Trudeau says Canada will not open borders for international travel too hastily

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At a June 22 press conference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touched on international travel, COVID-19 outbreaks at some Canadian farms and the arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China. 

Reminding residents that the CERB has been extended for two months, Trudeau went on to announce that the government will be investing approximately $94 million in sexual and reproductive health initiatives for women in developing countries. He also said Ottawa will be investing close to $100 million in the new Merit Functional Foods location in Winnipeg, a facility that will create jobs in the fast-growing plant-based protein industry.

When asked if Canada will soon open the country to international travel, Trudeau said that Canada must be cautious, as some countries have seen spikes in COVID-19 cases. 

"Health and safety is our top priority. Now obviously there are places where the crisis is not as serious, but places where it's still raging, so we'll have to look carefully at what we can do and when we can open our borders," Trudeau said, adding that he knows a lot of industries are anxious to welcome international travellers back to Canada. 

Trudeau said that if Canada moves forward too quickly, it runs the risk of seeing a second wave of infections and having to re-implement lockdowns.

"So we're going to move forward gradually," he said. 

When asked about COVID-19-related deaths among migrant workers on Canadian farms, Trudeau signalled that companies who failed to follow strict rules regarding mandatory quarantines and physical distancing will "face consequences." 

At least three migrant workers have died and hundreds more have fallen ill with COVID-19 in recent weeks on farms across the country.

The situation led Mexico to temporarily stop allowing workers to leave for Canada, sending shock waves through the agricultural sector, which is highly dependent on foreign labour. Recently, the Mexican government said it has now struck a deal with the federal Liberal government that will lead to improvements in the temporary foreign worker program.

In a press release late Sunday, Mexico said Canada has committed to increased inspections, as well as more support for Mexican officials and workers to identify and report unsafe working conditions.

A working group will also be set up with Mexican and Canadian government officials to deal with the issue.

In their press release, the Mexican government said they appreciate that Canada was willing to work with them to find solutions, and the deal is evidence of the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries.

When asked about the detention of Spavor and Kovrig, Trudeau reiterated that China charged the two men for political purposes.

Trudeau said Chinese officials it made clear in the days following their arrests of Kovrig and Spavor that their imprisonments were linked with Canada's detaining high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou days earlier.

Trudeau was rebutting a spokesman for China's foreign ministry who said earlier Monday that his country does not arbitrarily detain people, and that Trudeau's earlier remarks linking the cases were "irresponsible."

"They made those links from the very beginning, and continue to put political pressure on Canada through that detention," Trudeau said Monday.

"It has been obvious from the beginning that this was a political decision made by the Chinese government, and we deplore it, and have from the very beginning."

Trudeau thanked allies, including the United States, who have criticized China for "using arbitrary detentions as a means to political ends." He said Canada and its allies "around the world" remain united against this Chinese practice.

Earlier Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on China to release the Canadians, saying they face "groundless" charges of spying.

Chinese authorities announced the charges against Kovrig and Spavor on Friday, after the two had spent more than 550 days in prison without access to lawyers or family.

Since January, China has prevented Canadian diplomats from visiting Kovrig and Spavor, citing COVID-19 restrictions. 

Trudeau rejected suggestions that Canada should intervene to resolve the Meng case in an attempt to free Kovrig and Spavor.

"We continue to stand up both for the independence of our judicial system and Canadian interests and values," the prime minister said. "We work behind the scenes and in public to ensure that everyone understands we will continue to work extremely hard to get these Canadians home."

Pompeo said the U.S. is deeply concerned by China's decision to formally charge Kovrig and Spavor.

"These charges are politically motivated and completely groundless. The United States stands with Canada in calling on Beijing for the immediate release of the two men and rejects the use of these unjustified detentions to coerce Canada," Pompeo said in a statement on Monday.

"Additionally, we echo Canada's call for immediate consular access to its two citizens, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, as China has prohibited such access for almost six months, and the world has no knowledge of the two Canadians' condition."

Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, is living in luxury Vancouver home while her extradition hearing wends its way through a British Columbia court.

The United States wants to proseute Meng for fraud, alleging she lied to banks in Hong Kong about her company's connections with Iran, which could possibly violate U.S. sanctions. 

Last month, the B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the allegations against Meng could constitute a crime in Canada. That meant Meng's case remains before the court, unresolved.

Last week, Meng's lawyers accused the Americans of misleading the B.C. court and said they are seeking a stay in the proceedings.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

With files from insauga.com

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