China, Michael Spavor and Robert Schellenberg

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Calgarian Michael Spavor found guilty, sentenced to 11 years on espionage chargesCTV

Bill MacfarlaneCTV News Calgary Video JournalistCALGARY — A Chinese court sentenced Calgarian Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison late Tuesday night.

The news was announced shortly before 9 p.m. Calgary time.

At a press conference, Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to China, added that the sentence was ‘”11 years with deportation”, although it remained unclear what was meant by that.

“That deportation phrase is noted,” Barton said.

He said he spoke to Spavor, who had three messages for friends and family in Canada.

“Thank you for all your support,” Barton said. “I am in good spirits and I want to get home.”

Although there did not appear to be any evidence to support the charges, the outcome was almost certain, according to some.

“We know in China that for high profile cases, it’s the Communist Party that dictates the rulings,” said Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian diplomat.

“They are trumped-up charges for which there’s absolutely, absolutely no basis in law,” said Justice Minister David Lametti.

Spavor has been in custody since December 2018 in apparent retaliation for Canada’s arrest of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition warrant to the United States.

He has 10 days in which to appeal the sentence.


Spavor grew up in Calgary and graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in international relations.

He went to teach overseas in Korea where he fell in love with the people and culture, eventually becoming fluent.

He first visited North Korea in 2001, returning several times, including to live for six months. He is one of the few westerners to have met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Despite his remarkable life overseas, his friends say he always kept in touch and was interested in their lives at home.

“In the mid-90s we just started hanging out together and we’ve stayed friends ever since,” recalls friend Matt Burgener.

Burgener says he received a text days before Spavor was to return home to Calgary, making plans to see music together. That meeting never happened.

“He’s just a regular guy who had an incredible skill with languages and it took him into some unique corners,” he said.


The Spavor family issued the following statement after learning of the verdict and sentence.

We have been informed that the court in Dandong, China has come to a verdict and sentence in the case against Michael.

While we disagree with the charges, we realize that this is the next step in the process to bring Michael home and we will continue to support him through this challenging time.

Michael’s life passion has been to bring different cultures together through tourism and events shared between the Korean peninsula and other countries including China and Canada. This situation has not dampened, but strengthened his passion.

Once again we thank the Government of Canada for its tireless advocacy for the release of Michael, and are endlessly grateful for the support, thoughts and prayers of our friends and allies around the world.


Former diplomat Micheal Kovrig’s trial on similar charges is set to begin Monday.

A third Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, had his death sentence affirmed by China earlier this week for drug trafficking. He had earlier been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“The Chinese end game, it’s free Meng Wanzhou, full stop, and they will bring all pressure they can,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

Meng’s extradition hearing could be decided this week. The United States issued a warrant for her arrest on fraud charges related to the sale of equipment to Iran despite sanctions prohibiting the transaction.

Chinese shadows over the election campaign


(Ottawa) On September 4, there will be only a few weeks left before Canadians go to the polls.

On September 4, it will also be 1000 days that former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and his compatriot Michael Spavor, entrepreneur, are detained in China. Accused of espionage by Beijing, they have been languishing in prison since the Canadian authorities arrested, at the request of the United States, in December 2018 in Vancouver, the financial director of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou.

The United States demanded the extradition of M me  Meng because she lied about Huawei control over another company that was brewing business in Iran, in violation of US sanctions against Tehran.

In general, foreign affairs are seldom a dominant issue during an election campaign. But the case of the two Michael’s, which is raising outrage and concern across the country, may well be the exception that proves this rule. The pressure on the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau to obtain their release is increasing, especially since the Chinese government sentenced, in an “unfair” and “unacceptable” manner, Michael Spavor to 11 years in prison on Wednesday.

The Chinese Communist regime has demonstrated time and again in the past that it knows how to choose the strategic moment to impose trade sanctions against a country that irritates it or to announce prison terms against foreign nationals detained in China.

He demonstrated it in 2019 when Beijing imposed restrictions on Canadian pork and canola exports just months before the federal election. China has done it again this week by announcing the sentence imposed on Michael Spavor after a mock trial, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares to call an election, and as the hearings on the Ms.  Meng’s extradition to Vancouver is drawing to a close.

