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John McCallum

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John McCallum
Canadian Ambassador to China
In office
18 March 2017 – 26 January 2019
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byGuy Saint-Jacques
Succeeded byDominic Barton
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
In office
4 November 2015 – 10 January 2017
Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau
Preceded byChris Alexander
Succeeded byAhmed Hussen
Minister of National Revenue
In office
19 July 2004 – 5 February 2006
Prime MinisterPaul Martin
Preceded byStan Keyes
Succeeded byCarol Skelton
Minister of Veterans Affairs
In office
12 December 2003 – 19 July 2004
Prime MinisterPaul Martin
Preceded byRey Pagtakhan
Succeeded byAlbina Guarnieri
Minister of National Defence
In office
26 May 2002 – 11 December 2003
Prime MinisterJean Chrétien
Preceded byArt Eggleton
Succeeded byDavid Pratt
Member of Parliament
for Markham—Thornhill
In office
19 October 2015 – 1 February 2017
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byMary Ng
Member of Parliament
for Markham—Unionville
Markham (2000–2004)
In office
27 November 2000 – 19 October 2015
Preceded byJim Jones
Succeeded byBob Saroya
Personal details
Born (1950-04-09) 9 April 1950 (age 74)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Political partyLiberal
SpouseNancy Lim (林秀英)
Children3 sons
Residence(s)Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Alma materQueens' College, Cambridge (BA)
Université de Paris I (DES)
McGill University (PhD)
John McCallum
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese麦家廉
Traditional Chinese麥家廉
Literal meaningMai (Chinese surname) Home-Incorruptible
Chinese translation of "John McCallum"
Simplified Chinese约翰·麦考姆
Traditional Chinese約翰·麥考姆
Literal meaningYohan McCallum

John McCallum PC (born 9 April 1950) is a Canadian politician, economist, diplomat and former university professor. A former Liberal Member of Parliament (MP), McCallum was the Canadian Ambassador to China from 2017 to 2019. He was asked for his resignation by Prime Minister Trudeau in 2019.[1][2] As an MP, he represented the electoral district of Markham—Thornhill, and had previously represented Markham—Unionville and Markham. He is a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada.

A veteran federal politician who began his political career in 2000, McCallum has served in the governments of Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, and Justin Trudeau. McCallum has previously been Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions), Minister of National Defence, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Early life and education


McCallum was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Joan (Patteson) and Alexander Campbell McCallum.[3] He received his secondary education at Selwyn House School and Trinity College School.[4] He has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Queens' College, Cambridge University, a diplôme d'études supérieures from Université de Paris I and a PhD degree in economics from McGill University.[citation needed]

Academic career (1976–1994)


McCallum was a professor of economics at the University of Manitoba from 1976 until 1978, Simon Fraser University from 1978 until 1982, the Université du Québec à Montréal from 1982 until 1987, and McGill University from 1987 until 1994. He is an honorary member of the Royal Military College of Canada, student No. S139.

He was also dean of the faculty of arts at McGill University, when his future boss, Justin Trudeau was a student there.[5] He then became senior vice-president and chief economist of the Royal Bank of Canada.

One of his most influential academic contributions was an article in the American Economic Review,[6] which introduced the concept of the home bias in trade puzzle. It has spawned an ongoing international debate [citation needed] on whether trade within a nation state is greater than trade among nations, as compared with the predictions of standard economic models.

As McGill University's dean of arts, McCallum secured a $10 million contribution from Charles Bronfman for the establishment of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.[7]

He also participated in the national unity debates of the early 1990s, editing the Canada Round Series of the C. D. Howe Institute and engaging in debate with then Opposition Leader Jacques Parizeau at Quebec's National Assembly.[8]

Private sector career (1994–2000; 2019 onward)


McCallum was the Royal Bank of Canada's chief economist for six years. He consistently achieved the highest media coverage of bank chief economists, making regular appearances on CBC's The National as an economics panellist. He also engaged in social issues, notably a 1997 Royal Bank conference designed to align the business community with the recommendations of the 1996 Report on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. His paper at that conference, "The Cost of Doing Nothing", was highlighted ten years later in the Aboriginal Times magazine.[9]

In July 2020, McCallum's employment by the Wailian Group, a Chinese company that assists with immigration to Canada, sparked calls from oppositions MPs and Democracy Watch for McCullum to be investigated by the Ethics Commissioner for potential breaches of the Conflict of Interest Act.[10]

Political career


Member of Parliament (2000–2017)


McCallum successfully nominated Nelson Mandela as the second honorary citizen in Canadian history.[11]

McCallum was quite vocal in Canada's debate on same-sex marriage. He told the Edmonton Sun in August 2003, "If people want to do something and it doesn't hurt other people, doesn't reduce other people's rights, we should let them do it. Why not?"[12] He also significantly contributed to the final debate before the vote on same-sex marriage on 21 March 2005[13] saying:

I believe we should always seek to expand the rights of our fellow citizens as long as we do not thereby reduce the rights of others. We should seek to ensure that no group is denied full participation in society. As members of Parliament, we should not ask the question, why should we extend this right? Rather our question should be, why should we not extend the right? Let the burden of proof be on those who wish to limit fundamental rights.


