The dilemma Canada finds itself in with Chinese business executive Meng Wanzhou is a result of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ”naive approach” to China, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says.
Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former diplomat Michael Kovrig were arrested Monday in Beijing on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China, shortly after Canada arrested Meng in response to a request from American authorities who want her on suspicion of bank fraud.
“We now find ourselves in a situation where we have Canadian citizens on foreign soil detained and a government that has pursued a policy of appeasement, putting us in a position where we don’t have the leverage that we might otherwise have,” said Scheer, who urged the government to send a ”very high-level message.”
He called on the Trudeau government to “unequivocally denounce any type of repercussions to Canadians on foreign soil.”
Canada’s mishandling of China, in Scheer’s view, includes Trudeau’s indecision on whether Huawei — the Chinese telecom company where Meng is a senior executive — should be permitted to supply technology for Canada’s next generation 5G networks. The U.S. alleges Huawei is an organ of Chinese intelligence and should be banned.
Canada still has not been granted consular access to the two detained Canadians, said a government source, speaking on the condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the case.
One of President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers says the arrests of the two Canadians were plainly a response to Meng’s arrest.
“Of course it is,” Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, told Fox Business Network on Thursday when asked whether the arrests amounted to a tit-for-tat response by the Chinese. “That’s the Chinese playbook and again the problem we always have with China is when we launch legitimate concerns over whatever it is, China comes back and does these kinds of actions.
“So, they’re very hard to deal with in a Western way.”
Many questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the Meng case following U.S. President Donald Trump’s musing this week that he would be willing to intervene on her behalf if it would help him strike a trade deal with China. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is to travel to Washington on Friday along with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan for a meeting with their counterparts, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis.
Manwhile, legal experts say Canada’s faulty extradition system will be on full international display as the world closely watches Meng’s case unfold.
Defence lawyer Donald Bayne said Canada’s Extradition Act essentially gives judges no discretion, which means practically everybody gets extradited no matter how flimsy the evidence against the accused person.
“It’s a terrible and defective system … (the judge is) a rubber stamp,” Bayne said Thursday in an interview. “And now we’re going to be the victims of our own defective system.”
Bayne represented Hassan Diab, who was extradited to France years ago on charges he’d bombed a Paris synagogue in 1980, even though the Ottawa judge presiding over the extradition case acknowledged the evidence was too weak to have led to a conviction in Canada.
The case took six years to make its way through Canadian courts before Diab was sent to France. Last January, after Diab spent years in a French jail, the French dropped all the charges against him for lack of evidence and he returned to Canada.
Robert Currie, a professor of international law at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said the Diab case illustrates the flaws with Canada’s extradition system. He said the current system is too fully tilted towards the Crown.
“Even countries that we trust, as having recognizable justice systems can have politicized prosecutions. That much is clear in Diab’s case,” said Currie. ”And it is definitely a suggestion in the case of Ms. Meng, now that we have seen President Trump’s remarks about her being a bargaining chip.”
Bayne, and other experts, have called for a review of the Extradition Act to ensure the process is much more than a rubber stamp.
It was a high-profile extradition case — but Meng’s situation has already attracted significant worldwide attention.
And because of it, Canada now finds itself entangled in a diplomatic crisis with its second-largest trading partner.
On Wednesday Freeland said Meng could use Trump’s remark to help fight her extradition. Freeland said any comments made in the U.S. could be used by Meng’s lawyers before Canadian courts.
Bayne said because of the high-stakes nature of Meng’s case, federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould could block the extradition — although he believes such a step would be a first in Canada.
He believes the stakes of this case are so high for Canada that it’s possible Wilson-Raybould will step in to prevent the extradition.
“We get caught as the filler of the sandwich between these two giant superpowers and we’re constrained by our own Extradition Act,” he said. “China’s looking very hard at what we do here and if our extradition system works in its normal way… The world is looking at our process here.”
He added that ministers have intervened in extradition cases in the past, but only to attach conditions — not to prevent people from being extradited. For example, such moves have been used in cases where the individual is being sent to a jurisdiction with the death penalty, Bayne said.
The Canadian Press