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PM dismisses calls to fire envoy to China, says focus is on detained Canadians

Last Updated Jan 24, 2019 at 12:00 pm PDT

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the crowd as he attends Fundy Royal MP Alaina Lockhart's nomination event in Quispamsis, N.B., on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is dismissing calls to remove Canada’s ambassador to China from his post, saying such a change wouldn’t help two Canadians detained by Chinese authorities get home any sooner.

Meeting with reporters in New Brunswick on Thursday, Trudeau was asked if he intended to recall or sanction his envoy to Beijing, John McCallum, for opining on how a Huawei executive being held in Canada might avoid extradition to the United States.

Trudeau says his government’s focus is entirely on getting detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor home safely from China and making sure all their rights are respected.

“Making a change would not help release those Canadians a day sooner,” he said.

Related video: Justin Trudeau dismisses calls to fire John McCallum

McCallum’s candid comments this week about the case of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou has raised eyebrows and fuelled speculation they were a political ploy to end Ottawa’s deepening diplomatic crisis with China.

In a Toronto-area news conference with Chinese-language journalists, McCallum said he thought Meng has strong legal arguments that could help her avoid extradition and then he listed several possibilities.

The prime minister was quick to distance himself from this comments, saying the rule of law and independence of our justice system will be respected.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has called on Trudeau to fire McCallum for the remarks, which he says raise grave concerns about the politicization of the Meng case.