Countries seeking extraditions from Canada must make sure their requests are solely about seeing that justice is done – not about political interference.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon most citizens would agree Canada needs to take seriously requests for extradition from close allies like the United States.
But she also added that those countries also have a responsibility to be astute in their handling of those requests.
They must, she said, “ensure that any extradition request is about seeing that justice is done” and not about “political interference.”
“Our extradition partners should not seek to politicize the extradition process or use it for ends other than be pursuit of justice,” she said.
WATCH BELOW: Chrystia Freeland on Meng, Kovrig, China travel
Her remarks come after U.S. President Donald Trump publicly mused about getting involved in the case of a senior Huawei executive, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver following a request by American officials.
She was granted bail on Tuesday but faces extradition to the U.S. over allegations the company she leads as CFO has been skirting American sanctions on Iran through a subsidiary.
If the U.S. is serious about wanting her extradited, officials there need to file a formal extradition request by the end of January 2019.
After that, the Canadian Department of Justice will have 30 days to decide whether to approve the beginning of formal extradition proceedings.
If the request is allowed to proceed, Meng will be back in court for an extradition hearing before the B.C. Supreme Court.
WATCH BELOW: Canadians should ‘exercise high degree of caution in China’: Freeland
Depending on the outcome of that hearing, there are multiple potential avenues for appeal.
Some extradition cases have lasted more than a decade, though senior government officials caution that time frame is rare.
Neither officials nor Freeland would speculate on whether the remarks by Trump about potential interference could derail the extradition request or whether Meng’s lawyers could seek to use the comments as evidence for why she should not be extradited.
Freeland said she has spoken with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the case when asked by reporters if the U.S. could be using Canada as a pawn in its ongoing trade war with China.
She also stressed Canadians should pay attention to existing travel advisories urging them to use a high degree of caution in travelling to China.
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“That is advice that Canadians should take seriously,” said Freeland.
Senior government officials also said they have told Canadian foreign service staff working in China to “exercise precaution” since the start of the matter earlier this month, but would not say exactly when that notice was issued.
The remarks came as Freeland confirmed for the first time officially that Michael Kovrig, a federal foreign service employee on leave to work with an NGO in Hong Kong, has been detained in Beijing.
The reason for his detention is not clear and Canadian officials have not been able to make consular access, senior government officials said on Wednesday.
Freeland added that a second Canadian may also be having difficulties.
“We are aware of a Canadian who got in touch with us because he was being asked questions by Chinese authorities. We have not been able to make contact since he raised those concerns,” she said.
That individual made contact with Canadian officials from a Chinese airport earlier this week, one official said.
It is not clear at this time whether that individual has been detained, what he was questioned about, or what his status is right now.
Both Freeland and the official were cautious in their wording when asked about the individual and would not say whether the matter may be related to the Meng arrest or the Kovrig detention.
News of the Kovrig detention came via fax from Beijing early Wednesday morning following days of questions following reports of his disappearance.
Freeland noted Kovrig is an employee of her department and that everyone there is “very seized” with the case.
Officials have not been granted consular access, either to see his condition or learn why he was detained.
Both incidents come after escalating tensions with China over the Meng arrest.
Huawei, the Chinese company she leads, has been the subject of intense investigation and warnings from allies like the United States and New Zealand over concerns its cheap communications technology contains spyware and could be weaponized by the Chinese state.
Canadian officials are in the process of reviewing that technology, with telecom companies want to use to build the next generation 5G spectrum.