Many Canadians will want to accept both of these principles: protect the traditional definition of marriage and protect the rights of minorities. The essence of my message today is that we cannot do both. We cannot have it both ways. We must make a choice between traditional marriage and the protection of minority rights.

Defence Minister (2002–2003)


As Defence Minister under Jean Chrétien, McCallum achieved what was then the largest increase in the annual defence budget ($1 billion) in more than a decade in return for offering up $200 million in savings from reducing low priority spending.[14] He also retroactively reversed an inequity which awarded up to $250,000 to military personnel who lost their eyesight or a limb while on active service - but only to those with the rank of colonel or above. Now all Canadian Forces members are covered by the plan regardless of rank.[15] Working with Germany, he successfully persuaded NATO to take control over the security mission in Kabul, Afghanistan, while also ensuring that the mission was led by Canada.[16] He also determined that the army, rather than the navy or air force, was to be the top priority in budget allocations.[17]

He became widely known and criticized in 2002 when he admitted, while serving as the Minister of National Defence, that he had never heard of the 1942 Dieppe raid, a fateful and nationally significant operation for Canadian Forces during the Second World War.[18] Ironically, he wrote a letter to the editor of the National Post in response, but committed a further gaffe, confusing Canadian participation in the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge in France with Vichy France from 1940 to 1944. Response at the continued historical ignorance prompted outrage and humour among the press.

In November 2002, while still serving as Defence Minister, McCallum encountered further controversy when officials refused to allow him to board an Air Canada flight because his breath smelt heavily of alcohol. McCallum announced soon thereafter that the incident prompted him to abstain completely from alcohol consumption. He reportedly also intended to lose weight and give up smoking.[19]

In January 2003, McCallum suggested Canadian troops could avoid so-called "friendly fire" incidents by wearing some of female Conservative MP Elsie Wayne's clothes.[20] McCallum later apologized both inside and outside the House of Commons for using inappropriate language, blaming the excitement of the moment, and had his apologies accepted by Wayne.[20]

Veterans Affairs Minister (2003–2004)


Under Paul Martin, McCallum introduced a new charter for younger, postwar veterans who have been physically or mentally injured while serving in the Canadian Forces. This charter, which became law in 2005, is modelled on the range of services provided for returning veterans after World War II. This "new model" stripped veterans of a monthly pension opting for a lump sum payment.[citation needed]

Revenue Minister (2004–2006)


As Minister of National Revenue and Chair of the Cabinet's Expenditure Review Committee, McCallum achieved in 2005 expenditure reductions of $11 billion over the next five years.[21]

Shadow Cabinet Immigration Critic (2006–2015)


When the Conservatives came to power in January 2006 under Stephen Harper, McCallum was appointed as the Immigration Critic. During his time in the opposition, Mr. McCallum began to travel extensively to China at the expense of Beijing-friendly groups. McCallum took trips valued at $73,300 from pro-Beijing business groups, such as the Canadian Confederation of Fujian Associations.[22]

McCallum meets with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson in Ottawa on Oct. 27, 2016.

Immigration Minister (2015–2017)


On 4 November 2015, he was appointed the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in the newly elected 29th Canadian Ministry of Justin Trudeau.[23] As a senior cabinet minister, McCallum was then fourth in line in case of the PM's incapacity.[24] As Immigration Minister, he oversaw the intake of Syrian refugees during the Syrian refugee crisis.[5]

Ambassador to China (2017–2019)


On 10 January 2017, it was announced that McCallum would be appointed as Canada's Ambassador to China. This resulted in a cabinet reshuffle as he stepped down from his position as the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship to pursue his new post.[25] McCallum expressed eagerness to take on the posting in Beijing, citing his strong personal connections to China, as his former riding Markham has primarily Chinese constituents and both his wife and children are of Chinese ethnicity.[26]

