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McCallum fired as Cda's ambassador to China

The Canadian Press logoThe Canadian Press 2019-01-26
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(Provided by Global News)

OTTAWA - John McCallum has resigned as ambassador to China at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in the wake of comments he made about a Huawei executive detained in Canada.

The prime minister did not immediately issue an explanation, but the move came just hours after McCallum was quoted in a Vancouver newspaper as saying it would be "great for Canada" if the United States dropped its extradition request for Meng Wanzhou.

"From Canada's point of view, if (the U.S.) drops the extradition request, that would be great for Canada," McCallum told the StarMetro Vancouver.

Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum listens to a question following participation at the federal cabinet meeting in Sherbrooke, Que., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson © Provided by thecanadianpress.com Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum listens to a question following participation at the federal cabinet meeting in Sherbrooke, Que., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson Canada's ambassador to China, John McCallum, arrives to brief members of the Foreign Affairs committee regarding China in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. John McCallum has resigned as ambassador to China at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the wake of comments he made about a Huawei executive detained in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick © Provided by thecanadianpress.com Canada's ambassador to China, John McCallum, arrives to brief members of the Foreign Affairs committee regarding China in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. John McCallum has resigned as ambassador to China at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the wake of comments he made about a Huawei executive detained in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick That comment followed a statement McCallum issued Thursday, saying he misspoke earlier in the week when he discussed Meng's case with a group of Chinese-language journalists in Toronto, listing several arguments he thought could help her with her legal fight against extradition.

The dismissal of McCallum was too little too late for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who had called on Trudeau to fire the ambassador on the grounds that the remarks raised concerns about the politicization of the Meng case.

"It should never have come to this," Scheer tweeted Saturday. "Justin Trudeau should have fired his ambassador the moment he interfered in this case. Instead, he did nothing and allowed more damage to be done. More weakness and more indecision from Trudeau on China."

In a brief scrum in Ottawa on Saturday afternoon, Scheer accused the prime minister of damaging Canada's international reputation by failing to act sooner.

"This is, I think, part of a bigger problem. And that is Just Trudeau's approach to diplomacy, where he thought he could conduct image over substance foreign affairs. And now Canadians are paying for his mistakes," Scheer said.

Also watch: ‘We are a country of rule and law’ Trudeau on Meng extradition (Provided by Global News)

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Trudeau initially came to McCallum's defence, after the first set of controversial remarks became public but before Friday's comments. The prime minister said earlier this week that his government's focus was on getting detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor home safely from China and ensuring their rights are respected — and recalling McCallum wouldn't achieve that.

The PMO declined to comment on exactly what led to the prime minister's change of heart about McCallum's fate.

In a news release announcing the ambassador's resignation, Trudeau thanked McCallum for nearly two decades of service. He noted that McCallum served as minister of immigration and refugees between 2015 and 2017, during the height of Canada's effort to resettle Syrian refugees.

By appointing McCallum to the Beijing post in the cabinet shuffle in 2017 ,Trudeau appeared to have the right person in place to push Canada’s trade agenda with China even further.

McCallum had strong personal ties to China. His wife is of Chinese ethnicity and his three sons have Chinese spouses, something McCallum was fond of pointing out.

He also had a large Chinese constituency in his former federal riding in Markham.

In the wake of McCallum's resignation, Jim Nickel, deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Canada in Beijing, will represent the country in China as charge d'affaires effective immediately, the prime minister said.

— with files from Mike Blanchfield

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