The Current

Trudeau's refusal to call Chinese president is 'ridiculous,' says MP Erin O'Toole

If the diplomatic row with China is escalating, has Canada's response has been too soft? MP Erin O'Toole thinks the prime minister should be doing more.

String of arrests are 'very unique and very concerning,' says O'Toole

Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China September 4, 2016. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's should personally contact the Chinese president to intervene about Canadians detained in China, according to Conservative federal MP Erin O'Toole.

"I found his comments very curious," O'Toole told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"That he has to hold back a personal call from him to President Xi, because, you know, he will run out of options beyond that, or something — that's ridiculous," he said.

Details emerged Wednesday that a third Canadian, Albertan Sarah McIver, was detained in China over problems with her visa. Chinese officials announced she has now been sentenced to administrative punishment for illegal employment.

Two other Canadians — former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor — were arrested in Beiing in recent weeks.  O'Toole described those incidents as "retaliatory," following the detention of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, in Vancouver on Dec. 1.

But speaking Wednesday, Trudeau said that McIver's detention was not related to national security, and intervening could escalate matters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters Wednesday in his year end interview 1:23

"Sometimes, politicizing or amplifying the level of public discourse on this may be satisfying in the short term, but would not contribute to the outcome we all want, which is for Canadians to be safe and secure," he said.

O'Toole disagreed, arguing that "this could be a worrying trend and the prime minister needs to personally intervene, leader-to-leader to show how seriously Canada takes it."

O'Toole alerted Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland's office to the latest detention Tuesday, after her family contacted their MP, who passed on the information.

The Current requested an interview with Freeland, but she was not available. We also requested an interview with the Chinese ambassador to Canada, but did not hear back.

This third detention raises concerns, O'Toole said.

"Has China now changed to re-examining existing visas, and playing, sort of, games on [an] administrative level?" O'Toole asked.

There are thousands of Canadians travelling and working in China, he added.

"I think holding back, claiming this is like a consular case of Canadians running into trouble abroad is not accurate," he said.

"This is very unique and very concerning."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Kristin Nelson and Julie Crysler.

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