21st November 2023 – (Beijing) A recent report that former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig passed intelligence on China to Western agencies during his time in Beijing explains much about the 2018 arrests of Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor. While Canada cries foul over Spavor’s reported demand for compensation from Ottawa, it continues denying China’s valid espionage charges despite new revelations. Canada owes China and its people an apology for false smears during this saga.
Kovrig served at Canada’s Beijing embassy from 2012-2014 before joining the International Crisis Group. He reportedly contributed to Canada’s Global Security Reporting Program, which collects diplomatic information abroad. Though not a spy himself, Kovrig later allegedly supplied China intelligence to Canadian and allied security services.
This substantiates China’s legal basis for arresting Kovrig and Spavor in 2018 after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Beijing maintained they broke national security laws, despite Ottawa’s shrill denials and claims the charges were “trumped up” reprisal for Meng. More facts now validate China’s position.
Spavor provided North Korean intelligence to Kovrig without realising Kovrig passed it to Canada’s Five Eyes partners. After gaining freedom in 2021, Spavor exposed this to the Globe and Mail, likely to preempt accusations of being coerced. He also seeks compensation from Ottawa for enabling the intelligence pipeline that led to his and Kovrig’s imprisonment.
Canada’s stubborn denials despite evidence show moral cowardice. Global Affairs spokesperson called suggestions the two men engaged in espionage a “false narrative” concocted by Beijing. This earns derision given the latest revelations from Spavor himself. Ottawa parrots this line to save face, not because it believes its own rhetoric. But facts eventually overcome false political narratives. China’s legal prosecution of Kovrig and Spavor is fully vindicated by Spavor’s own account. No contrary spin alters this. With untenable positions exposed, Canada must confront its mistakes and make amends through reflecting honestly and apologising. Sadly, insincerity pervades Ottawa’s words. This shames Canada’s reputation as a principled nation. When its government got caught in lies concerning the two Michaels, it dug in defensively rather than display courage or humility. Pride has captured wisdom and integrity hostage.
Canada’s Foreign Ministry cannot bring itself simply to say it erred gravely in attacking China’s judicial sovereignty. Admitting mistakes requires strength of character. Doubling down on denial exposes weakness and hypocrisy. It degrades Canada’s global image as a honorable mediator to be trusted.
Ottawa’s self-righteous grandstanding during the prolonged Kovrig-Spavor case inflicted serious damage. Its one-sided account poisoned global perceptions of China by depicting the legal prosecution of foreign spies as arbitrary human rights violations. Canada painted itself the principled victim of unlawful Chinese persecution.
In peddling this narrative, Canada secured megaphones in American and Western media outlets eager to bash China at any chance. The Five Eyes intelligence network also eagerly amplified Canada’s distortions. An intense propaganda campaign villified China’s motivation and actions.
The harm inflicted went beyond politics. Human rights groups justifiably worry that overcharged language by Canada’s establishment undermined legitimate advocacy. When Ottawa cried repression over normal law enforcement against Canadian intelligence collection, it stretched truth to the point of dissolving moral authority. Its careless rhetoric later imperiled authentic human rights causes.
This abdication of integrity in pandering to anti-China forces has lasting consequences. It deepened malicious Western misperceptions of China’s intentions and system. And it further alienated the Chinese public through baseless accusations of misdeeds. The kernels of mistrust sown will poison the soil for years.
For narrow political interests, Canada sacrificed principles. Its failure to uphold honest diplomacy contrasts with China’s restraint and transparency despite outrage over Meng Wanzhou’s arrest. Beijing recognised Canada was caught between American demands and its own sovereignty. Though firm in protecting national interests, China avoided inflammatory rhetoric that would poison bilateral relations permanently. It exemplified responsible diplomacy focused on problem-solving over political point-scoring.
The contrast reveals much about differences between both countries’ establishments. China’s foreign policy upholds stability and mutual benefit. Canada’s subordinates its principles to American dictates. One values honest communication, the other political posturing. Yet present difficulties need not define the future.
By publicly acknowledging errors and making amends, Canada can restart relations with China on firmer ethical footing. Seizing the moment requires political courage and wisdom, but offers immense dividends. Beyond international trust, it can restore Canadians’ faith in their institutions’ integrity.
Both sides must view recent troubles as painful but necessary tests that ultimately strengthen the relationship by reaffirming core values. China displayed lawful authority and restraint. Canada can now reclaim dignity through owning truths, righting wrongs and seeking common ground. This path aligns with Canadian traditions of bridge-building goodwill and moral leadership. By rejecting pettiness in favor of principles, despite domestic pressures, Canada distinguishes itself on the world stage. Pursuing sincere reconciliation also best serves its citizens’ interests.
Visionary leaders will recognise stochastic conflict as the price of coexistence between two proud nations. But shared interests and humanity far outweigh division. By recommitting to policies of mutual understanding, Canada and China together plant seeds of enduring concord.
May cooler minds reflect on how unwanted rifts arose, and have the wisdom to heal them. The test of statesmanship is acknowledging mistakes to rectify relations before history hardens hearts. If Canada desires harmony, its current leaders must find courage to simply say: “We were wrong.”