Raise the tone, without offending

So far, the pressure tactics exerted by Canada through diplomatic channels have not had any tangible effect. Earlier this year, Foreign Minister Marc Garneau managed to rally around 60 nations to the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, including the United States, France and the United States. ‘Australia. This initiative targeted China without naming it. The Communist regime expressed its irritation, but that did not change the fate of the two Michael’s.

In April, Canada followed suit with its American and European allies by imposing a series of economic sanctions against four officials and a Chinese entity for “their participation in the persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.” . The gesture was denounced by the Chinese regime, but the sanctions did not change the tone.

Also in April, Canada’s Ambassador to China Dominic Barton quietly visited Washington to convince the Biden administration to agree to a deferred prosecution agreement that would allow Ms.  Meng to return to China in exchange for ‘an acknowledgment of guilt. According to The Globe and Mail , the Canadian Ambassador to Washington, Kirsten Hillman, participated in these talks which were to lead to the departure of Ms.  Meng from Canada in exchange for the release of the two Michael.

Asked about this on Wednesday, the head of Canadian diplomacy, Marc Garneau, refused to give details, simply saying that the two ambassadors were continuing their efforts to obtain the return to the country of the two Canadians.

Since coming to power, the Trudeau government has gradually raised its tone towards China. But he also multiplied the contortions to avoid offending the Chinese regime too much. Examples ? He still has not decided whether he will allow the Chinese giant Huawei to participate in the deployment of 5G technology in Canada, even if its main allies have ruled out for security reasons a long time ago. This decision has dragged on for three years.

In February, Justin Trudeau and his ministers also abstained from voting on a Conservative Party motion, passed unanimously by the Commons, which recognizes that “genocide” is currently being perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against Uyghurs and “other Turkic Muslims”.

The Olympic Games, an “incredible lever of pressure”

In the opinion of several observers of Canadian diplomacy, the Trudeau government must now be intractable towards China. This is the case of Colin Robertson, who worked at the Canadian consulates in New York and Los Angeles and who is now vice-president of the Canadian Institute of Global Affairs. “Canada must adopt sanctions that have more bite,” he said Wednesday on CBC Newsworld.

In this context, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, the Bloc Québécois Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, returns to the charge with his proposal formulated in an open letter at the beginning of the year. According to him, it is absolutely necessary to move the Winter Olympics planned in China in early 2022 to another country, or even suspend them until further notice.

In February, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe’s letter on “the Games of Shame” caused a stir. It was signed by some thirty elected representatives from Canada and Quebec. It has been endorsed by Olympic medalist Jean-Luc Brassard, the Advisory Center for Israeli Jewish Relations, and the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, among others. It also had echoes abroad.

“What we have just seen in the last two days are additions to the violation of human rights yet again by this regime which is completely tyrannical. This regime violates human rights all day long, ”the Bloc member said on Wednesday.

“I still believe in relocating the Olympics. They tell me I’m crazy because it’s six months from now. But as far as I know, the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed for a year due to a pandemic. We could push them back as long as China continues to violate human rights. We could very well relocate them in a year if the situation does not change, ”he added.

His letter itself followed a call by some 180 human rights groups to boycott the Beijing Games, which are scheduled to begin on February 4, 2022.

At the end of the line, Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe gets carried away thinking that China could be the host of this grandiose sporting event.

Why were we able to delay the Tokyo Olympics for a year because of a pandemic? Is genocide less serious than a pandemic?

Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe, Member of the Bloc Québécois

“Economic sanctions, we can see that this does not stop the Chinese regime. What would hurt them the most is their international image. And the Olympic Games, it’s not only to nurture their international image, but it’s also a way of controlling the population even more by saying: “See, everything is fine. People come to party with us. ” It’s an incredible leverage that we have. “

A hard-line supporter of China, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has already argued that the Olympics should not be held in Beijing.

“It would violate fundamental ethical principles to participate in the Olympic Games organized by a country which commits genocide against part of its population,” he said in February.

As the election campaign approaches, will Justin Trudeau’s Liberals dare to make the same emergency appeal to the International Olympic Committee?