As It Happens

Canada does not have to 'justify' the Meng extradition decision, says foreign affairs minister

China’s Foreign Ministry is warning the Trudeau government that Canada’s relationship with the country could face what they call “continuous harm,” after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou should go-ahead. Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne told As It Happens that Canada does not have to "justify" the ruling.

B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Wednesday that proceedings against Huawei's CFO should go-ahead

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canada does not have to 'justify' an extradition ruling made against Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
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China's foreign ministry has warned that its relationship with Canada could face what it calls "continuous harm" after a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that extradition proceedings against Meng Wanzhou should go ahead.

Meng, CFO of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, has been charged with fraud for allegedly deceiving banks into a possible violation of U.S. economic sanctions against Iran. She was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 on an extradition warrant.

The offence she accused of by U.S. prosecutors would be considered a crime if it occurred in Canada, Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes said in her ruling. 

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne says Thursday's decision was made by an independent court, and that independence is "foundational to our country."

"You don't need to justify. You don't need to excuse yourself for this court decision, because these decisions are taken independently. We conveyed that to our Chinese counterparts," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Here is part of their conversation. 

China has warned of "continuous harm to the bilateral relations" of our government and theirs. They're calling this a mistake and that you should correct it to avoid damage to relations. Does that sound like a threat to you? 

I would say that a terrible escalation would not be helpful at this time. We have an independent judiciary in Canada. 

There was an independent decision by a court in British Columbia. We have said all along, and we have been consistent, that these decisions are taken independently and that the process is transparent when it comes to extradition. 

There's a judicial process. This was one step in that process, and we will continue to have principled engagement with China. 

Meng was arrested at Vancouver's airport in December 2018 on an extradition warrant made by the U.S. for allegedly breaking sanctions with Iraq. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Does it not sound like they are escalating with that kind of language? 

My message to them is that escalation would not be helpful at this particular moment. 

We have said [this] time and time again, and I think the prime minister has been clear. The benefit of having an independent judiciary is that you don't need to explain. 

I will be talking to my Chinese counterparts and we will continue to engage responsibly with China and continue to make the case. 

But for me, the foremost desire I have is to get the release of [detained Canadians] Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, and to get clemency for [Robert] Schellenberg and all those Canadians [who] are facing the death penalty in China. 

China has said that this is a serious political incident that grossly violates the legitimate rights and interests of a Chinese citizen. Are you tempted to demand that China correct its own mistake and release the two Canadians?

I have said that in no uncertain terms from the beginning. 

You're facing two different things. On one end, you have someone who is being charged in Canada after an extradition treaty, which is afforded due process, which is following the rule of law, being judged by an independent judiciary.

At the other end, you have two Canadians [who] have been arbitrarily detained for more than 500 days. As far as I'm concerned, this is 500 days too many. And we have been asking our Chinese counterparts for their immediate release. 

We have said that arbitrary detention is no tool in diplomacy. And we also ask that we be granted virtual consular access in accordance with the Vienna Convention. We want to be in regular contact with both Michael Kovirg and Michael Spavor. I spoke to their families yesterday. And so we'll continue to make the case. 

We've said from day one, the relationship with China is complex, it's multidimensional, and we will continue to be smart and principled in the way we engage with them. But that is not the time for escalation. Now is the time for engagement. 

WATCH: Meng Wanzhou decision could deepen Canada-China deep freeze

A B.C. court's decision on Meng Wanzhou could raise the political stakes even higher as Canada remains locked in a diplomatic deep freeze with China. 3:14

I'm hearing you say that you feel you're on the right course, you're handling this as you should, you are putting the pressure where you think [you should], and you're going to continue with the kind of engagement you have. But it hasn't worked, has it? Those two men are still in prison and there seems to be no future for getting them out. What have you got to lose at this point but to be more aggressive on escalation on our part? 

I think we have been very clear when it comes to that. I mean, we have to engage responsibly with China. And I would say this is not being weak. This is being smart.

The pattern we have been following is one of continuous engagement. I spoke to my counterpart on a number of occasions and we will continue to do that. We are engaging with China with eyes wide open. 

We have engaged with the international community. Many voices have been raised when it comes to arbitrary detention. We have said that this is damaging China's reputation and we will continue to advocate. 

I think Canadians are listening to us and understand how difficult these cases are. They are complex. That usually takes a long time. But the only way to get to the outcome we want, which is the release, is continuous engagement. 

When it comes to China, we need a new framework, one which is based on rules, our interests and our values and principles, which include human rights. We will continue to engage on that basis. 


Written by Adam Jacobson. Produced by Kevin Robertson. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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