Canadian once detained in China says the healing process for the two Michaels begins now

Kevin Garratt was happy to see images and footage of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor reunited with their families after more than 1,000 days incarcerated in China. It was a familiar sentiment to Garratt, one that brought back what it felt like to touch Canadian soil after 775 days in prison in China after being accused of being a spy.

Garratt says the healing process begins now, and it will take some time to return mentally and physically to what was once normal.

“When you live under stress and strain during that long year, your body reacts,” said Garratt, who was in the same prison as Kovrig. He said he suffered from heart problems, appendicitis, damaged nerves and an inability to move his foot for months.

“The mental part is that you lived under this strict military regiment in prison,” he said.

Garratt said 30 percent of the time they did not receive meals and were forced to do things in a very specific way, even folding the bed. “There are many things that you have to undo, in your mind, and for the two Michaels, it will be the same, it will take time to readjust to normal life.”

Kovrig and Spavor landed in Calgary at 5:40 a.m. (7:30 a.m. EST) on Saturday morning, where they were greeted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau. They talked and hugged, shared laughter and tears before Spavor returned home to Calgary as Kovrig boarded a flight to Toronto’s Pearson Airport, where he was reunited with his wife and sister later that afternoon.

The couple’s release came hours after Huawei’s senior executive Meng Wanzhou, who had been detained by the RCMP in Vancouver almost three years ago at the request of the United States, struck a deal with US prosecutors to withdraw a extradition order allowing him to return to China. .

Garratt said that, like the Michaels, he and his wife were “pawns in a political game.”

“I didn’t find out until after I was deported that (I was incarcerated) because Canada arrested a Su Bin,” Garratt explained. Su Bin, a Chinese national, was arrested in Canada in 2014 in connection with an American investigation.

While China has denied this, Canadian officials and observers believe Garratt’s arrest was an attempt to pressure Canada to release Su.

“I remember thinking how could they harm us? How can they think we are spies, I mean we are quite open about who we are and what we do? “Garratt said that the Chinese authorities” made things up “about his photographs of tourists, accusing them of being spies from the angles in which they were taken.

Garratt remembers the first time he was told he was being deported.

“It was really a shock to me. And at first, I didn’t believe it, because there had been a lot of disappointments along the way, ”he said, reliving the moments leading up to his return to Canada in 2016.“ And even when they took me to the airport I thought it was okay, this could be a trick. of some kind or something. “

The healing process took months for Garratt and his wife, but he said they survived. sharing his story and go back to doing normal things, like having coffee with friends.

“That was the best thing for me, seeing family, hanging out with my parents, siblings, children and grandchildren. Things like that were normal for everyone, but it wasn’t normal for me for two years, ”he said.

“For the two Michaels, I think it will be the same. They might want to get back to work or something right away, but you know, I would encourage them to take some time, they need time to gain perspective and to really recover and relax. “

Danica Samuel is a Star staff reporter based in Toronto. Contact her by email: [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @danicasamuel With files from Alex McKeen

Leave a Comment