Politics

Kamala Harris tells Trudeau U.S. will do 'everything it can' to free two Michaels

During a phone call on Monday, U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States would do everything it can to bring Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor home from China.

During call, PM raised energy security, said Canada is a safe supplier to U.S.

U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris, shown at her swearing-in on Jan. 20 in Washington, spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday. The Prime Minister's Office noted that both are looking forward to a meeting between Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden, possibly in February. (Saul Loeb/Pool via Reuters)

U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday that the United States will do everything it can to bring Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor home from China, according to a statement from the White House.

Harris made the pledge in a conversation with Trudeau. A source familiar with the call, who was not permitted to speak publicly, told CBC News that the vice-president brought up the plight of the two Michaels without being prompted.

"The vice-president also expressed strong solidarity with Canada regarding the issue of two Canadian citizens unjustly detained by China, and she made clear that the United States would continue to do everything it can to secure their release," said a readout of the call put out by the White House.

A readout is a statement describing what was discussed during a call between world leaders. Typically both parties issue one after such calls.

Trudeau thanked Harris after the call

In the readout sent out by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Monday, Trudeau thanked Harris for the support to free the two Michaels. 

Kovrig and Spavor were detained in China on Dec. 10, 2018 — nine days after Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, was arrested by Canadian officials while she was changing planes in Vancouver.

Meng was arrested on a U.S. extradition request over allegations she lied to a Hong Kong banker in August 2013 about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The arrest and detention of Kovrig and Spavor are widely seen as an act of reprisal for Meng's arrest. Both men face charges of spying for Canada.

Monday's call — which the source said took place around noon and lasted for more than 20 minutes — covered a number of subjects, including the U.S. and Canada working together on the economic recovery, climate change and the fight against COVID-19.

The PMO said the pair also discussed the U.S.'s new "Buy American" policies that threaten to cut Canadian firms out of the bidding for U.S. government contracts and the need to work together on racial and gender equality issues.

The readout from the PMO also noted that both Harris and Trudeau were looking forward to a meeting between the prime minister and U.S. President Joe Biden.

The source said no specific date had been set for the meeting but suggested it could be in February. It wasn't clear whether such a meeting would take place virtually or in person.

Pair discussed energy security, access to vaccines

In the wake of Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. support for the Keystone XL pipeline, the PMO said the pair discussed North American energy security.

The source said Trudeau raised the subject, making the case that Canada provides a safe supply of energy to the U.S.

The pair also discussed ways the two countries could work together to combat COVID-19.

"The prime minister looked forward to working with the U.S. administration on shared priorities, including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic through close collaboration on borders and access to vaccines," the PMO said in the statement.

The source said the pair discussed the "interconnected" nature of the two countries' medical systems with shared supply chains, as well as the Canadian doctors and nurses who cross the border in Michigan to work in U.S. hospitals every day.

Trudeau also offered to share Canada's COVID-19 Alert app with the U.S., and Harris expressed interest in the idea and wanted to follow up, the source said.

The source said the call was less about Trudeau trying to deliver a message and was more about discussing the areas where Canada and the U.S. can work together on a wide range of issues.

About the Author

Peter Zimonjic

Senior Writer

Peter Zimonjic has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the Author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.

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