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

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

Mabel Todd, 83, of the Nak’azdli First Nation, leads a group of family members and advocates of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls as they walk along the so-called Highway of Tears in Moricetown, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Province, feds fund full cell service along ‘Highway of Tears’ following years of advocacy

A ‘critical milestone in helping prevent future tragedies’ after at least 10 Indigenous women murdered, missing along the route

Erin O’Toole, Conservative Party of Canada leader, answered questions during a Terrace District Chamber of Commerce event on April 6, 2021. (Screenshot/Terrace District Chamber of Commerce Facebook)
Erin O’Toole discusses Terrace issues during virtual event

Federal Conservative leader answered questions during a Terrace & District Chamber of Commerce event

Easter is on Sunday, April 4, 2021. How much do you know about Easter history and traditions? (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz about Easter and its traditions

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read