Today is Canada Day. It’s our northern neighbors’ version of the Fourth of July, where they celebrate the official creation of their country. Happy times are had by all and patriotism runs strong.
An exception may be made this year for the families of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. They are the two Canadians still being held by China in what was widely seen as a retaliation against the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
They are not the only Canadians who were arrested or otherwise targeted by China in response to the Meng detention. Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, most notably, was already serving a fifteen year sentence in Chinese prison; after the Huawei arrest, he was resentenced, this time with the death penalty. Kovrig and Spavor, however, have received heightened attention because of their work for the Canadian government as diplomatic agents.
At the G20 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke about the detained men during a face-to-face discussion with Chinese President Xi, according to the South China Morning Post. They report that the meeting was stilted, indicating that the fairly amicable relationship between the countries which existed prior to the Meng arrest remains damaged.
What is not being reported is the occurrence of any discussion between President Trump and President Xi, either during group or individual sessions. There is no indication any such overture was made by Trump.
This is not simply a failure of foreign policy and a demonstration of American weakness, as was Trump’s similar refusal to bring up the Hong Kong protests to Xi or his capitulation on selling products to Huawei in exchange for China’s promise to resume trade talks. This was a direct betrayal of our alliance with Canada.
It is a betrayal because Trudeau had specifically and publicly requested that Trump bring up the matter of the detained Canadians during his meeting with Xi, on Thursday. President Trump knew of the importance of the issue for Trudeau, as he mentioned his readiness to raise the issue shortly before he met with the Canadian Prime Minister, not afterward.
Meng was arrested by Canada at the specific request of the United States, in response to charges made by the American government. They were acting as our ally, treating our interests as their own. Allowing them to suffer consequences without making any effort to abate them is a diplomatic blunder and moral failure, and will be seen as such by the rest of the world.
We did not even respond to Jair Bolsonaro’s apparent snub of Trudeau, despite Canadian alliances and Bolsonaro’s efforts to reach out to Trump – an outreach which has included Republican politicians like Ted Cruz acting as personal guides for the Brazilian leader.
This was an opportunity to demonstrate the solidity and worth of U.S. alliances, and pressure potentially redeemable strongmen like Bolsonaro into better toward meriting such an alliance. Instead it was a litany of failure and backstabbing.
Oh, Canada… on behalf of my country, I apologize.