Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a virtual bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Evan Vucci

Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a virtual bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Evan Vucci

Trudeau, Blinken tight-lipped on plight of Canadians languishing behind bars in China

The U.S. Secretary of State met virtually with Canada’s Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister

Neither Canada’s prime minister nor the U.S. secretary of state were showing their diplomatic cards Friday as the two countries discussed the plight of two Canadians languishing behind bars in China.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met virtually with Canadian officials including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau as part of the Biden administration’s post-Trump charm offensive.

The U.S. has a “significant role” to play in helping secure the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, said Trudeau, although he refused to elaborate on the details.

“These are processes that are ongoing,” the prime minister told a news conference earlier in the day.

“The United States is taking their role in this very seriously and we look forward to working with them on bringing the two Michaels home as soon as possible.”

Blinken, too, stayed in his diplomatic lane, expressing earnest American harmony with Canada and cheering a multilateral effort to denounce the practice of taking political prisoners.

“We stand in absolute solidarity with Canada in insisting on their immediate and unconditional release,” Blinken said before lavishing praise on the new Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention.

The declaration, a project initiated by former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne, is from a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals.

Its purpose “is to bring countries together to stand against the arbitrary detention of individuals for political purposes, a practice that we see in a number of countries, including China,” Blinken said.

“I think and I hope that this can grow into something that establishes a new international norm against arbitrary detentions.”

Spavor and Kovrig — the “two Michaels” — were swept up after the RCMP’s arrest in December 2018 of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei.

Blinken demurred on the question of whether the U.S. is considering a so-called deferred prosecution agreement — a form of plea deal that could allow Meng to return to China in return for an admission of wrongdoing.

“There are legal questions that are appropriately the province of our Department of Justice,” he said. “They follow the law, they follow the facts and I refer you to them for anything on the legal aspects of this.”

Earlier this week, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed that prosecutors were continuing to seek Meng’s extradition to the U.S., where she is facing fraud charges.

Friday’s meetings, billed as a “virtual visit” — no jet lag, but no frequent-flyer miles either, Blinken joked — follow Trudeau’s own virtual summit this week with President Joe Biden, which produced a “road map” for collaboration on issues like climate change, the economy and COVID-19.

“It’s hard to think of two countries whose destinies are more connected, more intertwined than ours,” Blinken told Garneau as their meeting got underway.

“We know that every single day, the work that we’re doing, and more importantly the deep ties between our people — in virtually every aspect of our societies — are benefiting both countries.”

Garneau returned the compliment, adding that Canada can be more to the U.S. than just a friendly ally.

“I want you to know that you can count on Canada to be by your side,” he said. “And I think that you’ll find that we can be surprisingly helpful to you, while advancing our own objectives.”

That could easily be seen as an oblique reference to Buy American, Biden’s suite of protectionist measures aimed at ensuring that U.S. contractors, suppliers and workers are the primary beneficiaries of American infrastructure projects and federal contract work.

Canadian businesses, employees and contractors depend on that work too, however, and the federal government is pressing hard to ensure that they don’t get shut out of what will surely be a big-budget effort to resurrect the U.S. economy.

On that score, Blinken seemed to suggest that Garneau’s message got through — particularly on the issue of fortifying North American supply chains.

“There’s a lot of opportunity there between the United States and Canada that we intend to pursue,” he said.

“My sense, from the conversations between the two governments, is that there is ample opportunity for us to work together and find ways to benefit each other.”

Efforts to restore ties between the two countries after extensive fraying during the Trump era have been going on all week, albeit virtually.

Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson spoke Wednesday with John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy on climate, to shore up plans for more stringent emissions-reduction targets in advance of a climate summit in April.

And Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra have committed to tougher vehicle pollution standards, and collaborating on new standards for aircraft and ships.

Justin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Quesnel resident receives a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. (Photo credit: Cassidy Dankochik/Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
IH says COVID-19 vaccines safe despite claims of Lytton physician

Doctor makes unsubstantiated claims about serious side effects of Moderna vaccine

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
211 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

Currently, there are 875 active cases of the virus in the region

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. As of April 19, more than 230,000 doses have been administered across the Interior Health region. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
More than 230K doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered across Interior Health

A total of 220,216 first doses and 13,775 second doses have been given to residents across the B.C. Interior

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood, this includes protecting one’s home by moving equipment and other assets from these areas to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-normal spring flood season

High-streamflow advisory issued for the Cariboo Region and areas including Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

(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

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Large police presence at Kamloops mall following alleged armed robbery

Police were called to a business near the mall about 12:45 p.m.

Most Read