On 23 January 2019, McCallum spoke to Chinese-language Canadian and state-owned Chinese media in Markham, Ontario,[27] concerning the detention and extradition request by the United States, which resulted in the arrest of Huawei deputy chairwoman Meng Wanzhou,[28] who was awaiting court judgement. The United States alleged that Meng Wanzhou was in violation of the United States sanctions against Iran. The Canadian Federal government reaffirmed that it is obliged to follow judicial protocol and that the arrest was not political in nature. McCallum shared his thoughts with the media by restating public facts that could make Meng's legal defence case strong against this extradition request. This included President Donald Trump's political intrusion, which allegedly undermined the integrity of the Canadian judicial protocol, thereby contradicting Canada's stance by making it political in nature.[29] McCallum re-stated other reported motives the United States could have, citing the alleged intent of the arrest by the United States was to attempt to obtain trade concessions from China. McCallum withdrew his comments, saying he "misspoke" and that they did "not accurately represent [his] position on this issue".[30] That week, McCallum was further quoted as later telling a Toronto Star journalist it "would be great for Canada" if the US extradition request were dropped, conditional on release of Canadians since detained in China.[31]

On 26 January 2019, McCallum submitted his resignation as ambassador to China, at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who did not disclose the reasoning behind this decision.[32][26]



He is married to Nancy Lim, who is of Malaysian Chinese background (Chinese: 林秀英; pinyin: Lín Xiùyīng). They have three sons (Andrew, Jamie, and Duncan).[33]

Electoral record

2015 Canadian federal election: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal John McCallum 23,878 55.72 +18.61 $78,406.90
Conservative Jobson Easow 13,849 32.31 −4.08 $128,323.59
New Democratic Senthi Chelliah 4,595 10.72 −12.67 $48,598.52
Green Joshua Russell 535 1.25 −1.37
Total valid votes/Expense limit 42,857 100.00   $203,953.81
Total rejected ballots 240 0.56
Turnout 43,097 61.14
Eligible voters 70,484
Liberal notional hold Swing +11.34
Source: Elections Canada[34][35]
2011 Canadian federal election: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal John McCallum 19,429 38.9 −16.0
Conservative Bob Saroya 17,734 35.5 +5.3
New Democratic Nadine Hawkins 10,897 21.8 +11.6
Green Adam Poon 1,597 3.2 −1.0
Libertarian Allen Small 231 0.5
Total valid votes 49,888 100.0
Total rejected ballots 290 0.6
Turnout 50,178 55.1 +2.8
Eligible voters 91,057
Liberal hold Swing −10.65
2008 Canadian federal election: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal John McCallum 25,195 54.9 −6.7 $58,875
Conservative Duncan Fletcher 13,855 30.2 +3.2 $58,523
New Democratic Nadine Hawkins 4,682 10.2 +2.2 $4,250
Green Leonard Aitken 1,931 4.2 +2.0 $2,524
Libertarian Allen Small 229 0.5 N/A $348
Total valid votes/Expense limit 45,892 100.0 $90,945
Turnout 52.31
Liberal hold Swing −4.95
2006 Canadian federal election: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John McCallum 32,797 61.6 −4.7
Conservative Joe Li 14,357 27.0 +4.5
New Democratic Janice Hagan 4,266 8.0 −0.7
Green Wesley Weese 1,151 2.2 −0.3
Progressive Canadian Fayaz Choudhary 363 0.7
Independent Partap Dua 297 0.6
Total valid votes 53,231 100.0
Liberal hold Swing −4.6
2004 Canadian federal election: Markham—Unionville
Party Candidate Votes %
Liberal John McCallum 30,442 66.3
Conservative Joe Li 10,325 22.5
New Democratic Janice Hagan 3,993 8.7
Green Ed Wong 1,148 2.5
Total valid votes 45,908 100.0
2000 Canadian federal election: Markham
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Liberal John McCallum 32,104 66.6 +29.9
Alliance Jim Jones 9,015 18.7 +7.9
Progressive Conservative David Scrymgeour 5,085 10.6 −34.1
New Democratic Janice Hagan 1,129 2.3 −0.9
Green Bernadette Manning 493 1.0
Independent Akber Choudhry 222 0.5
Canadian Action Jim Conrad 130 0.3 −0.2
Total valid votes 48,178 100.0
Liberal gain from Progressive Conservative Swing +32.0


