Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon expressed hopes on Wednesday that extradition matters with China will be advanced as quickly as possible.
"I have reassured my (Chinese) counterpart that we are doing everything possible to make sure that, ultimately, these people are repatriated back to China to face justice," Cannon told China Daily after addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
Cannon was referring to a number of high-profile Chinese fugitives now residing in Canada.
The most notorious Chinese fugitive in Canada is Lai Changxing. China's most wanted man is the alleged leader of a smuggling operation that evaded billions of dollars in taxes and bribed government officials. He has been living in Canada since he fled China in 1999.
But Cannon said only Canadian courts can decide what to do with Chinese nationals accused of crimes in their homeland.
"From a perspective of Canada-China relations, it's important to be able to move on this matter as fast as possible," Cannon said.
Cannon did not say when Canada is likely to sign an extradition treaty with China, but said that the procedure will consider judicial systems in both countries.
"We, before signing an extradition treaty, go out and look at the judicial and legal systems that are in place," he said.
"We make an assessment on compatibility and we decide either to go forward or not to go forward," said Cannon, who became Canada's foreign affairs minister in October, 2008.
Cannon admitted that Canada does not have a large number of extradition treaties in place. "Obviously with the United States we have agreements in place, but it's not with every other country. So it's a task that has not been dealt with by our people or the justice system."
Canadian news reports show that Ottawa has signed extradition treaties with more than 50 countries.
China is not alone in highlighting the difficulties in extraditing fugitives from Canada. The US, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand have all voiced grievances on the issue over the past years.
China has stepped up its efforts in recent years and has signed 37 extradition treaties, including four with Spain, Australia, Portugal and France.