One year after arrests, Canadians held in China set to face trial

Two men have met monthly with consular officials from Canada

Canada’s justice minister says he is troubled that two Canadians detained in China have been denied access to lawyers as they face trials where convictions are virtually assured.

Neither Michael Spavor nor Michael Kovrig has seen a lawyer or family in the year since they were each arrested in what is widely seen as retribution for Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the United States.

The two men have met monthly with consular officials from Canada, which calls their detentions arbitrary as part of an ongoing push to secure their release.

On his way into this morning’s cabinet meeting — the first anniversary of the detentions — Justice Minister David Lametti says it troubles him that they haven’t had any access to legal counsel.

He says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne “have made it their top priority” to secure the two men’s freedom.

Those efforts were thrown further in doubt today when a Chinese foreign-ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing that Spavor’s and Kovrig’s cases have been handed over “for investigation and prosecution” on national security allegations.

“China’s judicial authorities handle cases in strict accordance with law and protect the two Canadian citizens’ lawful rights,” Hua Chunying said according to an English transcript posted on the ministry’s website.

ALSO READ: Kovrig clings to humour as ‘two Michaels’ near one year in Chinese prison

She said the two men “are in sound condition,” but demurred on questions about their access to lawyers.

Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat, is employed by the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization. Spavor is an entrepreneur who specialized in business in North Korea.

In the year since Canada arrested Meng at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, 2018 and China retaliated by detaining Kovrig and Spavor, relations between the two countries have soured. Aside from the arrests, China has also restricted imports of some agricultural products, including canola.

The United States wants Meng extradited to face fraud charges for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran. She remains on bail and living in a luxury Vancouver home, as her extradition hearing remains before a British Columbia court.

Conservatives in the House of Commons are pushing for support to launch a special committee of MPs to probe all aspects of the Canada-China relationship, which would also call Trudeau, Champagne and Public Safety Minister Bill Blair as witnesses.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, in a statement, said the Liberals have shown themselves to be “an unserious government unable to handle this important file,” adding that Trudeau needs to be held to account.

“While in prison, these two Canadians have been subject to near torturous conditions, including the confiscation of Mr. Kovrig’s reading glasses,” the statement said.

“During this time Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have demonstrated gross incompetence and poor judgement.”

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

UPDATE: First presumptive case of COVID-19 in Prince Rupert

Doctor says it was a visitor, Northern Health won’t confirm

Schools ramp up contact efforts with students

Efforts of school district employees called “extraordinary”

North District RCMP see massive spike in domestic calls

Connection to COVID-19 pandemic likely for reduced call volume, increased severity

Northwest mines lengthen crew rotations in response to COVID-19

Northern Health confident precautions sufficient enough to keep work camps open

Coastal GasLink gives $100K to United Way efforts in Northern B.C.

Organization’s COVID-19 Relief Fund benefits seniors in isolation, among others

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

Most Read