Tories editing fundraising video after family of Canadian detained in China complained

The Conservative Party is re-editing its fundraising pitch video attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's handling of the cases of two Canadian men detained in China after one of their families complained about the clip.

The video, which goes after the Liberals' overall foreign policy record, showed photos of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig with a voiceover arguing Trudeau has "failed to negotiate the release of two Canadians arbitrarily imprisoned in China, who are being held in inhumane conditions."

The clip, which misspells Kovrig's name, was included in an email soliciting donations.

"If you like this video, please consider chipping in today and helping us get this video in front of as many Canadians as possible," reads the email.

It was sent out on Friday, but by Wednesday the link to the video was dead.

Cory Hann, the Conservative director of communications, said the party is re-editing the video.

"One of the families requested their son's photo and name not be used, and of course we're going to respect that. So after they reached out we re-produced the video without either of the photos or names," he said in an emailed statement to CBC.

"We believe it's important to bring attention to this issue, and the fact there is still Canadian citizens being held hostage in China, and we remain hopeful the government takes action to get them released."

Party leader Andrew Scheer was asked about the video during a stop in Saskatchewan today.

"It was a message where we were highlighting Trudeau's failure to stand up for Canadians abroad," he said. "They were images that were put on news outlets, and as soon as we heard from one of the family members that they prefer not to have it used, we've addressed that and so we've respected those wishes.

"That family is going through an awful lot right now and I can only imagine the type of anxiety that they would be feeling about a loved one who's being held."

Conservative Party of Canada/Screen grab

A source told CBC News it was Kovrig's family who complained to the party.

When CBC News asked his sister, Ariana Botha, for her reaction to the use of her brother's photo in a fundraising pitch, she replied it's "no longer an issue," referring to the removal of the pictures.

When asked if her family had asked that the photos be removed, she said, "Sorry, no comment."

 

A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government's priority is the welfare of the two detainees. 

"It is disappointing that the Conservatives would try to use this difficult situation for partisan political purposes" said spokesperson Alex Lawrence.

"Our government's priority is the welfare of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who have been arbitrarily detained. We commend Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, and their families, for their fortitude and bravery under incredibly difficult circumstances."

When the ad first surfaced in an email last week, the Conservative Party defended the choice to include the two men.

"We've produced a video detailing Justin Trudeau's failures on the world stage including not standing up for Canada against the government in Beijing, and what those consequences have been for Canadians," Hann said in an email on Friday.

"We feel it's important for Canadians to hear about these failures. We hope the Liberals will focus on getting these Canadians released."