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

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

North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh. (File photo)
North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

But cell tower policy may be developed soon

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks at a press conference Monday, April 18. (B.C. Government image)
New COVID-19 cases tick down on the central Island

New cases held to single digits three days in a row

CVRD offices on Ingram Street will remain closed for another 14 weeks after flooding last month. (File photo)
CVRD headquarters closed for another three and a half months

Building significantly damaged during water leak

Victoria police are asking for help locating high-risk missing man Derek Whittaker, last seen in Victoria April 12. (Courtesy of VicPD)
MISSING: Police searching for Derek Whittaker, last seen in Victoria

Whittaker believed to be driving 1994 red Volkswagen Golf

The IIO is investigating after a police dog bit a man during a traffic stop near Ladysmith on April 17, 2021. (Black Press Media stock photo)
IIO investigating after police dog bites man near Ladysmith

RCMP dog bit man during traffic stop on Friday, April 17

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

FILE – Health-care workers wave to people clapping and yelling thank you to the frontline workers during the 7 p.m.-tribute outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. nurses issue plea for all to follow health orders as hospitalizations spike

Nurses worried about strain COVID-19 is having on hospital capacity, care

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Lawsuit filed last summer accused Barney Williams of verbal abuse

Former B.C. premier Christy Clark. (Black Press Media files)
Former B.C. premier to testify at money laundering hearing today

Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

Most Read