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Ambassador: Not time for PM to step in, despite tensions escalating between Canada, China

Last Updated Jan 18, 2019 at 10:46 am PDT

FILE PHOTO: John McCallum, Canada’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, appears as a witness at a House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in Ottawa in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Summary

Canada's ambassador to China says now is not the time for Trudeau to step in, despite escalating tensions

Ambassador John McCallum says Trudeau stepping in is 'last arrow in our quiver' amid China-Canada dispute

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – Despite an escalating diplomatic dispute between Ottawa and Beijing over recent arrests, Canada’s ambassador to China says it’s not time for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet with President Xi Jinping.

This comes after Ambassador John McCallum held a closed door meeting to privately brief the federal foreign affairs committee on ongoing tensions.

With two Canadians in detention and another on on death row in China, there have been growing questions about why Trudeau hasn’t personally called China’s leader to demand the country reverse course.

McCallum says now is not the right time for that kind of intervention.

“Essentially the last arrow in our quiver, and I think other actions have to be taken first,” he said.

However, Conservative Critic Erin O’Toole says he wants to see leadership, and claims the prime minister only wants to step in when it looks good.

“He wants to wait until everything’s solved, and he can come in for a photo-op,” O’Toole added.

Since the Friday meeting was in-camera, the discussion cannot be made public, but O’Toole claims he got no real answers from the ambassador and doesn’t believe the government has a plan.

Reaching out to business leaders to put pressure on China

Meantime, the Trudeau government says it’s eyeing Chinese corporations as a way to end the escalating dispute.

With McCallum’s top priority being to secure the release of the Canadians in detention, he says he’s now reaching out to business leaders to help put pressure on the Chinese government.

“It’s not in the interest of corporate China if when they run into trouble internationally if the Chinese government arrests people to use as bargaining chips.”

His comments come as the federal government says that its decision on whether or not to ban Huawei from participating in Canada’s 5G network won’t be swayed by threats of retaliation.

Huawei, of course, is at the centre of Canada’s diplomatic dispute with China, after the company’s CFO was arrested in Vancouver at the request of American authorities in December.

The detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, as well as the death sentence for Robert Schellenberg for drug smuggling, followed.