Showing posts with label Justin Trudeau. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Justin Trudeau. Show all posts

Wednesday 15 July 2020

"Judicial Independence" in Canadian Extradition Law

The Canadian Extradition Act

There is no "judicial independence" in Canadian extradition law.  Louise Arbour,  former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals, has been trying to educate the Canadian public on this basic fact in Canadian law. The Canadian Extradition Act is available online and is clear (and I encourage you to click the hyperlink), in Canada, extradition is, ultimately, the responsibility of the executive branch of government (meaning the politicians we elect) not the judiciary.  Despite the obvious letter of the law, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues to stubbornly repeat the fallacy that "judicial independence" must be maintained in the Meng extradition trial. His use of the phrase "judicial independence" is proof that he has never looked at the Canadian Extradition Act.  Imagine: in a matter of minutes, anyone with an internet connection and basic reading skills can know more about Canadian extradition law than the Prime Minister of Canada.  Be one of those people.

I urge you to click on the link:  The Canadian Extradition Act.

The Definition of absurd

The definition of absurd is "wildly irrational, illogical and inappropriate."  I bother to define "absurd" because the word can sometimes imply ridiculous, mocking, even comic.  But in this case, the issues are deadly serious, especially for Michael Korvik and Michael Spivak who could spend years in a Chinese prison  (Canadian extradition cases have been known to take ten years) while the Canadian government dithers and does nothing.

The Most basic rule of logic

The most basic rule of logic is that if your premise is wrong, whatever conclusions or arguments follow from the premise will also be wrong.  For over 18 months, Canada's political leadership and virtually the entirety of its fourth estate have adopted a false premise summed up in the expression "judicial independence."  By adopting this false premise, Canadian politicians, the media, and numerous public figures have unleashed a litany of absurdities, non-sequiturs, and obfuscations which can only lead to delays and damage to Canada and Canadians.  Consider some of the claims you have, no doubt, already heard.

We are abiding by Canadian law

 If you dared to click the link to the Canadian Extradition Act, you know this goes beyond being illogical, it is an outright lie.  The only way to claim that Canada is being "law abiding" is to ignore the law, the Canadian Extradition Act, which we are supposedly abiding by.

We had no choice: Canada is respecting its extradition treaty obligations

How many times have you heard these claims?  The word "obligations" is more than misleading; it is simply wrong.  Extradition treaties do not create the obligation for Canada to arrest anyone, and the Treaty on Extradition Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America is no exception.  The treaty lays out the circumstances and a list of the 30 crimes for which Canada will consider the American "request" that a person be extradited.  You can do a word search of the Treaty (click edit/find in your browser, then type in the word oblige and any of its cognates). The word "oblige" or its cognates does not appear a single time in the Treaty.  The word "request" and its various forms appear . . . a lot.  (I stopped counting after I had found the word used 50 times.)  The Public Prosecutor Service of Canada is explicit that "Extradition treaties do not themselves create an obligation or a power to arrest in Canada."  Still, Canadian politicians throw up their hands saying "we had no choice" and Canadian journalists piously repeat the falsehood.

Trump made it political

Invoking the name "Donald Trump" has become a means of announcing that the universe is absurd and, to quote Becket's Waiting for Godot, "there is nothing to be done."  Blaming Trump means no-one feels responsible to do anything.  Of course, Trump's public announcement that he would use Meng as a bargaining chip with China was immediate grounds for dismissal of the extradition request.  But, guess what, only the Minister of Justice can take that step.

One school of thought is that arresting Meng on December 1, 2018, the same day Trump was having a one-on-one meeting with China's President Xi was a deliberate attempt to undermine the American President orchestrated by his national security advisor John Bolton.  (If you click on this link to the Guardian article from 6 Dec 2018, you will see Bolton quoted as saying he didn't know if Trump had been informed of the Meng arrest.  My guess:  if his national security advisor didn't tell him, Trump probably didn't know.  Also, in the article, Bolton makes it clear that Meng was arrested because of NSA concerns about Huawei, not because she had committed bank fraud.)

