Alleging Kovrig Was Involved in Gathering Intelligence From Spavor Only Perpetuates Beijing’s ‘False Narrative,’ Ottawa Says

by EditorT

The statement comes after a Nov. 18 Globe and Mail article said Mr. Spavor is seeking a multi-million dollar settlement from the federal government.

Michael Kovrig, right, and Michael Spavor, second from left, react as they are seated before an address from U.S. President Joe Biden in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, on March 24, 2023, in Ottawa. (Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

By Omid Ghoreishi

Global Affairs Canada says that suggesting either Michael Kovrig or Michael Spavor was involved in “espionage” will only serve Beijing’s false allegations over their arrests, which occurred after Canada detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition request in 2018.

The statement comes after a Nov. 18 Globe and Mail article cited anonymous sources as saying that Mr. Spavor is seeking a multimillion-dollar settlement from the federal government, alleging that his detention came as a result of Mr. Kovrig, a former diplomat, gathering intelligence from him to provide to the Canadian government.

“Perpetuating the notion that either Michael was involved in espionage is only perpetuating a false narrative under which they were detained by China,” a spokesperson with Global Affairs Canada told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.

“China’s arbitrary detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig was unjust and unacceptable.”

The department added that due to privacy considerations, it can’t provide further information.

Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor were detained in December 2018, days after Ms. Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested in Vancouver. Her arrest came at the request of the United States, where she was accused of fraud charges related to violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Huawei, a telecom company based in China, is founded by a former Chinese military officer and has close links to the Chinese regime.

China’s arrest of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, who spent nearly three years in captivity, was on charges of espionage, an allegation that Canada has denied.

The two were released only after Ms. Meng reached a deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. prosecutors and was allowed to leave Canada, in September 2021.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Kovrig was on a leave of absence from the Canadian foreign service and had no special status. He was employed as a scholar with the think tank the International Crisis Group.During his time as a diplomat, Mr. Kovrig contributed to the Global Security Reporting Program (GSRP). According to a 2022 parliamentary report, the GSRP is “a specialized diplomatic reporting program whose purpose is to collect information on security and stability in select countries abroad using overt diplomatic means.” The emphasis on “overt” is contrasted with covert operations of intelligence agencies. As well, those involved in the GSRP are not allowed to recruit or run human sources.

Mr. Spavor, who lived close to the China-North Korea border in northern China at the time of his arrest, specialized in promoting tourism and investment in North Korea. He has been photographed several times with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and facilitated the friendship between Mr. Kim and former NBA star Dennis Rodman.

The Globe cites its sources as saying that Mr. Spavor is alleging that his arrest came as a result of information he shared with Mr. Kovrig, which the sources say he alleges, unbeknownst to him, was passed on to the Canadian government and its Five Eyes allies. The intelligence alliance also includes the United States, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Legal Representation

The Globe and Mail, citing anonymous sources, says that Mr. Spavor, represented by high-profile lawyer John K. Phillips, is currently negotiating with lawyers for the federal government over the multimillion-dollar settlement request.

Mr. Phillips confirmed to The Epoch Times that his firm has been retained by Mr. Spavor and that they are aware of the Globe article but have no comments at this time.

“We ask that you please respect Mr. Spavor’s privacy,” Mr. Phillips said in an email.

Among Mr. Phillips’s past clients is former Guantanamo Bay inmate Omar Khadr, who reached a $10.5 million settlement with the federal government. He has also acted on behalf of several former CSIS and RCMP employees who alleged mistreatment by the federal agencies.

The Epoch Times contacted Mr. Kovrig for comment.

During his captivity in China, Mr. Kovrig was held in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, and lights were kept on in his cell day and night. This can lead to sleep deprivation, which is recognized as a method of torture by human rights organizations.

The arrest of the two Canadians came days after China warned Canada of “dire consequences” for Ms. Meng’s arrest. China also escalated the sentence of Canadian citizen Robert Schellenberg, who had been arrested on drug charges, to the death sentence, and blocked several types of Canadian exports into China.




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