This is getting to be almost a habit under the Justin Trudeau administration: namely, doing what you are told by the United States government.
There were two egregious examples suggesting this possibility in today’s news: first, that Canada has gone along with the United States in apparently automatically recognizing the action of the leader of the Venezuelan opposition --- renowned for years as one of the most intractable and irresponsible oppositions in any democratic country --- in declaring himself president on the basis of the huge crowds that have been protesting against the government there; and secondly the frantic, slightly hysterical reaction of the CBC commentariat to the simple statements of fact made by Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, who told a meeting in Markham, a well-heeled niche of upper middle-class Canadians, with a large Chinese population, that Ms. Meng Wanzhou has a fairly strong case as she prepares to resist extradition to the United .States, as demanded by the Trump administration.
There is surely plenty of evidence that the United States has been interfering in the political affairs of Venezuela, but our government should perhaps remember the last time it followed the American lead in ousting an elected Latin American government. That happened a few years ago in Honduras, and it has led to creation of a typically authoritarian government presiding over the world’s highest homicide rate.
The issue I want to address in more detail is that of Ms. Meng, who was arrested, with the full pre-knowledge of Prime Minister Trudeau, who apparently did not have the moxy to recognize a classic trap between the two warring economic giants. A former ambassador, whose name I have forgotten, in a letter to a Toronto newspaper a few days later said there was really no reason why Canada should not have found ways to avoid making this arrest, if they had been more alive to the dangers.
Today, however, the overwhelming weight of opinion solicited by the CBC about the extradition of Ms. Meng, suggested to me that some care was taken to ensure that the chosen commentators would express shock and horror about anything the Chinese government might do. You will remember, I hope, that Ms. Meng is the chief financial officer for the Huawei company, which has emerged as one of the biggest electronic companies in the world, with sales of its equipment in many overseas countries, and is therefore a person of distinction whose arrest could be expected to arouse the fury of the Chinese government. As a result of this stupid action, Canada is now bearing the full brunt of this fury.
Ms. Meng was arrested in Vancouver in December during a stopover, at the request of the American government, which allege that she committed some kind of financial crime in an effort to dodge around the sanctions the United States placed on Iran after the unilateral renunciation of the six-nation deal under which Iran’s progress towards building is own nuclear weapons was halted.
To my suspicious mind, that sounds like a political reason to have her arrested, a suspicion confirmed almost immediately by one of Donald Trump’s infamous tweets in which he said if the Chinese would make concessions during their current trade war, he might consider letting Ms. Meng go.
Now here’s the nub of the matter, controversy-wise: Justin Trudeau has said the matter is simply one of “rule of law”, that Ms. Meng has been arrested under a legal procedure, and the extradition decision will be made by the presiding judge, with the political arm of government having nothing to do with it.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that this is all hot air, or to put it another way, total bunkum.
I quote the CBC’s indepth explanation of our extradition law, which states as clearly as it can be stated that “it is all up to the Minister of Justice. He or she is the only person who can authorize the surrender of a fugitive to another country.”
Totally non-political? In a pig’s eye.
Of course, it is provided that a legal process has to be gone through before it reaches the Minister of Justice’s desk. The CBC note says the process essentially has three stages: “First, an accused is arrested under the Extradition Act following a diplomatic note sent by the requesting country. Following the arrest, the fugitive will eventually appear before a judge who determines if there is a prima facie case – in other words, is there enough evidence that would commit the accused to trial if the offence had taken place in Canada? If not, the fugitive is let go. If there is, the fugitive heads off to prison.”
If the fugitive is committed to prison, he or she has several avenues of appeal, and once those are exhausted comes the line about it being “all up to the Minister of Justice.”
Since this is all on the CBC’s own web site, one might wonder why, this afternoon, their air waves were growing hot with members of the trusted commentariat frothing at the mouth about how unacceptable, how irregular, how unusual was the act of John McCallum in giving three reasons why Ms. Meng has apparently a strong case to argue against her extradition. First, President Trump has given the case a political slant by his observation linking Ms. Merg’s arrest to his political ends; second, “there is an extra-territorial aspect” to the affair; and third, it arises from the Iran sanctions imposed by the US, and “Canada has not signed on to them.”
Inappropriate, say the commentators. Unacceptable. He should be sacked, cries the Conservative Party leader, who can always be depended on for a knee-jerk reaction. A statement gravely undermining Canada’s case that it is only a legal matter, in which the government cannot interfere.
I believe the Chinese can read, and if they can read they will have spotted the words “it is all up to the Minister of Justice.” They might also have spotted the question of “dual criminality”, as it is called.
The CBC website again: “People can be extradited only if the offence they're accused or convicted of is a crime in both countries – the ‘dual criminality’ test. If the offence is a crime in just one of the countries, no extradition can take place.
“And it is not just any offence. Extradition is meant to apply to relatively serious crimes. Under Canadian law, the threshold is specific. To qualify for extradition, Canada will not allow anyone to be extradited unless the offence involved could have resulted in a jail sentence of two years or more had it taken place in Canada.”
The specific crime must also be listed in the relevant treaty. And the final kicker: “The Department of Justice says the role of the extradition judge is to determine if there is enough evidence presented that, if the "conduct had been carried out in Canada, the judge would order the person to stand trial in Canada." In other words, the judge cannot test the quality or reliability of the evidence – that is the job of the trial judge and/or jury.
Only one person, who happens to be, apparently, of Chinese origin, managed somehow to sneak into the commentariat elected by the CBC to provide their always elevating opinions. This was Dr. Lynette Ong, professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, who admitted Mr. McCallum’s comments were “unprecedented”, but added that “we are in unprecedented times”. In her opinion Mr McCallum’s statement might well have been a statement of desperation by the Trudeau government designed to shore up the case being put in Washington that Canada is furious with the American government for landing Canada in this mess. She added that it might also have been designed to alert the Chinese that if they want to go after who is responsible, they should ease up on Canada, and go after the United States. And, she added, “we have seen some results from that, because it has signalled to China has we are actually quite sympathetic to Ms Meng in her case, since it could be argued has it is an abuse of the law for political purposes.
I have no idea if Professor Ong is a home-bred Canadian or not, but her comment, being free of the customary home-grown anti-Communist cant, I have to regard as a breath of fresh air. Even though she does appear to grant the Canadian government more shrewdness than it has recently been showing.