"Trump made it political" clouds the fact that extradition is, by law, political in Canada.  Justin Trudeau made the case impossibly "political" when he dismissed Canada's ambassador to China simply for saying that Meng had a good case against extradition.  How can David Lametti, the Minister of Justice, do his job and release Meng after Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland have repeated a hundred times over in the last 18 months that extradition in Canada must be done without political interference?  Has anyone heard from our Minister of Justice recently?  Robert Fife, Globe and Mail Bureau Chief, described Minister of Justice, David Lametti, as "becoming a joke," and "every time they let him out he says something stupid."  On Feb. 7, 2019, three weeks after he had been appointed Minister of Justice, The Star reported:

Justice Minister David Lametti says foreign affairs will be a factor if and when it comes time for him to make what he acknowledges is a political decision whether to extradite Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou [ . . .].
 I haven't heard anything from the Minister of Justice since.  Have you?

Canada is being bullied; we need to get tough with China

If you are wondering by whom Canada is being bullied, you need look no further than Adrienne Arsenault's interview with former National Security Advisor John Bolton.  

When asked  about what the USA was doing about the imprisonment of Canadians Kovrig and Spavor, John Bolton replied:  "it has been spoken about publicly in the administration."  This is how the USA is getting tough with China.

Canada is being played by the USA and being left to its own devices to deal with China.  Bolton's response to Canada's dilemma:  "If you want to leave NATO, if you want to get rid of our protection militarily, please go ahead and do it.  If that's what you want.  Canada is free to do it."

When Arsenault asked, "How does Canada get its Canadians home from China at this point?"

Bolton's response:  "Look, I think we all want to get them home as soon as possible.  America has had its share of hostages around the world. If you don't like it, Ma'am, you're free to go ally with China.  If you think that's what your country wants to do.  Think about that long and hard."

There's a difference between China imprisoning two Canadians for no reason and Canada's arresting Meng on legal grounds

Yes, there is a difference.  It is a difference of degree.  It only holds as a difference of kind, if Canada's grounds for holding Meng are legal according to Canadian law.  Back to the Canadian Extradition Act and the fact that the Minister of Justice and only the Minister of Justice (not a judge) is tasked with looking at all the circumstances and deciding if the request is just and justifiable.  Only the Minister can consider if Richard Donaghue's warrant is a conflict of interest.  Only the Minister can determine if nationality, ethnicity, economics, or politics play a part in and thereby dismiss the extradition request.  Only the Minister can look at the entire situation and consider if Meng will, in fact, be tried and sentenced to at least a year in prison as required by the Treaty, or if the end result will likely be a fine or some kind of negotiation--which would be grounds for dismissing the request.  Only the Minister can look at the entire situation and ask:  "Has anyone ever done jail time for the kind of thing that Meng is being accused of?" Everywhere the Minister of Justice looks, he is likely to see a reason to dismiss the extradition request.  The Canadian response:  "judicial independence" as if the Minister of Justice is not allowed to act.  Have I mentioned that Canadians need to study the Canadian Extradition Act?

We can't release Meng because the Chinese have taken two Canadians hostage

Having ignored the letter of Canadian law for 18 months, we now find ourselves facing the absurd argument that we cannot release Meng because the Chinese have imprisoned two Canadians and acquiescence would encourage future hostage diplomacy.  Does anyone really believe that Canada is in a position to give China lessons on international diplomacy?  That anything Canada does will change Chinese behaviour on the international stage?

Arresting two Canadians in China, as I pointed out in December, 2018, has made the optics of releasing Meng more difficult for Canada.  At the time, the common observation was that the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor were for local consumption in China; that is, the government had to show that they were doing something about the arrest of Meng.  The need for two governments to save face with their constituencies has created this absurd standoff.  Neither government has solid legal grounds for their actions but before any change can take place, one of these governments has to admit the fact.

A Majority of Canadians oppose a swap of Meng for the Michaels

The UBC survey done last October concluded that 39% of Canadians felt arresting Meng was a mistake and 35% feel she should be released before the judicial process has concluded.  More recently:

the latest study from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds Canadians supportive of the federal government’s position of letting Meng’s extradition case play out in the courts. Seven-in-ten (72%) feel this way, while a minority (28%) say that they would rather the government negotiate a way to exchange Meng for Canadians Kovrig and Spavor.