  1. ^ "Justin Trudeau fires Canadian ambassador to China over Huawei executive extradition remarks". The Independent. 26 January 2019. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  2. ^ Canada’s new ambassador to Beijing says Ottawa open to ‘more, more, more’. Toronto Star, 29 March 2017.
  3. ^ "Alexander Campbell MCCALLUM". necrologie.genealogiequebec.com. Archived from the original on 13 January 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  4. ^ "John McCallum '67 appointed to cabinet". selwyn.ca. 6 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b Delacourt, Susan (26 January 2019). "'Nobody is feeling good about' John McCallum's departure, says PMO source". Toronto Star. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  6. ^ McCallum, John (1995). "National Borders Matter: Canada–U.S. Regional Trade Patterns". The American Economic Review. 85 (3): 615–623. JSTOR 2118191.
  7. ^ "McGill gets $10 million for studies on Canada". The Gazette (Montreal), 16 June 1993, p. A4.
  8. ^ "Anti-Quebec vitriol aids PQ: economist McGill professor, Pequiste chief Parizeau wage war of charts". The Gazette (Montreal), 5 December 1991, p. A9.
  9. ^ Aboriginal Times, Vol. 12, Issue 4, May–June 2007.
  10. ^ Chase, Steven; VanderKlippe, Nathan (31 July 2020). "Critics call for ethics probe of ex-ambassador's work at Chinese immigration company". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 31 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Nelson Mandela, Citizen". Toronto Star, 14 June 2001, p. A32.
  12. ^ Edmonton Sun, 13 August 2003.
  13. ^ "equal-marriage.ca". ww4.equal-marriage.ca.
  14. ^ The Budget Plan 2003, p. 163.
  15. ^ Bill C-44, An Act to compensate military members injured during service, 37th Parliament, 2nd session.
  16. ^ Canadian troops to be deployed to Afghanistan: 2,000 soldiers to join NATO force in Kabul; National Post 6 May 2003, p. A4.
  17. ^ McCallum sets top priorities; Hill Times, 8 September 2003, p 1.
  18. ^ "MQUP prank".
  19. ^ Lunman, Kim (29 November 2002). "McCallum on the wagon after incident at airport". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ontario. p. A13.
  20. ^ a b "Defence minister apologizes twice for insensitive remarks". CBC News. 29 January 2003.
  21. ^ "McCallum on the hunt for $1-billion more in savings". Hill Times, 5 March 2005, p. 56.
  22. ^ Fife, Robert; Chase, Steven; VanderKlippe, Nathan (25 January 2019). "Ottawa's man in China: Who was McCallum and what was his strategy?". The Globe and Mail.
  23. ^ "Full list of Justin Trudeau's cabinet: 31-member cabinet includes 15 women, attempt at regional balance". CBC News. 4 November 2015.
  24. ^ McGregor, Janyce (7 November 2015). "Justin Trudeau's cabinet: 6 changes found in the fine print". CBC News. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  25. ^ "Chrystia Freeland becomes foreign minister as Trudeau shuffles cabinet". CBC News. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  26. ^ a b "John McCallum fired as ambassador to China amid diplomatic crisis - CBC News". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 January 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  27. ^ "Archived copy". www.cbc.ca. Archived from the original on 24 January 2019. Retrieved 15 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "Timeline: What's going on with Huawei?". BBC. 18 January 2019.
  29. ^ "Trump could intervene in Huawei court case". BBC. 12 December 2018.
  30. ^ Zimonjic, Peter (24 January 2018). "China envoy McCallum walks back comments on Meng Wanzhou case". CBC News. Retrieved 25 January 2018.
  31. ^ "Ambassador John McCallum says it would be 'great for Canada' if U.S. drops extradition request for Huawei's Meng Wanzhou". Toronto Star. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  32. ^ "Trudeau fires John McCallum as ambassador to China". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 January 2019.
  33. ^ Black, Debra (28 January 2016). "John McCallum 'honoured' to be at helm of Syrian refugee file". Toronto Star.
  34. ^ "Voter Information Service - Who are the candidates in my electoral district?". elections.ca.
  35. ^ Canada, Elections. "Error page". elections.ca. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.


Government offices
26th Ministry – Cabinet of Jean Chrétien
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Art Eggleton Minister of National Defence
David Pratt
Sub-Cabinet Post
Predecessor Title Successor
Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)
Maurizio Bevilacqua
27th Ministry – Cabinet of Paul Martin
Cabinet posts (2)
Predecessor Office Successor
Rey Pagtakhan Minister of Veterans Affairs
Albina Guarnieri
Stan Keyes Minister of National Revenue
Carol Skelton
29th Ministry – Cabinet of Justin Trudeau
Cabinet post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Chris Alexander Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
Ahmed Hussen
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the People's Republic of China
Succeeded by