Showing posts with label Minister of Justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Minister of Justice. Show all posts

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Extradition from Canada to the USA: Why Meng's Chances of a Favourable Canadian Verdict are Slim

Extradition by the numbers

This Extradition Fact Sheet from a Government of Canada website provides statistics on Canada-to-the-USA extradition cases over a ten year period from 2008 to 2018.  As you can see, once a  case is before a Canadian judge (as Meng's is now) only 8 times (total number of discharges/refusals in 10 years) of 798 US extradition requests has the court ruled in favour of the individual resisting extradition--roughly 1% of the time.

Fiscal YearTable note *Total number of requestsArrestsATP’s IssuedOrder of Committals Total number of discharges/ refusalsWithdrawalsTotal number of people surrendered
2008-2009978467400161
2009-20101186563301349
2010-20111327158161661
2011-20121179372310281
2012-20131019566343665
2013-2014534943341758
2014-2015475338291552
2015-2016443430290241
2016-2017403532211649
2017-2018494738230235
TOTAL798626507287840552
 A CBC News report on the "High Rate of Canadian Extraditions" described the need for reform.  As Robert Currie, a professor of law at Dalhousie University, described the Canadian system, "Once you are sought for extradition, your goose is pretty much cooked."

Best chance of avoiding extradition before Minister issues Authority to Proceed

In the same table above, when we compare the "number of requests" to "ATPs issued" (Authority to Proceed), we discover that in 65% of cases an Authority to Proceed was granted.  In other words for a person facing extradition, the best chance of avoiding extradition (35%) comes before an ATP has been issued.  Unfortunately for Meng, On March 1, 2019, the Department of Justice issued a press release announcing:

Today, Department of Justice Canada officials issued an Authority to Proceed, formally commencing an extradition process in the case of Ms. Meng Wanzhou. 
The decision follows a thorough and diligent review of the evidence in this case. The Department is satisfied that the requirements set out by the Extradition Act for the issuance of an Authority to Proceed have been met and there is sufficient evidence to be put before an extradition judge for decision.

Who issues Authority to Proceed?  Justice Canada officials or the Minister?

While this press release makes anonymous "Department of Justice Canada officials" responsible for the issue of an Authority to Proceed, elsewhere the Ministry website seems clear that "The Minister of Justice must determine whether to authorize the commencement of extradition proceedings in the Canadian courts by issuing an 'Authority to Proceed'."  In other words, from December 1, 2018 to March 1, 2019, the Minister of Justice, in consultation with the International Assistance Group of the Canadian Department of Justice, had the option not to issue an "Authority to Proceed" and release Meng from house arrest.

Who issues provisional arrest warrant?  A judge or the Minister?

On December 12, 2018, Jody Wilson-Raybould issued a statement saying:  “As the Minister of Justice, I take my extradition responsibilities and obligations very seriously." In that statement Wilson-Raybould claims:
Ms. Meng was arrested pursuant to a provisional arrest warrant issued by a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia a procedure which is contemplated in both the Extradition Act and the Treaty on Extradition between Canada and the United States in circumstances where urgency has been established. The decision to seek a provisional arrest warrant from the court is made by Department of Justice officials without any political interference or direction.

However, what the Extradition Act says is:
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 
And consequently:
A judge may, on ex parte application of the Attorney General, issue a warrant for the provisional arrest of a person
How could Wilson-Raybould claim that "a provisional arrest warrant was issued by a judge" in accordance with the Extradition Act, when the Act specifies that she as Minister of Justice was responsible for issue of the warrant?  As explained on the Public Prosecution Service of Canada website:
Extradition treaties do not themselves create an obligation or a power to arrest in Canada. They merely define the basis on which provisional arrest may be requested. The judicial power to order provisional arrest arises under section 13 of the Extradition Act, once the Minister of Justice approves the request for provisional arrest (section 12).
How could Wilson-Raybould claim that the decision was made "without political interference or direction" when the Act and the Public Prosecution Service confirm that "the Minister of Justice approves the request"?

In Canada EXTRADITION IS POLITICAL

I must admit I have started yelling that in Canada EXTRADITION IS POLITICAL.  (By the way, kudos to David Akin for sharing my rebuttal to his ANALYSIS on his Twitter feed.  What better way to contradict my claim that journalists were censuring the discussion than to forward a link to my post.  As of today, I can report that the post has been viewed 71 times.)

I have gone looking for an answer to the question:  When the Extradition Act says "the Minister" does the text really mean anonymous "Officials of the Department of Justice"?  I have not found an answer that I can quote here, other than the glossary of definitions at the beginning of the Act which states: "Minister means the Minister of Justice."  What I have found are repeated confirmations that in Canada extradition is political.

Justice Minister David Lametti has already confirmed, in an interview with the Star that
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 to the United States over China’s furious objections.
David Akin also confirms that
[ . . .] 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.But that opportunity comes much, much later, at the very end of the extradition proceeding.

The Shift from "it's not political" to "it's not political yet"

 The argument has shifted from "it's not political" to "it's not political yet." The problems with the new argument are numerous.  In the first place, someone should tell Minister of External Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, so she can stifle her strident claims that “When it comes to Ms Meng there has been no political interference ... and that is the right way for extradition requests to proceed.”

The second problem with the "let's do nothing now" approach, is that the extradition hearings in BC Supreme Court are not scheduled to start until January 2020.  The case will go on for at least two years, Canadians will languish in a Chinese prison, Canadian businesses and trade will suffer, and Canadian trade and relations with China may never fully recover.  As I commented at the beginning of the year: "if the naivety and Dudly-Do-Rightism of Canadian leadership allow the extradition hearings and detainment of Meng to continue for years, then the corporate objective of slowing down the competition will have been achieved--and the Government of Canada will have colluded in that corrupt undertaking."

The third problem with "let's wait" is that there is no legal, moral or practical reason to wait.  The Extradition Act states: "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."  "At any time" includes right now.  If the Minister considers "all the relevant circumstances," as indicated in the law, the grounds for withdrawing the Authority to Proceed are numerous:  the original warrant is suspect, the request political, contrary to the Canadian Bill of Rights regarding nationality and ethnicity, no individual has been convicted of a crime in the USA for the behaviour of which Meng is accused (business in Iran), such behaviour is definitely not a crime in Canada, and, for obvious, practical reasons she will never be imprisoned in the USA as required by the Act and the Treaty on Extradition Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America.

The fourth problem with the passive, "wait and see," "let the judge decide" attitudes of our political leadership is they grossly overestimate the power of judges in extradition cases.  As the Supreme Court of Canada Judgement outlines in McVey versus the USA, "the role of the extradition judge is limited but important:  he or she must determine whether a prima facie case exists that the conduct of the fugitive constitutes an "extradition crime" according to Canadian law."  In this "Judgement" the Justices make the point 15 separate times that the extradition judge has "limited" functions and "modest" powers.

The solution is political, but Canadian politicians play Pontius Pilat

The point here is that unlike the Minister of Justice who is tasked with considering "all the circumstances," the extradition judge is only tasked with considering whether or not what Meng has done looks, at first glance, like bank fraud--the extraditable offence of which she is accused.  However, the Supreme Court Justices have indicated that the extradition judge cannot investigate or consider American law.  Can she,  for example, consider the fact that no individual has ever been convicted of a crime in the USA for transgressing the Iran sanctions?  It appears not.  This responsibility falls to the Minister of Justice.  The historical statistics indicate that Meng has a 99% chance of being extradited.  This is so because of the limitations of an extradition hearing and limited powers of an extradition judge, and the reluctance of the Minister of Justice to act at the end of extradition hearings.

Supreme Court of Canada confirms Minister, not a judge, has the power 

The Supreme Court Justices make the point repeatedly that the extradition judge's powers are limited, but the Minister of Justice's powers are broad:
When a request is made, the political authorities in the requested state will examine the material to see that the request complies with these terms and conditions.  The treaties also make provision for the requesting state to supply certain material whereby the requested state can determine the validity of the request and its compliance with the terms and conditions of the treaty (see Art. 9 of the treaty here (Can. T.S. 1976 No. 3)), and it is reasonable that these are the materials to be looked at in determining the issue.  In essence, the treaty obligations are of a political character to be dealt with in the absence of statute by the political authorities.
          [ . . . .]
Nowhere is the duty to consider the foreign law assigned to the extradition judge.  This, as I mentioned, is a task for the political authorities at common law, now assigned by statute to the Minister of Justice.
          [ . . . .]
In Canada, the procedure, we saw, is more fluid, the case frequently coming before the extradition judge before the formal requisition has been made.  But the substance is the same; the Minister of Justice may at any time refuse to surrender and discharge the fugitive (s. 22 of the Act).
           [ . . . .]
the Extradition Act, which we saw only requires that there be prima facie evidence of an act that constitutes a crime listed in the treaty according to the law of Canada.  In fact, the Act does not deal with proof of foreign law at all.  That, as I said, is a matter for the executive.  (The executive, in Canada, means political representatives of the Queen, in particular the Prime Minister. See https://www.lawnow.org/democratic-governance-the-constitution-and-canadas-branches-of-government/).
           [ . . . .]
[ . . .] what is really important is that a person should not be surrendered to another country for conduct that is not considered a serious crime in the requested country.  
Canada and Canadians are facing a serious situation which requires political action.  We have to stop letting our politicians off the hook with delaying, 'it's not political" arguments and require them to perform the duties for which they were elected.


Monday, 8 July 2019

Canadian Politicians Were Caught Like Deer in the Headlights, but Why Are Canadian Journalists Censuring any Discussion of the Merits of Meng's Case?

"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:

Withdrawal of the authority to proceed 

 (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] 
and (b) the extradition partner will make a request for the extradition of the person.

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:

Powers of the Minister
Assurances et conditions 
(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:

Reasons for Refusal
order not to be made 
 44 (1) The Minister shall refuse to make a surrender order if the Minister is satisfied that 
(a) the surrender would be unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances; or
(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.


When order not to be made  
 46 (1) The Minister shall refuse to make a surrender order if the Minister is satisfied that  
[ . . . .]
(c) the conduct in respect of which extradition is sought is a political offence or an offence of a political character
And 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.







Thursday, 3 January 2019

When Chrystia Freeland Said that the Extradition of Huawei CFO, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, Was Strictly a Judicial Affair, Was She Lying? Or Just Avoiding the Truth?

Generally, I have been a Freeland admirer (see Saint Mathew Pray for Us).  I sympathized as she stood beside Mike Pompeo at a Washington press conference and had to come up with six different ways of saying that the arrest, detention and possible extradition of Huawei CFO, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, was strictly a judicial affair--and in a "rule of law" country like Canada, the process was immune from political interference.



I believed her. I had already read the same claim in half a dozen news reports.  I repeated the claim myself. When a claim gets repeated that often, it's hard to resist the idea that it must be true.  Then, I had a look at the Canadian Extradition Act.  Here is what the Extradition Act actually says:

Withdrawal of the authority to proceed 
(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 instance is the Minister of Justice: Jody Wilson-Raybold.  Far from restricting elected officials from interfering in the case, the Act specifically empowers the Minister of Justice to refuse the extradition:

Reasons for Refusal
Marginal note:When order not to be made 
44 (1) The Minister shall refuse to make a surrender order if the Minister is satisfied that 
(a) the surrender would be unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstances; or
 (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.Marginal note:



The Act clearly and repeatedly specifies that the Minister has the power and even the obligation to take action.  She has the power to consider "all the relevant circumstances" and "may at any time withdraw" the judiciary's authority to proceed with the extradition.  She has the power to set aside the order for Meng's detention.  Perhaps it's time for our political leadership to end the pretence of powerlessness and begin acting as if Canada were a sovereign nation.  Let's stop acting like a branch plant of corporate America.  Let's resolve this messy situation in the best interests of Canada and Canadians before it gets even worse.

Addendum

On January 14, 2019, (11 days after I first published this post), Jody Wilson-Raybold was replaced as Minister of Justice by Dave Lametti.

https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8493858/appointment-canada-new-minister-justice-copyright-reform-concerns

Addendum 2

On Feb. 7, 2019, after 9 weeks of denial from the PM and the Minister of External Affairs , the new Justice Minister, David Lametti, finally admitted that the extradition of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou is "political."  https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2019/02/07/decision-whether-to-extradite-huaweis-meng-wanzhou-will-ultimately-take-political-factors-into-account-new-justice-minister.html
However, this admission has passed virtually without comment in the Canadian media.