What does this latest poll prove?  To fully answer the question, you have to look at the question that Angus Reid asked, and the answers that respondents were allowed to give.  This is what you get:

In other words, if you are forced to accept the false premise that extradition in Canada is an "independent court process" do you follow the law, or break the law and do something else? So yes, Canadians think of themselves as law-abiding, which is easy to do if you ignore the law . . . the Canadian Extradition Act.

Now What?

David Akin of Global News has argued that it's too soon for the government to intervene in the Meng extradition. According to Akin, the Minister can only act at the end of the judicial process (in 8 to 10 years from now?).  Commenting on CBC News last  week, Susan Riley, said it was "too late for the government to intervene."  Of course, she has a point.  After 18 months of repeated, spurious claims that the government cannot interfere, how will the government explain its actions when it is eventually required to follow the law and for the Minister of Justice to make his decision?

There is only one way, that I can see, to escape the perfidy and absurdity.  A lot of Canadians will have to browse the Canadian Extradition Act. Is there any way that is ever going to happen?  Not likely.  Then again, what if you did?  And suggested the same to a few of your friends?

Thursday 25 June 2020

How Did Canada Lose to Norway and Ireland in Its Campaign for a UN Security Council Seat?

The Basics:  

  • The United Nations was formed in 1945, at the end of World War II.  There were 51 member countries.  Harry S. Truman was President of the USA and the UN's home was established in New York City.
  • The goal of the United Nations is world peace and security.
  • The Security Council is the power center of the UN.  It has five permanent members, the "big" winners of WWII:  the USA, France, the UK, Russia, and China.
  • On a rotational basis, other countries are elected by all 193 members of the UN General Assembly to occupy temporary, 2-year positions in the Security Council.
  • There are currently 10 temporary (non-permanent, 2-year) positions in the Security Council. The permanent members have remained the same since 1945.
  • The non-permanent positions are elected on a geographical basis, so Canada was competing against Ireland and Norway in what is known as the "Weog block" (Western Europe and Others).
  • In the 2020, three-country competition for two Security Council seats, Canada came in third behind Norway and Ireland.

Why did Canada lose?  The Said and the unsaid.

Here is a list of reasons I have surmised ("the unsaid") and I have read ("the said" which someone else has surmised):
  1.  Canada is a strong supporter of Israel.  According to Wikipedia, citing a CBC commentary by Evan Dyer, Canada's "consistent voting record in support of Israel" was an obstacle to its election.
  2. Over time, Canada has had a Security Council Seat for twelve years.  In other words, Canada has won this election process six times.  It was someone else's turn.
  3. Norway spent 2.8 million dollars campaigning for a seat; Canada only spent 1.74 million.  (Who knew there were campaigns for the seats?  Didn't we just put SNC-Lavalin on trial for paying bribes to foreign officials?)
  4. As part of the campaigning, Canada gave out free tickets to a Celine Dion concert.  Ireland gave out free U2 concert tickets.  (Turns out Bono is more popular in the UN than Celine.)
  5. Gender equity.  (This so ironic, it's almost funny.)  In Canada, we might think of our Prime Minister as the Poster Boy for gender equity.  The Security Council, as it turns out, is also very interested in gender equity.  The Norwegian Ambassador to the UN and the Irish Ambassador to the UN are both women.  Their election added two more women to the Security Council.   Canada's Ambassador to the UN and our candidate for the Security Council was Mark-André Blanchard.
  6. It's a fair guess that China did not vote for Canada.  Nor would any country under Chinese influence and, if the rumours are even half true, that would be a lot of votes.  After the vote, Norway's Prime Minister expressed the intention "to remain on good terms with China, Russia, and the United States."  Something Canada seems to have trouble doing.
  7. No-one I have read is saying so but I think it is a fair bet that the Trump White House would be unlikely to endorse a Canadian presence on the Security Council.  Trump's animosity toward Trudeau is well documented.  I can recall at least two incidents in which Trump described Trudeau as "two-faced" or words to that effect--The G7 and Davos.
  8. Why vote for the American lapdog?  Despite the exchange of insults between the President and the Prime Minister, Canada is perceived as being incapable of opposing or unwilling to oppose US hegemony.   The campaign for a Security Council seat has been going on at the same time as Canada has been holding Meng, the Huawei CFO, under house arrest to honour a US extradition request.  The arrest has been counter to Canadian interests while it serves American corporate and trade interests.  Historically, Canada has been elected to the Security Council once every 10 years under both Conservative and Liberal governments.  It has now been 20 years since Canada last held a seat.  Canada's willingness to sacrifice its own interests in order to accommodate an American "request" leads to the conclusion that electing Canada would simply be giving the USA another voice at Security Council meetings.

Does it matter?

According to Andrew Scheer, who seems to be in permanent bitch mode these days, the campaign was Justin Trudeau's "personal vanity project."  However, when the Harper/Scheer Conservatives failed to win a Security Council seat in 2010 "foreign affairs minister John Baird attributed the failure to win a seat to principled positions taken by Canada on certain international issues."  

I have gone looking for answers to the question "What are the benefits of a temporary seat on the Security Council?" and the answers have been neither tangible nor convincing.  "Having a seat at the table" is an interesting synecdoche but what does it really mean?  It's prestigious?  How does that prestige play out to be of any real benefit to Canada?

According to the rules of the Security Council, any one of the five permanent members can veto any proposal presented.  Hypothetically, if Canada were a member and presented an idea, all five of China, Russia, France, the UK, and the USA would have to agree before there could be any further discussion.  If all five permanent members wanted an idea to be discussed, they certainly wouldn't need Canada to propose it.  Or is the Security Council really about backroom deals, corridor conversations, and whisper campaigns?  If so, do they really need to be Security Council members in order for Ambassador A to lean over to Ambassador B and say, "Hey, why don't you let our citizens out of jail, and maybe we can sign a trade deal!"

Is the UN a dysfunctional bureaucracy?

The theoretical goals of the UN--"world peace and security"--could not be more desirable.  In practice, it appears to have fallen prey to the syndrome which plagues so many institutions, (governments, political parties, universities, security and police forces, even non-profit organizations and charities): a preoccupation with its own bureaucratic survival over the underlying raison d'être for which it exists.

Seventy-five years after it was first formed, Professor of International Relations, Jean-François Thibault, asks, "is the Security Council still relevant in its current form?"  Thibault is "not optimistic." We can only hope that the organization reinvigorates the goals to which it aspires before it expires.


An astute reader of this blog asked me if there has ever been a case of the non-permanent members of the Security Council affecting the outcome of voting on a particular resolution.  I have browsed 500 (of the 2500 available) examples of Security Council votes.  In these 500 cases, there was not a single example of one of the 15 members of the Security Council voting against a resolution.  In a handful of cases, there were two or three abstentions.

Thursday 26 September 2019

"Blackface" and Best Evidence

Why is blackface wrong?

Blackface is wrong.  But it's not prima facia, at-face-value wrong.  (The pun is intended and meaningful.)  There is nothing inherently immoral about blackening your face.  It's not like theft or rape or murder.  It is wrong because of its historical context; specifically, within American history and culture, a white actor using the pseudonym Jim Crow performed in minstrel shows in the 1830s portraying "blacks as lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice."  That taint of racist intention has remained with the practice for almost two centuries.

Teaching American literature

When I taught American literature, I typically invited students to produce a "creative assignment" of their own choosing which reflected the content of the course.  In this context, one of my students--an intelligent, cooperative, engaged, well-intentioned student--surprised me and the class with a one-man performance of a minstrel show in blackface. I came down hard on him and, to some extent, the class as a whole for their gleeful reception of the performance, which I described as not only racist but potentially criminal.

Talking to the student who had performed in blackface afterward, he told me that as he was walking toward the classroom he crossed paths with a couple of African exchange students.  From the expressions on their faces, he understood immediately that he was making a terrible mistake.  A lesson was learned.  What's left to learn?

Is ignorance innocence?

It is worth stopping to notice that "innocent" is a synonym for "ignorant".   There is a principle in law that "ignorance of the law is no excuse."   However, contrary to what I told my students in 2003, blackface is not a crime (unless it could be argued that it rises to the level of hate crime).  (Sometimes I get it wrong, or at least exaggerate.)  This week, in the midst of an election campaign, images of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a young man wearing blackface have been widely circulated and exhaustively discussed in the media.

An Apology gone too far

Well schooled in the principle of "getting out in front of a scandal," Trudeau has apologized profusely and repeatedly, saying "Darkening your face, regardless of the context or the circumstances, is always unacceptable because of the racist history of blackface."  "Regardless of the context and circumstances" goes too far.  Blackface is wrong because of the historical context and circumstances within which it emerged.    It is not an absolute evil unmitigated by the circumstances in which it occurs.  (Similarly, the swastika is not a symbol of evil, but it was made into one by the Nazis in the 1930s.)

What did Megyn Kelly say?

Oddly, I began writing this post almost a year ago when Megyn Kelly was fired by NBC from her job as host of Megan Kelly Today because of her "comments" on, "defense" of and "support" for blackface.  At the time, I was curious about what exactly she had said because reports on her transgression were so uniformly vague?  Were her comments so outlandishly racist that they could not be repeated?  Eventually I found this online article--Megyn Kelly doesn’t understand why blackface Halloween costumes are offensive--which included the video of her comments.

In the pandemonium of panel exchanges this is what Kelly said:

"What is racist . . . ?" [ . . . .]  You do get in trouble if you’re a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween or a black person who puts on white face for Halloween.  Back when I was a kid, that was OK as long as you were dressing up as a character.” 
Subsequent articles on Kelly's "racist tendencies" cited as evidence her claim that "Santa Claus was white."    ( For my thoughts on Santa see "Mateus da Costa, the Very First, Original, Authentic, Pure Laine Québécois de Souche and the Real Santa Claus.")  

Best Evidence

"Best evidence" is a legal concept which, in its barest form, means that at trial the original document should be presented and not a copy.  In a more general sense, researchers in all fields understand that wherever possible you want to use authentic documents.  Unadulterated, first-hand evidence of what someone said, or did, or wrote is best evidence.   A second or third party's interpretation, paraphrase, quotation, re-contextualization, edited or doctored version is not.  Obviously, in the internet age, journalistic rigour tends to get lost as everyone is looking for the worst possible spin on the worst news of the day.  "Bad news," as the cliché goes, "is good news."  These days the worse, the more terrible, scandalous, outrageous and enraging the news, the more likely it is to go viral.

Consider:  CGP Grey's This Video Will Make You Angry 

"Every picture needs a thousand words."

My communications professor, John Buell, loved to counter the bromide that "a picture is worth a thousand words" by claiming that "every picture needs a thousand words." In his Introduction to Communication Studies, John Fiske outlines how a picture is a metonym (or synecdoche); that is, like the figure of speech where a part of something stands in for the whole.  Fiske's (and Buell's) point is that we have to "read" photographs and add the reality, the context, that is missing from the image we are looking at.  We may think we are looking at "reality," but we are simply looking at pigment or pixels and imagining a reality attached to those bits and pieces.

Reading the images of Justin Trudeau as a young man in blackface, what I interpret is his rapid ascendency, on the coattails of his father's fame, from ski instructor and high school teacher to Prime Minister. The images of a foolish young man are evidence of a steep learning curve.  Obviously, when he allowed himself to be photographed in blackface he wasn't thinking that he might someday be Prime Minister and called upon to explain himself.  He may have been insensitive and unthinking, or simply unaware of the implications and interpretations of his behaviour, as were my students in 2003.

When did blackface become verboten?

Blackface is a theatrical tradition which lasted for almost 200 years, from the mid 19th to the early 21st century.  Al Jolson, the American actor, comedian and singer, and the most popular performer of his day (1920s, 30s and 40s), was best known for his performances in blackface.  Orson Welles portrayed Othello in blackface in a film version of the play in 1951.  Actors on British and Quebec television performed in blackface as recently as 2003 and 2013 respectively.  As near as I can judge, the clear and general consensus in the USA that blackface was a social taboo only coalesced in the mid-1980s in the aftermath of the civil-rights movement, after Afro-Americans had taken on and defeated more blatant and injurious forms of racism. (Just as the swastika became a heinous symbol only after World War II and the facts of the Holocaust became generally known and understood.)

Gender transgression versus racial transgression

Ignorance of history is a feeble excuse, but it is, nonetheless, an excuse.  We should stop to notice that we are at a very unusual crossroads of history where transgender expression (See The Pronoun Wars) is being protected as a civil right.  Racial transgression, however, is still decried.  Michael Jackson was criticized for appearing white.  Rachel Dolezal, one-time president of the Washington chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was charged with fraud and perjury when it was revealed that both her parents were white. In 1961 John Howard Griffin underwent chemical treatments to blacken his skin and travelled the US southern states, eventually publishing an account of his experiences in Black Like Me.  In the 60s and 70s, Griffin was heralded as an anti-segregationist hero, but in contemporary times, it is argued that “Black Like Me” Is Blackface Too.

Blackface and saturnalia 

Megyn Kelly's attempted use of Halloween to justify blackface seemed only to make matters worse.  We are hostages of a racist history that has made blackface such a potent symbol that it, seemingly, cannot be mitigated by circumstances or intentions.  However, we still need to recognize that as a product of human history, it is a contingent evil, not an absolute, permanent, immutable, universal evil as some partisans would have us believe.  We need to take note of where we are in history.  We should look forward and hope that in a more tolerant, equalitarian society, future generations will have moved beyond the kind of problem that blackface emblematizes.  We also need to recognize that we live in a rational universe which is less and less likely to accept the irrational justifications of saturnalian ritual. 

Halloween Matters:  Why Do People Dress in Costumes?

Halloween is an ancient Celtic ritual to mark the end of the harvest season, which was adapted by the Romans and later by Christians.  The Greeks celebrated the festival of Dionysus, the god of wine and madness and tragedy, around the same time of the year.  For the Romans, Dionysus became Baccus and the festival the Bancannal.  The wearing of costumes was, in particular, common during the Saturnalian festivals, which Christians converted to the Christmas period, and is the underlying ritual of various carnival celebrations such as Mardi Gras and the Brazilian and Portuguese Carnivals.  What all these rituals have in common is the upsetting of the social order, a beggar could be named King, men dressed as women, for a temporary period social roles and taboos were suspended.  In a chaotic, cryptic discussion of Halloween, Megyn Kelly asked if the ritual tradition didn't suspend the taboo of blackface today as it did during her childhood.  The answer she received was a resounding "no."

In some cultures, Halloween is a celebration of the dead.  For Catholics it is "all souls day." Rituals, most typically, are designed to mark and to aid in the transition from one period to another.  We have rituals like christenings and baptisms to mark births, bar mitzvahs and confirmations to mark the entry into adulthood, weddings to begin married life, birthdays, anniversaries, parties of all sorts and ultimately funerals and memorials. Traditionally one of the most common forms, which today are an endless source of controversy,  are rituals of initiation.  As James Frazer's The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion established at the end of the 19th century, initiation rituals are widespread.  The typical pattern was of the death of a young man's youthful being and the taking on of an adult spirit--being, attitudes, life, or what you will--marked by an encounter with death and a first sexual experience.  World literature, in particular the war novel, is marked by the repetition of this pattern.  In the 21st century, it is possible to describe but impossible to rationally explain such rituals.  Hence outrage at hazing rituals of initiation in universities and sports teams, though the long history of initiations might explain visceral, irrational attachments to these rituals. 

The underlying purpose of all these rituals, these episodes of temporary madness thought to promote long-term stability, was social solidarity--even at the cost of attachments to individuality.  Rachel Dolezal, John Howard Griffen, Al Jolson and others have put on black faces claiming that the gesture was one of solitary.  Today, their claims are being rejected but, I think, we can at least hesitate to brand them as racists.  And what of Justin Trudeau?

Racism, hypocrisy or something else? 

Trudeau's juvenile antics in blackface have been described as "disturbing" and "disappointing," yet his policies and demeanour as Prime Minister have garnered the consensus that he is definitely not a racist. Partizan Conservatives have downgraded the accusation from racism to "hypocrisy." I have never found politicians calling one another hypocrites very convincing or meaningful.  The question which comes to my mind is:  How is it that these images, which have existed for decades, have only appeared in the midst of an election campaign?  As a follow-up: If it is sincerely believed that these images are unacceptable, disturbing and demeaning for racialized Canadians, why are they being promulgated and displayed in public--by exactly the same people who decry their existence?   Far from any semblance of sincerity, we are witnessing political gamesmanship and dirty tricks.  In this context, claims of "hypocrisy" ring hollow.

Personally, the brouhaha only adds to my sense of self-assurance as I head to the polls with the intention of voting for the party headed by a man who wears a turban and a local candidate who just happens to be black.

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Liberal Entropy: The Challenge of Doing Nothing

Conservative, Liberal, Socialist:  The Basics

I used to baseline the three dominant political positions this way:  a conservative wants the country to stay more or less the way it is or has been, a socialist wants society to change and a liberal believes that everything will turn out fine if we do nothing.  Logically, the Conservative Party tends to attract the well-to-do who are enjoying the status quo.   A left-leaning party like the NDP (the only party I've ever been a member of) will find its numbers in the working and lower middle class.  The Liberal Party enjoys the advantage of the middle-class, middle ground while appearing socialist in public and being conservative in private.  The problem of the Liberal Party isn't so much hypocrisy (though some might rightly call it such) as coherence.  (See Truth and Coherence.)

Me a Liberal?!!  Okay, Maybe Sometimes.

My lefty friends have occasionally accused me of being a liberal.  My conservative friends think I'm a lefty liberal.  I have to admit that, in politics, I often think "nothing" is the right thing to do.  I'm rarely disturbed by what goes on (or doesn't go on) in Parliament, because I understand that "doing something" in politics means forming a committee, or writing a letter, making a phone call, or, in most cases, publicly expressing disagreement, disappointment, and even outrage to the point that a phone call, or a letter or a new committee might be required.  It is easy to forget that the principal reason we elect our parliamentarians is for them to vote, and most of the time their votes have absolutely no effect on outcomes because the issues are always decided in advance of a parliamentary vote.

Doing Nothing Isn't Easy

When the Liberal Party wins 39.5% of the popular vote and therefore 100% of the power in our lopsided democracy (see Are Canadian Elections Democratic?), as they did in our last election, we might imagine we can all relax because nothing is going to happen for the next four years.  However, "nothing" isn't as easy to do as you might imagine.  To begin with, there are those nagging little promises made during the election campaign in 2015.

The Liberal Waltz:  One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Having promised "that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system," the Liberals had the challenge of pretending they were interested in reforming the electoral process while insuring that nothing actually changed.  The Liberals quite rightly and righteously expressed outraged at the imprisonment and torture of Raif Badawi  in Saudi Arabia, then ratified the contract to sell that same Saudi government 15 billion in armoured military vehicles. Liberals never quite being able to pass on a photo op, Chrystia Freeland was there at the airport to welcome a young Saudi woman claiming refugee status.  (Who knew that there was only one young woman in Saudi Arabia who wanted to claim refugee status? Or was this photo op about distracting us from the Meng house arrest?)  On another front, after pledging to "phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term," it appears that the plan is to hope that no one notices that we are in the end-term and the subsidies are still in place.  Additionally, there is a semantic argument that buying the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan, the Texas oil and gas infrastructure company, for five billion dollars isn't really subsidizing "the fossil fuel industry"--it's more like a gift.

Here I Go Again

Yet, when the perfect opportunity arose to do nothing and doing nothing would serve the interests of Canada and Canadians, the Liberal Government failed to follow through with its own most basic tenant and mantra.  Imagine the scene when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was informed, three days in advance, that  Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Huawei CFO, was going to be arrested on a warrant from the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Minion:  Mr. Prime Minister the Americans have issued a warrant for the arrest of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver.

PMJT:  Uhhh. Wow.  Uhhh. Holy cow. Uhhh.

Minion:  Don't worry, Mr. Prime Minister, this extradition request is not political.  [Wink, wink].  If it was political we would have to refuse the request.  It's definitely not political so you don't have to worry about it.

PMJT:  If it's uhhh not political, why uhhh are you uhhh telling me about it?

Minion:  Well, we like to notify the PM about these things that are non-political.  When it's political we just call the cops . . . ha, ha, ha!

PMJT:  So Trump wants this Huawei executive arrested.

Minion:  God no.  Trump doesn't want her arrested, or maybe he does.  Actually we don't know what Trump wants, but the extradition request was from Richard Donoghue.

PMJT:  Who's Richard Donoghue?

Minion:  He was the Chief Litigator for CA Technologies.

PMJT:  You mean we are going to uhhh arrest one uhhh tech company exec on a warrant from another tech company exec?

Minion: Donoghue just became a US Attorney, so the warrant should be legit.

PMJT:  So uhh what did this Huawei executive do?

Minion:  That's a bit complicated, but basically she is accused of moving money in Iran.

PMJT:  Is that against the law?

Minion:  Not any more, but it was against the law in 2014 when she is accused of doing it.  The Americans are calling it "bank fraud."

PMJT:  "Bank fraud!"  Shit, Minion, why didn't you say so?  Sort of like that uhh Bernie Madoff guy, eh?

Minion:  The Americans are talking about similar sentencing guidelines.  Thirty years in prison for each count.

PMJT:  Wow wee!  Have a lot of people been doing this uhh illegal money thing in Iran?

Minion:  A ton.  A half dozen major banks have already been convicted.

PMJT:  Geez.  So all these bank execs have been sentenced to multiple thirty-year prison terms.

Minion:  Oh no, Prime Minister. [Stiffing a laugh.]  No one has ever been sent to jail for this.  The banks pay a fine.

PMJT:  So we'll extradite her to pay a fine?

Minion:  No, the Extradition Act requires that it be for at least a two-year prison sentence.

PMJT:  If uhh no-one has gone to prison for this before, why are they talking uhh about prison this time?

Minion:  Uhh, Prime Minister [wink, wink], she's Chinese.  Huawei is a Chinese company.

PMJT:  Can we arrest and extradite someone for being Chinese?

Minion:  Not since the Head Tax.  Today it would be against the law, against the Canadian Extradition Act, to extradite someone because of her ethnicity or nationality or for political or purely commercial reasons or if we thought she was going to spend less than two years in prison.

PMJT:  But we are going to arrest her because she is Chinese, from China, a Communist country, and because Huawei is stealing business from the big tech companies, and even though we know she is never going to spend two years in jail.

Minion:  Yes, but you know, the Chinese, the whole "dangerous" and "national security" thing.  Need to worry about "censorship," "backdoors" and that sort of stuff.

PMJT:  So who's in charge of extradition?

Minion:  Jody.

PMJT:  Our Jody?  Why?

Minion:  Because she's the Minister of Justice.

PMJT:  Still?

Minion:  What do you want her to do, Sir?

PMJT:  Nothing.

Minion:  That sounds like a sound policy, Mr. Prime Minister.


"Doing nothing" would have been the perfect policy in this instance if the message had been passed on to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and the RCMP.  The warrant would not have been served with ample justification for not serving the warrant in the overall circumstances and the Canadian Extradition Act.  Sabrina Meng Wanzhou would have continued her itinerary to Mexico and France.  Neither country, I'm willing to bet, would have served her with the American warrant and, most importantly, Canada would not be in the mess our Liberal government's actions have put us in, when we specifically elected them to do nothing.

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