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15 million urge Canada to do the ‘right thing’ and release Meng

published August 27, 2021

More than 15 million people around the world had signed a Global Times petition to free Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou by the time she had completed 1,000 days of detention, reached on Aug. 26, pursuant to a U.S. application for provisional arrest for extradition. 

Canada’s minister of justice had the power and authority to turn down the American request in December 2018. The Department of Justice should have had the political savvy to recognize the request for what it was: an attempt to rein in a leading competitor in 5G technology so that it had no chance to even enter the North American 5G horse race, let alone win it.

How better to cripple the opponent’s horse than to pick off the jockey?

Unfortunately, the prime minister and minister of justice are rank amateurs when it comes to international relations. Canada has always had the benefit and protection of its Big Brother to the south, with whom it invariably acts in tandem. Like T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock, Canada’s political leaders are “Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous; Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous – Almost, at times, the Fool.”

Not a question about the ‘rule if law’

It was foolish of the prime minister and minister of justice to “pass the buck” of responsibility to the courts by deferring to the “rule of law” when the Extradition Act states unequivocally that the decision to extradite is entirely within the purview of the minister of justice – acting, of course, under the direction of the Cabinet. It was foolish of them to persist in the extradition case after dozens of diplomats and academics (including myself, several times) warned them from the outset of the consequences of Canada becoming ensnared in the extradition trap set by the U.S.

The ineptitude of the Canadian government in international affairs has been demonstrated once again in the Afghanistan debacle. Military leaders warned for weeks that Canada must move fast to extract its citizens and all those who assisted Canada in its military operations there, whether they be cooks, drivers, interpreters or translators. But just as they didn’t listen to the warnings from those in the know in the Meng case, they paid no heed to the warnings of their own current and retired military leaders – until it was too late.

Although it may be too late to help the Afghans, the minister of justice can still do the right thing with respect to Meng. Following s. 23(3) of the Extradition Act, he can withdraw the application for committal for extradition at any time. If he does so, the law says that the judge must acquiesce. In other words, it is not up to the judge, and never was. It is up to the minister of justice.

Lives literally hang in the balance

With an election pending on Sept. 20, to do nothing seems a ridiculous waste of an opportunity to end a fistful of trials and tribulations – not just for  Meng but potentially for Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor, Robert Schellenberg – and for Canada-Chinese relations in general. As in Afghanistan, lives literally hang in the balance. 

The minister can reverse Meng’s fortunes with the flick of a pen. Many of us have urged him to do just that for the past 1,000 days. Only a “Fool” would ignore this opportunity to make things right.

  • Gary Botting is the author of Canadian Extradition Law Practice (five editions), Extradition between Canada and the United States, Extradition: Individual Rights vs. International Obligations, Halsbury’s Laws of Canada: Extradition, and Wrongful Conviction in Canadian Law.