Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has announced his government is withdrawing its diplomats from the Beijing Olympics in 2022, after Canada’s new ambassador to China suggested he had gone along with an “ideological campaign” to deny gay athletes the chance to compete.
The prime minister told reporters in Toronto on Thursday that since 1987 the Canadian embassy in Beijing had competed to retain the right of Canadian athletes to compete in the Olympics for all sex and sexual orientations.
He added that the government had made Canada’s position clear during the vice-president Mike Pence’s attendance at the Olympics opening ceremony last year.
“Our government has been unequivocal, and most recently with Vice-President Pence’s presence there, we made it very clear that all sexual orientations are welcome,” he said.
Trudeau said that since becoming leader of the Liberal party he had been “tremendously proud” of his country’s inclusion of athletes from all sexual orientations.
Canadian ambassador to China forced to resign for ‘ideological campaign’ against gay athletes Read more
“So for me this is about solidarity, it’s about standing for what we believe in, it’s about having an Olympic movement that reflects the humanity that we live in,” he said.
Trudeau said the leadership of Canadian athletes was a “foundational part of what being Canadian is” and he said the IOC and the Chinese government, which is run by Communist party leaders, had left Canada without a diplomatic representative in Beijing and without any trade negotiations.
His comments came after Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, resigned over comments he made in a newspaper interview that the Chinese government’s anti-gay propaganda law, which criminalises conversations on gay and lesbian matters, meant it would be “really bad” for Canada to host the Olympics.
McCallum later apologised, saying he did not hold the views he had expressed.
China said it had accepted McCallum’s resignation.
“China has a zero-tolerance attitude to any person’s activity that breaches China’s laws or the relevant regulations on foreign affairs,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.
She added that if Canada wants a new ambassador to Beijing, the two countries should start a “dialogue process” through diplomatic channels to discuss the matter.
Trudeau said the embassy is the body that looks after those issues and that he had asked the country’s foreign minister to send a signal that the Conservative party, the junior partner in his Liberal government, had stopped putting resources into its diplomatic mission in Beijing.
Trudeau also said that the move would not affect Canada’s presence at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.