Joe Biden shows solidarity in virtual talks with Justin Trudeau, asks China to release 2 detained Canadians
The president, who recently faced criticism in Canada for canceling the Keystone project, said the US and Canada will work together till the two men are returned safely
Things haven’t looked the best between the US and Canada in recent years. Even after Joe Biden took over as the president, tensions prevailed, particularly over the new administration’s scrapping of the Keystone XL pipeline project. But when Biden met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over a virtual meeting on Tuesday, February 23, they chose to take a unified approach on issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and China and Biden even went to the extent of asking Beijing to release two Canadian citizens that it has detained.
In an effort to win Canada’s trust, Biden warned China on behalf of the northern neighbor and said he would work together with Trudeau till the detained Canadians are given a safe return. Addressing reporters as well as Trudeau through a video screen in the White House’s East Room, the Democrat said: “Human beings are not bartering chips. You know, we're going to work together until we get their safe return.”
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The two Canadians -- Michael Kovrig and Michale Spavor -- were detained by China in December 2018 and charged with spying last year. They were arrested just days after Meng Wanzhou -- a top financial executive of Chinese telecom company Huawei -- was detained in Vancouver at the US’s request. Canada slammed the move as “arbitrary” while China denied that the arrests of the two Canadian nationals took place in retaliation for Meng’s detention.
The Free Michael Spavor website said Spavor was “behind bars, without his family and without access to lawyers”. “Michael is an earnest, genuine, and impossibly fun person, who we believe has been detained in error,” the site, updated last year, said.
In April 2019, The Globe and Mail, Canada, reported that both Kovrig and Spavor were being quizzed between six and eight hours a day and even put under 24-hour lighting. Beijing though said the two individuals were in “good health”, BBC reported.
Trudeau, who came under political pressure at home over Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone project, thanked the president over his gesture. “I would like to thank President Biden for his support for the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from arbitrary detention in China,” the 49-year-old Canadian premier said.
The meeting was described as Biden’s first bilateral with a world leader and it was held virtually in the wake of the pandemic which has killed more than 500,000 people in the US alone.
Reiterating the US’s friendship with Canada, Biden said: “The United States has no closer and no more important friend than Canada.” At the end of the meeting, Biden called the pandemic an “immediate priority” and vowed that the two neighbors would work together to better the supply chain. The Canadian prime minister expressed hope that the cooperation would benefit “the people hardest hit”.
US, Canada to take on climate change
Biden also said both the US and Canada “agreed to double down” on climate change and Trudeau said earlier in the meeting that Canada was “really excited” to be working with the US on climate change. Biden decided to take the US back into the Paris climate agreement after former president Donald Trump had pulled it out months after taking over office in January 2017. The relations between the US and Canada soured in times of Trump and Trudeau’s remarks that the “US leadership has been sorely missed over the past years” made it evident.
While Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken joined Biden on the occasion, Trudeau in Ottawa was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneu.