Just months after helping secure the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Dominic Barton is stepping down as Canada’s ambassador to China.
In a statement announcing his decision, Barton said that when he accepted the appointment in 2019, his priority was to secure their release and manage Canada’s relationship with China.
“Today, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are back in Canada, and the government is better positioned to achieve its other diplomatic priorities with China,” he wrote.
“Working to secure Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor’s release has been one of the most significant events in my life and I have been incredibly moved by the bravery and resilience of these two men, as well as their families.”
Kovrig and Spavor, whose detention in China for nearly three years was largely seen as retaliation for Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s arrest in Vancouver, returned home in September, just hours after the extradition case against Wanzhou was dropped.
Canada-China relationship ‘of critical importance’
Barton, who previously served as the chair of the finance minister’s advisory council on economic growth, said helping free the two men was “the honour of a lifetime.”
“I believe that the relationship between Canada and China is of critical importance to our future,” he wrote.
“As I leave my role, my successor will be on strong footing to further this relationship, build on our people-to-people relations, trade and investment ties, while continuing to stand firm on human rights and the rule of law and addressing outstanding consular and market access issues that exist.”
In his own statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked Barton for his work.
“Dominic, my friend, thank you for your work and dedication to our country and to the people of Canada,” he wrote.
“Canada is stronger because of your service, and I wish you all the best.”
Barton’s resignation is effective Dec. 31.