The Canadian government of liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been in rough waters with multiple authoritarian regimes in the past few years. For example, multiple countries have been on the receiving end of Chrystia Freeland, the current Deputy Prime Minister, and her quest for equal justice for all. Most notably was her spat in 2018 with Saudi Arabia, after she sent out a tweet criticizing the Saudi’s handling of civil rights activists. Canadian business suffered as a consequence in the following months and the liberals saw a drop in support (partly because of this) in the polls as well.
Last year, Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of a US extradition order. For a long time there was almost no communication on a government level about this case as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained that he wanted to let the judiciary do their work. He furthermore understood that risking a spat with China over this US request would jeopardize Canadian business deals once again.
It was therefore surprising to see that Canadian public opinion now seems to have shifted Mr Trudeau in accepting that he has no choice but to join the global chorus of criticizing the Beijing government.
The Canadian PM expressed clear frustration at China’s detainment of Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, which they seem to hold as a bargaining chip in exchange for the possible release of Ms Wanzhou.
“Canada has an independent judicial system that functions without interference or override by politicians,” Mr. Trudeau said.
“It is one of the things that is deeply dear to Canadians in our system: to keep it strong and assure the division of powers within our democracy.”
“China doesn’t work quite the same way and [doesn’t] seem to understand that we do have an independent judiciary [free] from political intervention. We will continue to … uphold the independence of our judicial system while we advocate for the release of the two Michaels who have been arbitrarily detained by China in retaliation for a judicial system that is independent in the way it functions.”
Mr Trudeau’s shift in opinion comes two weeks after Canadian mining company TMAC Resources announced they had accepted a deal to be acquired by the Shandong Gold Mining Company.
It is all the more remarkable that Mr Trudeau’s shift also coincides with a worsening of Canadian views on the Beijing communist government and it’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, as a 13 May poll showed that more than four-in-five (85%) Canadians say the Chinese government has not been honest about what has happened in its own country.