Political intervention by the Canadian government to free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou from extradition proceedings with the United States would hurt the view other countries hold of Canada, one expert says.
In an interview with The West Block guest host Robin Gill, foreign policy expert Bonnie Glaser said while the U.S. has not handled the extradition process well, deviating from the terms of the extradition treaty would leave a lasting stain on Canada’s image.
“The Trump administration has dealt with this issue very poorly … that said, I think Canada has an important reciprocal relationship with the United States,” said Glaser, a senior Asia advisor focusing on China with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in the U.S.
“Violating this arrangement would be damaging to Canada’s reputation. I think the U.S. and other countries would likely view Canada as untrustworthy.”
Canada and the U.S. have a longstanding extradition treaty that sees the countries extradite about 90 per cent of requested cases.
As part of that process, the justice minister has the power to revoke the authority for judicial proceedings in extradition cases at any time.
Because of that, some members of the foreign policy establishment and former cabinet ministers to past Liberal governments have urged the government to intervene and order Meng’s release.
But as The Canadian Press reported, a memo prepared for the government noted that power to intervene in extradition cases has never before been used for diplomatic or political reasons.
Instead, the rare cases where a minister has stepped in to end extradition proceedings have come in cases like serious illness or a failure to receive assurances that the death penalty would not be used.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected the calls to intervene in the Meng case, saying that doing so would put a target on the back of every Canadian travelling abroad.
Meng was arrested in December 2018 in Vancouver at the behest of American authorities, who charged her and her company with dozens of counts related to allegations of using fraud to skirt sanctions on Iran and of stealing corporate secrets.
U.S. President Donald Trump publicly mused about dropping charges against Meng if it got him a better trade deal with China, which has led to accusations by China that the U.S. charges are politically motivated.
China detained two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — just days after Meng’s arrest and has held them without access to lawyers and with only limited consular visits ever since.
“This is something other countries should be willing to stand by Canada with,” Glaser said of the case.
“It should be on the front of everybody’s agenda.”
She said that while the U.S. and other countries could “absolutely” do more to support Canada, she doesn’t think there’s any sign Canada is being abandoned to face Chinese retaliation alone.
She pointed to a statement by U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo two weeks ago condemning China for the “groundless” detention of Kovrig and Spavor.
She added a global alliance against China will be most effective.
“China fears, most of all, an anti-China coalition,” she said.
“We’re seeing that form on issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and this is another issue where countries should be working together more closely.”