"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." Noam Chomsky
After the G20 summit, President Trump let it be known that he is backtracking on the Huawei ban. Bloomberg and the Financial Times are reporting that HSBC is telling Beijing "It Is Not to Blame for Huawei CFO Arrest." Where does that leave us? Let's see: HSBC is, according to the Grand Jury indictment, supposed to be the victim of Meng Wanzhou's alleged bank fraud. The only evidence against Meng, according to the indictment, is a meeting she had with an HSBC executive and an accompanying Power Point presentation. If the "plaintiff" and the "victim" are backing away from the case, the original warrant suspect and the evidence thin to non-existent, what's left?
Why is Canada still holding Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO, under arrest? Why is Canada accepting that Canadians are being held in a Chinese prison or facing execution? Why is Canada accepting the blockade of Canadian shipments of canola, pork and beef? Why is Canada accepting this extreme deterioration of our trade and relations with China? The answer is: "Richard Donoghue asked us to." Yes, Canada and Canadians are facing these dire consequences because Richard Donoghue, Chief Litigator for CA Technologies (a Huawei competitor, now owned by Broadcom) who became a US Attorney in 2018, is the individual who requested Meng's arrest and is requesting her extradition.
"Richard Donoghue": what a dumb answer, except that it's true. Despite the apparent conflict of interest, Canada and Canadians are facing these consequences because Richard Donoghue asked us to. I understand that our Canadian politicians panicked when faced with the request to arrest Meng and were paralyzed with fear and indecision. "Deer in the headlights" is a very apt analogy. Later they would have to come up with justifications for their paralysis and spread the nonsense claims that extradition is a "judicial, non-political" affair and we are "following the rule of law"--claims that are easily refuted by simply having a look at the relevant 14 pages of the Canadian Extradition Act (pages 11 to 15 and 40 to 48). Bizarrely, politicians of every political stripe lined up behind them without a single example of anyone looking at the details of the case or the law. However, what continues to baffle and confound me is the refusal of Canadian journalists to allow any serious discussion of the case, in particular, the merits of Meng's defence.
Last week I watched a "rebroadcast" on CBC News of Natasha Fatah hosting a panel of three commentators to discuss Canada-China relations. "How is it possible," I asked myself, "for four journalists to discuss current Canada-China relations, and never get around to the facts (let alone the legality) of our arresting and holding Meng Wanzhou?"
David Akin of Global News seemed to offer some hope of an open discussion with his "ANALYSIS: Trudeau cannot just order Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou to go free — or can he?" Those three words-- "or can he?"-- are the nearest I have seen to any Canadian journalist opening up discussion of the grounds for Meng's release. However the "analysis" turns out to be the usual diatribe designed to close down any rational dialogue. Although Akin begins by noting that former Prime Minister Jean Chretien has joined John McCallum in discussing the possibility of releasing Meng Wanzhou, he then quotes University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran that “I think it’s shocking. [ . . . .] I think that’s absolutely inappropriate. If they want to make those comments, run for office again.”
Take note of the Catch 22. We have been told that elected officials and their appointees are not allowed to comment (on the grounds that "politicians" and their appointees cannot comment on "judicial" affairs). Now we are being told that you have to be elected to comment. Once you have eliminated both the elected and the un-elected, who's left? We have to wonder, who is this Amir Attaran, who would have us believe that no-one is allowed to discuss the arrest or release of Meng Wanzhou? According to his Wikipedia page, Amir Attaran has had a very distinguished legal career. He is an American-born Iranian who specializes in medical and environment cases. Why is a medical/environment lawyer being asked to comment on an extradition case?
We get an answer to this question by reading to the bottom of Attaran's Wikipedia page, where we discover: "In 2013, Attaran accused Peter MacKay of falsely alleging that Justin Trudeau committed a crime by smoking marijuana." And, when Attaran launch a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against the Canadian Research Chair program "The government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sided with Attaran [ . . .].
Akin asks the rhetorical question "Why suffer all that pain? Why not just send Meng back to China?" Then answers: "But we cannot. At least, not right now. Because in Canada, like most western democracies and not — this cannot be stressed enough — like China, politicians cannot simply phone up a judge and order that an accused person be set free." The folksy tone makes this claim sound like an obvious truth, but it is an absolute falsehood. This is what the Extradition Act actually says:
(3) The Minister may at any time withdraw the authority to proceed and, if the Minister does so, the court shall discharge the person and set aside any order made respecting their judicial interim release or detention."The Minister" in this case is Minister of Justice. So yes, a politician who, according to the law, can put an end to these proceedings and have Meng released "at any time."
Akin claims that
Meng’s case is right now: before Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the British Columbia Supreme Court.
If Holmes does eventually rule that Canada should honour the extradition request by the United States — which has charged Meng with fraud in association with alleged violations of Huawei on American sanctions on trading with Iran — and surrender her to American authorities, there will be an opportunity for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, through his justice minister, David Lametti, to intervene and, if they so choose, to block the extradition.There is some truth in this claim, but it seems to deliberately get the chronology of events and responsibilities upside down. The Extradition Act specifies that
The Minister may, after receiving a request by an extradition partner for the provisional arrest of a person, authorize the Attorney General to apply for a provisional arrest warrant, if the Minister is satisfied that
(a) the offence in respect of which the provisional arrest is requested is punishable in accordance with paragraph 3(1)(a); [i.e., that the crime is punishable by two years of imprisonment]
As the Justice Committee hearings on SNC-Lavalin revealed, we have an odd situation in Canada in which the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General are the same person. The Lavalin scandal was about the fact that the government was putting pressure on Jody Wilson-Raybould in her role as Attorney General. Minister of Justice is a political office, distinct from the Attorney General.
Consider how this single paragraph of the law contradicts so much of what we have been told about the Meng case. First, extraditions are clearly and explicitly political decisions in Canada. Second, the Minister of Justice is the first to receive a request for extradition (and it is "a request"; so much for "we had no choice"). Third, the Minister of Justice authorizes the arrest, not a judge. Fourth, once the Minister of Justice has given the authorization, the Attorney General can instruct a provincial judge (in this case ACJ Heather Holmes) to issue the arrest warrant. What Akin's claim gets right is that the Minister of Justice can intervene "at any time," including after ACJ Holmes has made her decision.
The law is explicit:
(3) The Minister may seek any assurances that the Minister considers appropriate from the extradition partner, or may subject the surrender to any conditions that the Minister considers appropriate,Not only does the law make it plain that the Minister of Justice (a politician) is responsible for the extradition, it lays out the specific circumstances in which a request for extradition is to be refused:
(b) the request for extradition is made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person by reason of their race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, political opinion, sex, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability or status or that the person’s position may be prejudiced for any of those reasons.
(c) the conduct in respect of which extradition is sought is a political offence or an offence of a political characterAnd finally:
48 (1) If the Minister decides not to make a surrender order, the Minister shall order the discharge of the person.
Without a single citation from the law or even mention of the Canadian Extradition Act, Akin concludes:
Canada is a nation of laws with a fully independent judiciary to interpret and enforce those laws. Full stop.
And the nations of the world — Chretien and McCallum, notwithstanding — can take inspiration and comfort from Canada’s unwavering insistence on the rule of law.