In a year-end interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Trudeau was asked about the continued detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor by China, whose fates Chinese officials have repeatedly linked to that of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.
The full interview will air on Christmas Day.
“Do you think there will be good news for their families before the New Year?” Stephenson asked.
“I certainly hope so,” Trudeau said.
“We have been working from the very beginning on this. This will be their third Christmas in arbitrary detention in China. What their families have gone through is just horrific, what they’ve gone through with an amazing amount of resilience.”
“They are just an inspiration to me … we’re doing everything we can, both directly with China and with allies.”
Canadian authorities detained Meng in December 2018 at the behest of American counterparts, who shortly afterwards charged Meng and her company with dozens of counts related to allegations of skirting sanctions on Iran and stealing corporate secrets.
Several days after the arrest of Meng, China seized Kovrig and Spavor on widely condemned accusations of endangering national security.
U.S. President Donald Trump previously suggested he would consider asking for charges against Meng to be dropped if China caved to his demands in a trade war that has been playing out over his four years in office, set to end next month.
The coming inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden has raised questions about whether the approach to prosecuting Huawei and Meng could shift.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 4 that Department of Justice officials were discussing offering Meng a deferred prosecution agreement that would require her to admit wrongdoing in exchange for being allowed to return to China.
Trudeau has so far kept mum on that report.
While the incoming Biden administration is expected to maintain a tough stance on China given broad bipartisan support among lawmakers for a harder approach, the question of what his inauguration will mean for the two Michaels has been largely unclear.
Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said in an interview with The West Block last month that a “coordinated” approach will likely be a key focus for Biden in dealing with China.
That emphasis on international coordination is also expected to shape Biden’s response to another key threat: climate change.
Biden has made tackling climate change a core plank of his policy agenda, but has specifically taken aim at the Keystone XL pipeline and what he describes as the “tar sands.”
He has vowed to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline once in office, which Coons acknowledged will likely be a thorny issue in the Canada-U.S. relationship.
Trudeau raised the pipeline with Biden in their first phone call following the latter’s election several weeks ago, and Trudeau said he will continue to emphasize the pipeline’s role in continental energy security once Biden is sworn in.
“I’ve been making that argument to American Democrats and to people in general for the past seven years — that the Keystone is an integral part of Canada and America’s energy security,” he said.
“And we’ll continue working together. I think there’s an awful lot of things, including on the environment, on jobs, where Canada and the U.S. and the incoming U.S. administration are going to be very well aligned.”
Biden is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021.