One of my sons is a lawyer. He is in criminal law, a very different animal from the corporate law that most of his fellow-students five or six years ago were intending to pursue. He is not skilled in that aspect of law, and I know absolutely nothing about any branch of law, so on the question of Canada’s sensitive relationships with China, it is perhaps not surprising that we have one of our infrequent disagreements. He adopts the standard legal argument; I argue, on the contrary that it is time for commnsense to be applied to this idiotic clash of values.
The whole thing began with Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a high executive in the huge Chinese company Huawei, that has penetrated to virtually the whole world with its various technological implements.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knew in advance that she was to be arrested, at the request of the United States, and since that moment on December 1 of 2018, we (meaning Canada) have been acting like a chicken caught in a car’s headlights, immobile, responsive only to the extradition request, and unwilling to make any compromise, even when there is obviously no other way of obtaining the release of the two Michaels, Canadian citizens who were arbitrarily arrested by China as a retaliatory measure not long after Meng’s arrest.
Our mantra has been, we are a country governed by rule of law; we have been sitting on this high horse for more than a year. Several important Liberal politicians, including former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, who, during his time at the top put a lot of effort into maintaining good relations with China, John Manley and John McCallum, former ministers, have urged the government to deal with what seem to me to be facts just as important as those the government is standing steadfast on. During these 12 months the CBC has continued to parade a variety of former Canadian ambassadors to China who have urged that we should stand firm and try to mobilize support from the international community for our position, advice that has so far literally brought us not a step nearer to the solution of the problem. In addition, Canada’s agricultural exports to China have dropped drastically, bringing worrying times for Canadian farmers.
My argument, which I expressed not long after Ms. Meng's arrest, is that extradition is a political issue not simply a legal one. An extradition can be ordered only by the Minister of Justice, and a further aspect is that an extradition can only be based on a law that is an offence in Canada.
Since the law Ms. Meng is accused of violating has something to do with American sanctions against Iran, it is not a Canadian law extant in this country, so the solution could hardy be simpler: our responsible minister could announce that, having considered the matter carefully, the proposed extradition does not fall within Canadian law and is therefore refused.
Of course, Donald Trump could be expected to rant and rave and threaten to impose tariffs or sanctions on Canadian goods; but he is a bully, and a bully can always be faced down, more especially in a situation in which the two contesting sides are the closest of friends.
This seems to be the only way that Canada can achieve what our ministers keep saying are the irreducible and essential aspects of this case: namely, that the two Michaels should be released from detention by the Chinese, following the release by Canada of Ms. Meng, and the resumption of normal relations between our two countries.
I don’t know if this simple solution has occurred to the dunderheads in our government, but I offer it to them as an idea that can hardly fail. The only argument against it is that we might be offering a hostage to fortune: but my sense is that we should allow the future to take care of itself. If our problem is to get our two Michaels home, let’s get on about it.
To all of which I can only add: wot the hell, wot the hell, toujours gai, toujours gai!