue when Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh Trudeau criticized Canada’s absence from the new pact.

Trudeau shrugged off criticism, saying Canada continues to be a member of the Five Eyes Information Exchange Alliance, which includes the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand.

He also said that the new AUKUS alliance is about bolstering Australia’s navy against Chinese ambitions in the region by providing access to American nuclear submarine technology.

“Canada wasn’t in the nuclear submarine market, so we weren’t involved in that particular deal,” Trudeau said Friday.

David Perry, vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the AUKUS alliance also includes closer information sharing and deeper defense industry collaboration and advanced research and development.

“I think there is clearly more to this than just subs, and doing it that way is missing out on an important development,” he said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 17, 2021.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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