What was Canada doing sending 171 Canadian soldiers to China to participate in a military sports competition last week?
It was nearly one year ago that Beijing kidnapped two Canadian citizens. It still holds them hostage as leverage in its dispute with Ottawa over the detention of a Huawei executive who awaits a hearing to decide if she should be extradited to the U.S. to face criminal charges there.
Was the trip to China a colossal error of judgment by the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces? Or were DND and the CAF acting on orders from Global Affairs Canada and/or the prime minister’s inner circle?
Although the Government of Canada website warns Canadians travelling to China to “exercise a high degree of caution in China due to the risk of arbitrary enforcement of local laws,” it has said almost nothing about why it ignored its own advice and chose to send an airplane full of Canadians to such a risky place. It only acknowledged that the trip, which it apparently wanted to keep secret, had actually taken place after it was revealed by the Globe and Mail’s ace reporting team of Steve Chase and Bob Fife.
Given how keen Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Global Affairs have been to restore their shattered ties with China, and that the Canadian Forces do not have a dog in that hunt, readers should be able to figure out for themselves who it was that decided it would be a good idea to send so many Canadians halfway around the world, at a time when relations between the two countries have never been worse since diplomatic relations were established 49 years ago.
It is likely that the government did not want news of this odyssey getting out, given that the event began during the last week of the election campaign.
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The arrangement that Ottawa eventually negotiated with the United Nations was such that despite deploying a world class helicopter medevac capability, the Canadians were only called on 11 times to extract wounded troops. A mission that cost millions of dollars to prepare and deploy ended up doing very little except train in the desert before being yanked back home after 13 months.
The troops, who had been eager for the assignment in Africa and were brilliantly equipped, were not amused. Taxpayers should have not have been, either.
Worse than the actual decision to participate in the Military World Games, China’s embassy shamelessly used the trip and the soldiers who were on it for propaganda purposes. The embassy concluded on its website that countries which had sent athletes to the games such as Canada “commend China’s foreign policy and development path. China’s friends are all over the world. This is a fact that can neither be obliterated nor changed by some people’s groundless accusations.”
Those “groundless accusations” clearly relate to the Communist dictatorship’s attempt to get Canada to agree to some sort of spy swap-like exchange of the two Canadians it has kidnapped in return for Meng Wanzhou. Meng’s father, Ren Zhengfei, owns Huawei, with the rest of the communications conglomerate belonging to a trade union that is, effectively, part of the Chinese government.
READ MORE: Meng’s lawyers say RCMP shared phone details with FBI, despite affidavits
A complicating factor is a side dispute over whether Canada will allow Huawei’s 5G cell technology into Canada, despite widespread suspicions in the West that it could be used for espionage.