Political Corner: Trudeau’s stubbornness in the Wanzhou extradition case is an incredible failure of duty

The argument that Canadian lives would be endangered by conceding to China ignores the lives already at risk

Chinese and Canadian relations are being jeopardized over an American trade dispute. Image: Maxwell Gawlick, with photos via Wikimedia Commons

By: Connor Stephenson, Peak Associate

Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has shown clear negligence in his responsibilities as our leader in the mishandling of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. Despite a clear pattern of behaviour in Chinese retaliation to Canadian criminal intervention, and Trudeau’s own loose affiliation with judicial proceedings, the prime minister has insisted on upholding the rule of law in this case. This carelessness has led to unimaginable harm for two Canadians detained abroad.

On December 1, 2018 the RCMP arrested Wanzhou, who is a Chinese national. Wanzhou has been accused of violating US sanctions on Iran, and bank fraud. The arrest was made on behalf of the US Department of Justice in compliance with the Canadian and US extradition treaty. Subsequently, China summarily detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on purported espionage charges in an apparent response to the arrest of Wanzhou in Vancouver.

Prior to Wanzhou’s arrest, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned the PM about the potential for retaliatory action taken by China if an arrest were to be made. In the past, China has acted similarly, detaining a pair of Canadians in 2014 after a Chinese citizen was arrested in BC over allegedly hacking into US government systems and stealing military secrets. Trudeau and his advisors seem to have failed to consider this past behaviour when dealing with Wanzhou. 

What is significant is that pertinent evidence implying the possible consequences of arresting a Chinese citizen in Canada was not considered by the prime minister in the first place. Yet he continues to appeal to the dangers of precedent and the probability of future harm to Canadians as justification for detaining Wanzhou.

Trudeau has said that abandoning the case against Wenzhou — as the Green Party of Canada has recently demanded he do — would set a dangerous precedent. Paul Manly, the foreign affairs critic for the Green Party argues that the extradition request by the US was motivated by the trade tensions between President Trump and China. 

Trudeau claims that orchestrating the release of Kovrig and Spavor as a form of mutual hostage negotiation would pose some existential threat to all Canadians, if it allows China to believe that it can respond to perceived injustices by detaining a Canadian as leverage. However the only existential threat posed to Canadians is the policy decisions made by Trudeau and his advisors. What’s more, the foolish comments made by Trudeau in stating that Canada is a nation of laws in opposing the release of the CFO is almost comical if we consider Trudeau’s selective application of the law in past judicial proceedings, and his sketchy attitude towards the ethics of governing.

Ultimately, it might not be reasonable to hope that China would release Kovrig and Spavor even if Canada were to throw out the case against Wanzhou. Yet Trudeau could move forward on the possibility of applying economic pressure, alternative trading options, or reconsider whether or not to permit Huawei’s 5G network in Canada as a solution to a perpetual tit-for-tat detention scheme with China. Any of the above would act as a means of establishing a more formidable approach to dealing with China’s habit of bullying other countries into submission. Regardless of the action taken, inaction is synonymous with failure.