Canadian leader Justin Trudeau has been rebuked for his handling of a simmering dispute with China, with lawmakers voting against his government to set up a committee examining relations with Beijing.
Diplomatic relations between Canada and China hit rock bottom after last year’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Hangzhou in Vancouver.
Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China just nine days later, in a move widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest.
Both men have languished in detention ever since and analysts say their fate is tied to Meng’s, who will have a hearing next month in a US extradition case that could potentially last years.
The dispute has damaged trade between the two countries, with Beijing blocking billions of dollars worth of Canadian canola imports.
“We have had serious concerns with the prime minister’s ability to govern in Canada’s national interest on the world stage,” Erin O’Toole, the international affairs spokesman for the opposition Conservative party, said after Tuesday’s vote.
The committee — to be composed of 12 lawmakers — will sit from January and will have the power to call Trudeau and the Canadian ambassador to China as witnesses.
The Conservatives introduced the committee proposal to parliament on Monday, the anniversary of Kovrig and Spavor’s arrests.
Trudeau’s center-left administration was elected for a second term in September but lost its majority in parliament and relies on support from minor parties to pass laws.
Tuesday’s vote was the government’s first defeat in the House of Commons since its election.
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