Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau presented the initiative with a statement
Canada issued a statement signed by 60 countries condemning arbitrary detentions of foreigners as a means of diplomatic pressure, a “unethical” practice China specifically uses against Canadians, according to the North American country.
The foreign ministers of these countries, as well as the European Union, signed this “Declaration against Arbitrary Detention in Inter-State Relations” at a virtual ceremony in Ottawa.
The declaration, open to new signatures, is not binding and is not formally directed at any particular country, but with China, Canada has had disputes on this issue.
“The use of foreign citizens as a bargaining chip to influence another country is illegal,” Canadian Foreign Minister Mark Garneau said upon publication of the document. “It is immoral and must stop.”
“The practice of arbitrary detention endangers all of our citizens, especially those who travel, work or live abroad. This includes bi-national companies that are vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, detention, and condemnation by governments that intend to use them for diplomatic games,” he emphasized.
The statement is the result of a year-long effort by Garneau’s predecessor, Francois-Philippe Champaign, to secure the release of two Canadians imprisoned in China since December 2018, a measure that Canada considers “arbitrary arrests.”
And Agence France-Presse quoted Garneau as saying at a press conference that Canada and the signatories believe “with this multilateral approach” that they have “a greater opportunity to put pressure on countries that practice arbitrary detention.”
The declaration has already been signed by countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan or Australia“
For the new US chief of diplomacy, Anthony Blinken, these arrests, “when used, as many nations do, to try to gain influence in interstate relations, constitute a heinous act against the human rights of the individuals concerned.” According to a statement.
With this statement, Ottawa hopes to “create a dynamic” that turns into a snowball. “In the same way we did when Canada launched the anti-personnel landmine initiative,” Garneau said.
This treaty, signed in Ottawa in 1997, has become an international treaty binding on 164 states, of which 133 have ratified it.
Relations between Canada and China are going through an unprecedented crisis since the arrest of former Canadian diplomat Michael Coffrig and compatriot Michael Spavor in late 2018, a few days after the CEO of the Chinese giant Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested at the airport in New York, Vancouver.
Meng has been arrested at the request of the United States, which wants to stand trial for bank fraud. China accuses the Canadians of spying.