Canada has “obtained agreements” in recent months that have allowed for “increased family and consular access” for two Canadians detained in China, according to a statement from a spokesperson for the foreign affairs minister.
While Kovrig’s wife, Vina Nadjibulla, has spoken about the letters they’ve exchanged, no further access to family has been confirmed to date.
The new statement provides no details beyond noting that the family access “increased.” Given that no family access has been granted before, any access to their families would be a first for the two men since their detention in China began over two years ago.
Spavor and Kovrig were detained in apparent retaliation after Canada infuriated China by arresting Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in December 2018.
Canada did so at the behest of the United States, which had requested her extradition.
The news of increased family access for the two men comes as reports also emerged on Wednesday that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s family was authorized by government officials to travel to Canada.
“Ms Meng’s family was authorized by IRCC officials to travel to Canada,” confirmed a statement from Syrine Khoury, a spokesperson for the office of the foreign affairs minister.
“As in all cases, this decision was made in accordance with Canadian laws and in strict compliance with the current travel OiCs. The arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor is unacceptable. We continue to call for their immediate release.”
Since the arrest, Canada-China relations have plunged into the deep freeze. Beyond the retaliatory detentions of the two Canadians, China also sentenced Canadian Robert Robert Schellenberg to die after a hastily scheduled retrial of his drug smuggling conviction in China — just one month after Meng’s arrest. The government has repeatedly called for clemency in his case, but so far it has not been granted.
China also briefly banned imports of Canadian pork and beef, claiming a banned animal feed additive was found in a shipment of Canadian pork.
Meanwhile, the government is continuing to push for the release of Spavor and Kovrig.
“We will continue to work extremely hard for the safe return home of the two Michaels. Two years away is much too long to be imprisoned in China, or anywhere,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, speaking in French on the December anniversary of the men’s detention.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to bring them back.”