Opposition members are calling on Canada’s ambassador to China to appear before Parliament’s foreign affairs committee to give emergency testimony as hostilities between the two countries intensify.
Four opposition members on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development issued a request late last week asking John McCallum to appear before the committee on Friday, in light of souring relations between Canada and China following the arrest of a high-level Chinese tech executive.
The committee will meet Thursday to vote on whether McCallum will be asked to appear before the committee.
He is in Ottawa this week and is expected to join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a cabinet retreat in Sherbrooke, Que., on Friday.
The request could prove awkward for the Trudeau Liberals, exposing the government to public questioning about its handling of the China file. Conservative opposition members have criticized Trudeau for downplaying the Sino-Canada dispute, and for being overly cautious in his public comments.
Liberal members of the committee, chaired by Liberal MP Michael Levitt, could use their majority to decline the request. The three Conservatives and the NDP MP on the committee support the request.
The tense atmosphere between the two countries follows Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technologies chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on Dec. 1 in Vancouver, at the request of the U.S., which wants to extradite her to face charges of fraud and violating international sanctions against Iran.
In the following weeks, China detained two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — in what appeared to be retaliation. Worsening matters, a Chinese court on Monday delivered a death sentence to a B.C. man it convicted of drug smuggling.
China’s ambassador to Canada has publicly rebuked Ottawa’s position on the matter, saying in an op-ed the Huawei arrest amounted to “white supremacy.”
In a letter to the clerk of the foreign affairs committee, the opposition committee members called for an emergency hearing to “consider the current state of Chinese-Canadian relations” and to press the Canadian envoy on “his efforts” to address the detainments of several Canadian citizens in Canada.
McCallum has met with both Kovrig and Spavor after they were denied access to legal or consular services for an extended period.