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China's Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi responds to a Canadian journalist's question in Ottawa on June 1.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government has relayed its "dissatisfaction" to China after its foreign minister lashed out against a Canadian reporter this week for asking a question about the country's human-rights record and the imprisonment of a Canadian missionary.

Mr. Trudeau emphasized the importance of freedom of the press at a media conference in Winnipeg on Friday, two days after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's outburst at a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion in Ottawa.

"I can confirm that both Minister Dion and department officials at Global Affairs Canada have expressed our dissatisfaction to both the Chinese foreign minister and to the ambassador of China to Canada … with the way our journalists were treated," Mr. Trudeau said.

"The fact is freedom of the press is extremely important to me … We know that the job of the media is to ask tough questions and we certainly encourage you to do that."

But Mr. Dion, who stood by without comment as Mr. Wang lost his cool with iPolitics reporter Amanda Connolly, said Friday there is no need for him to defend her.

"She does not need me to go to her rescue," Mr. Dion said during a teleconference with reporters from Paris.

"The important thing is that I raised very clearly during the press conference the issue of human rights in consular cases. I did this very, very frankly in my meeting with the Chinese minister. And I even raised with him the case of the rights for Chinese journalists in China. I think that's the best way to see progress made."

Mr. Wang berated Ms. Connolly Wednesday after she asked a question about China's human-rights record and the imprisonment of Canadian missionary Kevin Garratt. Mr. Garratt has been jailed in China for more than a year and was indicted in January on charges of spying for Canada, which critics say are trumped-up.

"I have to say your question is full of prejudice against China and arrogance, and I don't know where that is coming from. It is totally unacceptable," Mr. Wang said, waving his pen at Ms. Connolly. "Have you been to China? Do you know China has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty and do you know China is now the second-largest economy in the world.… Do you think development is possible for China without protection of human rights?"

Mr. Wang continued to suggest that Ms. Connolly should not ask questions "in such an irresponsible manner," rejecting "groundless and irresponsible allegations."

The Canadian government has been pushing for Mr. Garratt's release since he and his wife, Julia, were arrested in August, 2014. While Julia was released on bail in February, 2015, Kevin remains imprisoned. The espionage allegations against him came about a week after Canada accused a China-sponsored hacker of breaching the National Research Council.

With files from Robert Fife