Canada, China, U.S., Meng Wanzhow—Extradition—Ambassador McCallum
Surely the last thing that Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet colleagues wanted, with the House of Commons resuming next Monday was to find themselves embroiled in a controversy of their own making; a self-inflicted wound. No doubt the extradition issues surrounding Huawei Chief Financial Officer were discussed at length at the cabinet retreat with Canada’s Ambassador to China in attendance and during last weekend’s caucus retreat. Ambassador McCallum even appeared as a witness at a closed door meeting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to provide an update and his views on the present state of relations between Canada and China.
A no time during this period of briefings by McCallum did he opine publically about the extradition process playing out involving Canada, Ms. Meng and the United States. During this period and indeed since this matter arose in December the consistent talking points from Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland have been that Canada is a rule of law country and the judiciary is free from or above political interference. Freeland offered comments on this matter after President Trump offered his views by which he attempted to link the U.S.-China trade discussions with the extradition process saying “there has been no political involvement in this process.”
The Trudeau government has maintained this line with China and has used it to seek support from other like-minded nations. It has maintained it in spite of criticism from China and the arbitrary detention of two Canadian citizens and the imposition of a death sentence on another Canadian citizen convicted of drug smuggling.
On Tuesday at a by invitation media availability, which excluded mainstream media, all of the carefully adhered to rhetoric changed as McCallum offered his views on the extradition process. Not that he could relay his own personal views given the government office he holds, but McCallum made no attempt to say that what he was about to say was his personal view only, not to be attributed to the Trudeau government.
McCallum offered his opinion that the President of China was angry as China values Huawei Technologies as a national flagship enterprise. He added that the federal government had not expected to be confronted with this matter, even though the prime minister has said that Canada had been given prior warning of Ms. Meng’s travel plans.
McCallum said that there are three possible outcomes to the extradition process. First, there could be a court order extraditing Meng to the United States. McCallum noted that such an order would be subject to appeal and with an appeal, a lengthy process would occur. Second, the U.S. makes a deal with China and no longer seeks Meng’s extradition and she returns to China and the two Canadians held in jail by China are released and the death sentence is commuted for the third. The third outcome is that Meng is released by a Canadian court.
But the advice didn’t stop there as the ambassador went on to offer an opinion on the strength of the arguments that Meng could advance in these proceedings. He set out that Meng’s lawyers could argue that the process has been politicized by President Trump’s involvement. It is passing strange that McCallum would criticise Trump’s politicization of the process while he, himself politicizes the process. According to McCallum the defence could raise the issue of extraterritoriality and finally the matter that Canada has not signed on to impose sanctions against Iran as the U.S. has done. In other words what may be a crime in the U.S. is not a crime in Canada.
Asked yesterday morning about McCallum’s intervention, Prime Minister Trudeau clung to the mantra that Canada is a rule of law country with an independent judiciary and Ms. Meng would be able to raise whatever defences she wished before the courts.
The CBC’s Chris Hall in a piece published yesterday on this matter quotes Canada’s former ambassador to China, David Mulroney as saying “you would think that he [McCallum]would be particularly careful to avoid any suggestion that he has a continuing political role.” He went on to say that McCallum’s statement “undercut the important message that the government has been trying to deliver about our commitment to due process and rule of law.”
Last evening Andrew Coyne wrote “at one stroke, McCallum has put in doubt the government’s assertion that judicial decisions in Canada are based on the rule of law, not the decisions of the rulers.” He also stated that “presumably the ambassador to China from Canada speaks for the government of Canada in China.”
This latter point by Coyne is picked up in the comments by former foreign affairs minister and ambassador to France, Lawrence Cannon who said that McCallum would be acting on instructions in an attempt to smooth relations with China.
Coyne makes the further point that each one of McCallum’s arguments set out to help Meng are disputable. The U.S. investigation was not politicized but carried out by the Justice Department. The location of Huawei’s headquarters is not germane as to whether she committed a crime under U.S. law and the charges against her deal with bank fraud, a crime in both Canada and the U.S.
Coyne asks why do this?
He points out that there are reasons why ministers are supposed to decline to comment on matters before the courts; so there can be no possible hint of involvement in matters that are properly the subject of an independent judiciary.
“Judicial decisions are based on the rule of law, not the decisions of the rulers.” Basically McCallum by his comments has given credence to the arguments advanced by China.
Coyne asks whether the ambassador was “freelancing” and David Mulroney said the comments were “almost impossible to understand.”
Coyne also asks where does this leave the minister of justice who has the final say in these matters? What if he fails to deliver or does deliver; is that decision tainted by McCallum’s comments.
Marie-Danielle Smith writing in the Post quotes Charles Burton a noted expert on China as saying that McCallum’s remarks were “highly inappropriate” and questioned whether he should continue in his role.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called for McCallum to be fired or resign yesterday. He said if he was prime minister, he would fire McCallum. No doubt if McCallum is still in his present role on Monday, question period will be dominated by this issue and calls for McCallum’s resignation.
Usually when caught in these situations the prime minister hits back at the opposition for politicizing matters for its own benefit. Hard to make that argument here when the politicization has been done the ambassador appointed by Trudeau.
If McCallum stays in his position, it makes one wonder what Wilson-Raybould did to be shuffled out of justice last week.
The House of Commons Resumes
It all starts again on Monday; the run-up to the election call, whenever that may be. Monday’s Morning Brief will deal with questions that may be asked in question period.
--today, EI numbers for November to be released
--today, trade ministers meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum to discuss the WTO
--January 28, House of Commons resumes sitting
--January 29-30, U.S. Fed meets
--January 31, GDP numbers for November to be released—bc