Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Kevin Garratt, a Canadian Pentecostal pastor imprisoned for two years on suspicion of spying for Canada, was found guilty of espionage in a hearing Tuesday and deported back to Canada.

Jack Chen/The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted in several meetings with China's top leaders that a new relationship would be difficult to forge between the two countries without the release of a Canadian man held for two years on suspicion of being a spy, a senior government source says.

By the time Mr. Trudeau's first official visit to China was over, the release of Kevin Garratt seemed all but guaranteed, according to the official who had knowledge of the Prime Minister's discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Canada remained quiet – just in case.

Story continues below advertisement

But the assurances Mr. Trudeau received in return cast his visit to China in a new light. Instead of leaving Beijing with only relatively small gains, his doggedness allowed him to achieve one of his central ambitions – even if critics say the deportation of Mr. Garratt is a minor achievement next to more serious concerns about China's treatment of foreign investors and its own people.

Read more: Kevin Garratt free after high-stakes negotiation with China

Read more: Ottawa urged to push for release of democracy activist jailed in China

Read more: China denies spy charge against Canadian is retribution against Ottawa

Mr. Trudeau's insistence was reflected in a visit from Michel Coloumbe, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who in an unusual step was dispatched to meet his Chinese counterpart four months ago to personally attest that Mr. Garratt was not a spy for Canada. Co-ordinated efforts from Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion and Canada's ambassador to China, Guy Saint-Jacques, on top of previous attempts by Stephen Harper in 2014, helped to secure the release of a man whose lengthy detention in China on questionable charges had raised questions among Canadians, and anger in Ottawa.

"It's fair to say we were told that progress was being made, and the case was headed in the right direction," the government official said.

"There were some final details that had to be ironed out by officials. It was pretty much done by the time we left."

Story continues below advertisement

The official insisted there was no quid pro quo between the two countries. But there was also the implicit understanding that the situation was going to be resolved in between the time Mr. Trudeau returned to Canada, and before Mr. Li made his visit to Ottawa next week.

But not before Mr. Garratt, a Pentecostal pastor who first came to China in 1984, was found guilty on two counts of espionage in an open hearing on Tuesday. He was then deported from the country rather than sent to prison.

The Chinese wanted Mr. Garratt gone almost immediately. He was placed on a plane from Shenyang, China, to Tokyo, and then to Vancouver, where he joined his wife, Julia, who was also arrested but released on bail last February and allowed to return to Canada.

James Zimmerman, a Beijing-based lawyer representing the Garratts, said he and a Canadian embassy official escorted Mr. Garratt back to Vancouver on Thursday.

"The family is delighted that Kevin is now home," Mr. Zimmerman said in an e-mail. "It's been a long, trying two years."

Mr. Garratt's deportation, however, has drawn no visible public attention in China, with the Chinese media remaining quiet about the release, which occurred at the outset of the mid-autumn festival, one of the country's most important holidays.

Story continues below advertisement

But in winning Mr. Garratt's freedom, the Prime Minister showed an adroitness in handling China that has eluded many world leaders. China's economic might and financial firepower make it an intimidating negotiating partner, one willing to exact revenge on countries hesitant to do its bidding.

Mr. Trudeau, while cautious in his public statements, was insistent behind closed doors, said officials with knowledge of what happened. China has sought to revive a so-called "golden era" with Canada. Mr. Trudeau said he wanted Mr. Garratt released on humanitarian grounds, citing the lack of evidence that he had done any spying for Canada.

Roland Paris, who served as Mr. Trudeau's top foreign-policy adviser before stepping down in June, sees the Prime Minister's firmness on the matter as a reflection of his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau is similarly "tough. And he's persistent," said Mr. Paris, now a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa.

"Not just in respect to dealing with China, but I have found him in meetings with foreign leaders to be extremely effective," he said. "Because he was able to communicate, to be clear in his own mind what he wanted to accomplish."

He called the trip to China, Mr. Trudeau's first as Prime Minister, "an important and successful first step in establishing a more consistent and constructive and sustained relationship with China."

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Garratt's deportation can be read as "a message from the Chinese government – a new positive direction in relations can yield results," said Philip Calvert, a recently retired Canadian ambassador who was posted to China three times as a diplomat. For Mr. Trudeau, he said, it shows a Prime Minister willing "to listen to expert advice" from the Canadian ambassador and other senior diplomats in Beijing.

Still, while Mr. Garratt is back in Canada, numerous activists, lawyers and writers remain behind bars in China – including Canadian Huseyin Celil and Wang Bingzhang, whose children live in Canada.

It's "not terribly expensive for the Chinese to be co-operative in a situation like" that of Mr. Garratt, said John Higginbotham, who served as Canadian Commissioner to Hong Kong from 1989 to 1995.

Such a case is useful to "divert attention from much more controversial areas of the relationship, where you could be asking about release of Nobel Prize winners or many other broad issues in relation to transparency, hacking, intellectual property, the status of Hong Kong or the South China Sea," he said.

He called it a "Chinese opera," whereby a foreign nation – in this case, Canada – can claim successes that don't amount to much, all while Beijing strengthens its own hand.

"It's obviously a very political gesture by the Chinese to give face to Mr. Trudeau, and hope that that will generate further benefits to China," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

Some of those expectations are likely to grow more clear next week, when Mr. Li lands in Ottawa for the first high-level Chinese visit to Canada since 2010. China wants an extradition treaty to speed the return of people it calls corrupt fugitives and the commencement of talks toward a free-trade deal.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies