As Beijing Charges Kovrig and Spavor, Poll Shows 80% of Canadians Want Stronger Voice Against China’s Rights Abuses

June 19, 2020 Updated: June 20, 2020

On the heels of the Beijing regime’s announcement that espionage charges have been laid against two Canadians detained in China, a new survey indicates that 80 percent of Canadians think Ottawa should speak out more strongly against China’s human rights abuses and defiance of international rules.

Having informed respondents of recent accusations of rights abuses by the communist regime, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) poll asked respondents to rate the performance of Canada’s politicians in speaking out against such abuses.

When asked, “should Canada and other democracies speak up a lot more about the government of China’s wrongdoing or be quiet,” more than 80 percent of respondents agreed that the government should speak up more, with 40 percent saying the government should speak up “a lot more.”

“Clearly Canadians are united in their belief that Canada must respond to China’s routine human rights abuses,” said MLI Managing Director Brian Lee Crowley. “Equally importantly, Canadians believe in large part that this government is failing at that crucial task.”

The results of the poll of 1,000 Canadians were released on June 19, the same day that China formally charged Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor with spying, in a move that is widely viewed as politically motivated.

The People’s Procuratorate of Beijing Municipality filed a prosecution against Kovrig, a former diplomat, for “spying on state secrets and intelligence,” while Spavor, a businessman, was charged with “spying and illegally providing state secrets.”

The two men were first detained more than 18 months ago, shortly after the arrest of Huawei senior executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. warrant relating to multiple charges, including bank fraud and violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

According to the MLI poll, 52 percent of Canadians responded somewhat or very negatively when asked to rate Canadian politicians for speaking up about China’s human rights infractions, while 24 percent had a positive view and another 24 percent were neutral.

The poll results also show nearly 90 percent of Canadians who voted  Conservative in the last election think the government should speak out at least somewhat more. Forty-three percent of Liberal voters, meanwhile, rate the government as doing poorly on speaking out against China’s rights abuses; 77 percent think the government should condemn such abuses.

“Liberal voters differed from others in that 36 percent of Liberals rated Canadian politicians’ performance at least somewhat positively,” the poll said. 

An Angus Reid survey released in May showed that only 14 percent of Canadians think Chinese telecom giant Huawei should be allowed to participate in building Canada’s 5G network. Just 11 percent thought Canada should focus its trade efforts on Chinadown from 40 percent in 2015while 76 percent said Canada should prioritize human rights and the rule of law over economic opportunity.

The survey found that just 14 percent of Canadians say they have a positive opinion of China.

Epoch Times Photo
Charles Burton, senior fellow at the Macdonald Laurier Institute (MLI) and former Canadian diplomat in China, speaks at a round-table hosted by MLI in Ottawa on Sept. 12, 2019. (Jonathan Ren/The Epoch Times)

In light of these findings, MLI Senior Fellow Charles Burton has described Canadians’ increasingly negative perception of China as a “turning of the tide of Canadian public opinion on China.”

“In what should be a wake-up call for the federal government, the Canadian public’s perception of China appears to be swinging dramatically,” he wrote in the Globe and Mail.

With files from the Canadian Press. With reporting by Katabella Roberts.