According to Parliamentary Secretary Marco Mendicino, former Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum’s comments about Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case were “unhelpful” to the government’s goal of securing the release of Canadian citizens detained in China.
“I know John McCallum and most who’ve had the chance to work with him, I hold him in high regard,” Mendicino said. “Over the last several days he made a number of comments which were unhelpful and obviously did not reflect the government’s position as it relates to Ms. Meng’s extradition.”
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Mendicino made these statements during an appearance on Global News’ political show, The West Block, in conversation with Michael Le Couteur.
Mendicino explained that McCallum’s comments don’t reflect the government’s approach to the situation, which he stressed is rooted in “accordance with the rule of law.”
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“There’s a lot of work that gets done by our foreign service and by our government that is behind the scenes that work is done responsibly and is in accordance with the rule of law.”
McCallum was fired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday night after making several comments suggesting that detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou had a case to avoid extradition to the United States.
McCallum was quoted in StarMetro Vancouver saying it would be “great for Canada” if the United States dropped its extradition request for Meng Wanzhou.
He told the Vancouver paper on Friday that if the U.S. and China reach an agreement on Meng’s case, the deal should include the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians currently detained in China for what many analysts say is revenge for the detention of Meng.
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“We have to make sure that if the U.S. does such a deal, it also includes the release of our two people. And the U.S. is highly aware of that,” McCallum told the Star.
This comment followed statements he made earlier this week to a Chinese-language Toronto paper, citing several arguments Meng could use to avoid extradition. He later issued a statement saying he “misspoke” in the interview.
While Trudeau stood by his minister at first, Trudeau’s government has spent months emphasizing to other nations that Canada’s respect for the rule of law left him no choice but to detain Meng, and that the extradition process was not political.
Mendicino stressed that the main priority of the Canadian government is to retrieve the Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, currently under arrest in China, through diplomatic channels.
“We must continue to engage diplomatically and that’s how we’re going to secure the release of these two Canadians.”
McCallum is an experienced cabinet minister, who’s biggest achievement was in the immigration portfolio in delivering on Trudeau’s promise to bring tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into Canada.
WATCH: McCallum admits he “misspoke” on Meng Wanzhou extradition case
In addition, McCallum also has strong personal ties to China, as his wife has Chinese ethnicity and his three sons have Chinese spouses. His former federal riding in Markham Ont. also has a large Chinese population.
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.