Trudeau says Canada ‘continues to support’ Kovrig, Spavor amid deal news

Facing questions about possible deals for two Canadians imprisoned for three years in China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined to discuss specific details Thursday but said Canada “continues to support them.”

On Wednesday, after the Globe and Mail first reported that Michael Spavor had reached a settlement, Spavor’s lawyer confirmed that his client had resolved a legal matter with the Canadian government.

“I apologize, but I can only say that the matter between Mr. Spavor and the Government of Canada has been resolved,” lawyer John K. Phillips said in an email to CTV News.

The resolution of the matter comes more than two years after Michael Kovrig and Spavor were released by China, and just months after The Globe and Mail reported that Canada was ready to sign multimillion-dollar packages for both men. When asked, Trudeau did not say whether a similar agreement had been reached with Kovrig.

“I’m not going to go into these issues for confidentiality reasons. But, of course, Canada has been there to fight for the freedom of the two Michaels and we will be there as they rebuild their lives,” the prime minister said.

Late last year, citing anonymous sources, the Globe and Mail reported that Spavor was seeking a multimillion-dollar settlement, alleging that he was detained for inadvertently sharing with Kovrig sensitive information related to North Korea that was then provided to Canadian officials and allies.

The settlement has been reported to be worth up to $7 million, although CTV News has not specified or confirmed details regarding the resolution of the legal matter.

“From the beginning, we have been there to support the two Michaels who went through unimaginable hardships when they were arbitrarily detained by China,” Trudeau said Thursday during a news conference in Toronto.

“We will continue to be there to support them… recognizing that no one should have gone through that situation,” he said. “China’s decision to use them as pawns in geopolitical games was absolutely unacceptable.”

The return of the two Michaels to Canada in 2021 marked the end of a long imprisonment abroad that began in December 2018 on the basis of espionage charges that were largely seen as a retaliatory response to the arrest by Canada. of the executive of the Chinese technology giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, for an extradition request from the United States.

The men were freed the same day the U.S. Justice Department reached a deal to resolve charges against Meng and a British Columbia judge dismissed the extradition matter.

When asked to comment on Chinese state media reporting that the resolution of Spavor’s legal matter was an indication of wrongdoing, Trudeau was unequivocal in stating that there was “absolutely no justification, no reason, no excuse” for the detention of the couple.

“The fact that the Chinese government thinks that because we truly believe in supporting and caring for citizens who are going through hardship, as somehow a test to free them, simply demonstrates the extent to which China does not understand what it means to be a country of law. that takes care of its citizens.”

With files from Stephanie Ha and Charlie Buckley of CTV News

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