You would be forgiven if you didn’t know whether our top diplomat in China was speaking on behalf of the Canadian government or the People’s Republic of China when he is reported to have told a state-owned Chinese language media on January 23, 2019 that he thought that Weng Wanzhou, the 46 year-old CFO of Huawei, had a good case to fight her extradition to the U.S.
John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, is quoted to have enumerated his reasons for favouring Weng’s side as: “One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case. Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case, and three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign on to these Iran sanctions. So I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge.”
Condemnation from Andrew Scheer, leader of the CPC, came quickly accusing McCallum of political interference and stating that if he (Scheer) were prime minister, he would fire him.
It is odd that a politically seasoned man as McCalllum a former Liberal cabinet minister, would so blatantly comment on a legal case presently before the courts. When do you ever see a politician do that? Odd, that is unless you understand that the Chinese have totally mishandled the Weng extradition and McCallum’s comments are a carefully orchestrated attempt by the Liberal government refuse to hand Weng over to the Americans without looking like they are caving into Chinese intimidation.
Canada has had a signed extradition treaty with the U.S. since 1974. Canada’s Extradition Act formally sets out the rules of extradition for all countries with which we have signed extradition agreements. Over the years, the extraditions process has been streamlined to make the process easier so much so that a fugitive has a better chance at winning the lottery than she has at winning her extradition hearing.
But winning the extradition hearing is secondary to the more important next phase of the extradition process. Once the judicial process is over and a court has ordered a fugitive to be extradited, she can appeal the judge’s order of committal to extradite to the federal government to intervene on her behalf.
It’s at the appeal stage that the extradition process becomes purely a political decision. The Extradition Act lays out the grounds that a Minister can refuse to hand a fugitive over; and, guess what? McCallum referred to three of them – whether the crime happened within the territory of the requesting party, whether a request is politically motivated; and, whether Weng’s impugned conduct would be considered illegal under Canadian law.
If Canadians have a shared value, it is surely a knee-jerk distrust of the motivations of the American government. When news first broke about Weng’s arrest, the media were initially skeptical of whether Washington’s alleged dealings with Iran could form the basis in Canada to ask for her extradition. President Trump fueled that suspicion by suggesting that he would use Weng’s extradition as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with the Chinese. Public opinion was on her side.
But then the Chinese took a page out of the manual on how not to handle international relations and arrested Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat working in China, and then a second Canadian, Michael Spavor, and then most recently commuting a life sentence to capital punishment for Robert Schellenberg a Canadian convicted of Chinese drug crimes, and any good will the Chinese had with Canadians was out the window.
That is until McCallum made his comments. Perhaps the Liberal government is helping the Chinese by refocusing media attention on what Weng is being extradited for to soften the arguably correct decision that the Americans are using Weng as a pawn in their brinkmanship with China. It also doesn’t hurt that Canadian attitudes about Iran has softened making it all that easier for Trudeau to paint Washington as the bad guy. Do I need to say more about how easy the optics are going to be for Trudeau not to hand her over to American authorities with Donald Trump as president?
If China would only help-out by releasing the Canadians held in their custody Canadians would come around to their side again. If the Chinese did that, if I were Canada, I would utilize the Extradition Act’s power to move the extradition hearing to any location in Canada where it can be heard the fastest so I could send Weng back to China where she likely belongs.
The original article was written on: The Lawyer’s Daily by Sam Goldstein