Kamala Harris pledges ‘solidarity’ over 2 Michaels detained in China in call with Trudeau

Click to play video: 'What’s ahead for Canada-U.S. relations during Joe Biden’s presidency' What’s ahead for Canada-U.S. relations during Joe Biden’s presidency
WATCH: What's ahead for Canada-U.S. relations during Joe Biden's presidency – Jan 20, 2021

In her first call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris “expressed strong solidarity” with Canada on the detainment of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, two Canadian citizens arbitrarily detained in China in 2018.

An official readout of Monday’s call from the White House said Harris “made clear that the United States would continue to do everything it can to secure their release.”

The two Michaels were detained in December of 2018 in what is widely viewed as retaliation for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei’s chief financial officer.

Read more: Canadian Michael Kovrig gets first consular visit of 3rd year in Chinese detention

Her arrest was part of a United States government extradition request accusing Meng of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud in order to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran. Kovrig and Spavor have since been charged by the Chinese government with espionage.

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Trudeau has said ensuring the Michaels’ safe return was a “top priority” for the federal government, and the U.S. has joined Canada in calling on Beijing to release them.

According to the readout, the call to Trudeau was Harris’ first with another foreign leader. During the call, Harris also underscored the “deep importance” of Canada as an economic and strategic partner in her first call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday.

“She expressed the United States’ desire to work closely with Canada on a wide range of issues, including combating the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing climate change, and expanding our economic partnership in ways that advance the recovery and create jobs in both countries,” the readout said.

In the official readout of the call released by the Office of the Prime Minister, Trudeau said he looked forward to “strengthening the bilateral trading relationship and Canada-U.S. supply chains, and avoiding the unintended consequences of Buy America policies, for the benefit of people in both countries.”

Click to play video: 'Canada will ‘pursue every avenue’ to bring the ‘Two Michaels’ home, Trudeau says' Canada will ‘pursue every avenue’ to bring the ‘Two Michaels’ home, Trudeau says
Canada will ‘pursue every avenue’ to bring the ‘Two Michaels’ home, Trudeau says – Dec 18, 2020

It is unclear whether Trudeau explicitly discussed the now-cancelled Keystone XL pipeline project, but the readout said he highlighted “the importance of strengthening North American energy security.”

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U.S. President Joe Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline extension on his first day in office on Jan. 20, as part of a series of executive orders enacted to reverse legislation put forward by the previous Trump administration.

The fallout from the decision was felt across Canada, costing the country thousands of jobs. The blow hit especially hard in Alberta, where the province’s premier Jason Kenney had invested $1.5 billion of public money on the project.

Since the pipeline extension’s cancellation, Kenney has been pressuring the federal government to take action against the U.S., including potentially imposing sanctions if the decision is not reversed.

More to come. 

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