Written by Kelly Grounds, Peak Associate
In December 2018, the CFO of Huawei, a Chinese telecommunication and electronics company, was detained by Canadian authorities in Vancouver. Authorities detained the CFO, Meng Wanzhou, to assist US authorities seeking Meng on charges of fraud.
Even though this is a conflict between the US and China, Canada is taking much of the fallout of their diplomatic fight based entirely on our country’s role in the arrest.
While conflict with China and Chinese businesses isn’t necessarily new for Canada, such conflict seems to have flared unsettlingly, as China now seems to be conducting their own series of Canadian detainments. The first two of these detainees were Michael Kovrig, a diplomat on leave, and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor.
Over 10 other Canadians have been separately detained within China in the past month, though at least eight of them had been released as of January 3. While China claims these each to be seperate and matters of security, it’s hard not to interpret these cases as a response to Wanzhou’s detainment.
Another detained Canadian, Robert Schellenberg, could be the most serious victim of this pattern. Schellenberg was arrested, charged, and sentenced to 15 years in prison for involvement in a drug smuggling plot in November. However, a Chinese appeal court recently ordered a retrial in Schellenberg’s case in demand of stronger charges.
Following the retrial on January 14, Schellenberg was sentenced to the death penalty. With that in mind, if the call for a retrial was in fact influenced by China’s recent feelings towards Canada, it would be greatly concerning.
What’s important to remember is that this is not Canada’s fight; they merely assisted the US in their investigation. But purely by their choice of ally, Canada has now become a target in this economic and diplomatic war between two other nations. It puts Canada in an unfair position, forced to choose between their neighbour and their own citizens.