Rare, it would appear, are the days a Canadian prime minister unflinchingly engages an adversary.
In March 2014, Russia’s strongman Vladimir Putin had with impunity used military force to annex Crimea from Ukraine. Disregarding international condemnation and sanctions, Putin in November that year — and a week prior to the G20 conference in Australia, according to NATO — thumbed his nose at global finger-wagging and sent Russian tanks and weaponry across the Ukrainian border.
It was Canada’s then prime minister, Stephen Harper, who upon meeting Putin at an informal pre-G20 gathering of world leaders in Brisbane, took the Russian’s outstretched hand but challenged, “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine.”
That Putin neither acknowledged Russia’s military presence in Ukraine, nor adjusted his operational preferences, we know. However, by calling out Putin, Harper did what most others on the world stage may be far too timid or appeasing to emulate.
Harper took a direct stand against a man with a proclivity for violent intimidation and whose opponents face dramatically reduced life expectancy.
While Putin appears to embody the beat-down schoolyard bully, it is the People’s Republic of China with its economic and military clout which today is engaged in aggressive international forays.
Of particular interest is the PRC reaching into Canada.
Repeatedly, Beijing ambassadors to Ottawa have warned the Canadian government of unpleasant consequences should it provoke Beijing’s anger.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) expresses significant concern about Beijing.
Global News investigative journalist Sam Cooper reported in June that a CSIS national security review worried that Canada is “an attractive and permissive target” for Chinese interference that endangers the “foundations of our fundamental institutions including our system of democracy itself.”
Ottawa, though, appears unwilling to directly confront Beijing. The Trudeau government’s response to China’s imprisoning of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor has been lukewarm.
Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada’s ambassador to China from 2012-2016, has repeatedly, on-air with me, been critical of conditions under which the two Canadians are being held and has accused China of being a bully in the matter.
How are statements by former ambassador Saint-Jacques received by Ottawa? The ambassador shared how communication from Trudeau’s PMO arrived, urging him to not offer public views of China contrary to official government messaging. Saint-Jacques was then and is now speaking as a private citizen.
Ambassador David Mulroney, Saint-Jacques’ predecessor in Beijing (2009-2012), revealed to the Globe and Mail that he was in receipt of similar PMO messaging about public remarks he had offered. It seems the PMO frowned on the two Michaels’ detention being described as “hostage diplomacy.” Well, it is.
As long as Meng Wanzhou remains detained in Canada under a U.S. extradition warrant, a Canada-United States treaty obligation, Spavor and Kovrig remain hostages of the PRC.
The PMO eventually expressed regret for approaching ambassadors Mulroney and Saint Jacques.
China’s interference with Canada isn’t a new development. Cooper’s investigative account from August, Inside the Chinese military attack on Nortel, is a hair-raiser. If you owned Nortel stock and rode that elevator to the basement, you may well deduce who was responsible for severing the cables.
In recent days Canadians have become aware of China’s People’s Liberation Army training with the Canadian military, a reality ended by Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, following concerns expressed by the U.S. military. Vance’s decision reportedly then received pushback from the federal Global Affairs ministry.
The Canadian government must with determination counter China’s hostage diplomacy, bullying and hostility toward this nation.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.