On China, Trudeau has Canadians in his corner

On China, Trudeau has Canadians in his corner

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

Almost 50 years ago, Pierre Trudeau was faced with a dreadful choice over what to do about the politically motivated kidnapping of innocent civilians. There would be no rolling over, no capitulation in order to secure the release of James Cross and Pierre Laporte, taken by FLQ terrorists during the October crisis of 1970. Laporte would pay with his life, but whatever the then-prime minister may have experienced in his heart, he kept a stony resolve.

Today his son, also a prime minister, must look deep down the abyss of a parallel decision.

Let me be clear: the Beijing regime is not a terrorist group that has kidnapped Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. It is a sovereign nation. But to the families and supporters of the two Canadian men detained for more than a year and only recently charged with espionage, the Chinese government’s actions have inflicted no less terror.

Michael Kovrig’s family publicly and movingly shared their pain in recent days. Adding to the pressure on Justin Trudeau’s government was a letter signed by an impressive group of his own Liberal party’s past stalwarts calling on the prime minister to act swiftly to end the Michaels’ suffering and bring them home. This can be done, they reasoned, by intervening directly in the extradition case of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive whose arrest here in December 2018 at the request of the United States set off this chain of events.

Trudeau, in turn, has pushed back hard. There will be no swap of Meng for the Michaels. Publicly, he says this is because of the message it would send to other countries hostile to Canada about effectively kidnapping our citizens. More privately, Trudeau is also preoccupied with the erratic and capricious reaction of U.S. President Donald Trump that such a swap would bring.

Trudeau has called this a “terrible and trying” situation. Not only for Spavor, Kovrig and their families, but also for the policymakers standing firm, knowing their decisions are having real, and awful impacts on those directly involved. The burden is staggering.

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.