Canada’s ambassador to China told Chinese-language media in Markham, Ont., that Meng Wanzhou has a strong case to make against extradition to the United States. Canada detained the 46-year-old Huawei executive in Vancouver on Dec. 1, and a judge granted her bail after a three-day hearing. As she awaits a likely extradition hearing, ambassador John McCallum told reporters on Jan. 22 that Meng “has some strong arguments she can make before a judge.” He cited comments from U.S. President Donald Trump as “political involvement.” It was a stunning admission at an event that Canadian English and French media were not made aware of. This is a partial transcript of McCallum’s remarks.
“Before this happened, relations between Canada and China were going extremely well. Just to give you one example, in the month of November alone, we had six ministers and three premiers visiting China.
“And then on Dec. 1, Madame Meng was detained in Vancouver. After that, there were two Canadians detained, and after that there was one Canadian who had been sentenced to 15 years on drug charges had a retrial and was condemned to death.
“I know this has angered China. But we have an…extradition treaty, a system of rules of law which are above the government. The government cannot change these things, and as I said, I think Ms. Meng has quite a strong case.
“One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case. Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case. And three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions, which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign on to these Iran sanctions. So I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge. And then the judge will decide whether he or she thinks she should be extradited or not.”
McCallum’s comments to Chinese-language media raise the prospect of Meng’s lawyers arguing that the U.S. government has politicized the case to a new level. But this isn’t the first time that possibility has been discussed by Canadian officials.
It was 10 days after Meng’s Dec. 1 arrest that Donald Trump gave his now-infamous interview to Reuters in Washington, in which the president said he might intervene in the U.S. Justice Department’s case against the top Huawei Technologies executive if doing so was to the advantage of U.S. national security or trade interests in its fraught relationship with China.
The following day, senior Canadian government officials offered a briefing to reporters in Ottawa on mounting tensions between Ottawa and Beijing. The terms of the briefing allowed journalists to quote them only as “senior government officials.” Naturally, they were asked about Trump’s extraordinary comments to Reuters.
They were cagey in the manner of bureaucrats, but alluded repeatedly to the possibility of Trump’s remarks being wielded by Meng’s lawyers in court or in direct submissions to the federal justice minister, who will make the ultimate decision to send her to the U.S. or not, should the extradition process in the courts go the way American authorities hope.
One senior Canadian official deflected a reporter’s question in that Dec. 12 briefing by noting that Canada cooperated with the U.S. request for Meng’s arrest on Dec. 1 before, of course, Trump made his controversial comments alluding to the possibility to Meng’s lawyers raising it if they have to, in the end, ask the justice minister not to “commit” her for extradition. Meng’s provisional arrest “occurred based on evidence presented by the U.S. Attorney General through his Office of International Affairs, which predates anything that the president has said [on Dec. 11] or may say later,” the official noted.
The same official noted in the same cautious answer that Meng’s lawyer will “want to make full submissions to the minister of justice if ever a committal is granted by the British Columbia Supreme Court.” Asked if Trump’s interview with Reuters suggested “political influence” in the case, a senior government official said the Canadian court process would give Meng’s legal team numerous chances to make that argument. “There are many steps along the way where able argument will be made about what is the right thing and whether there was some influence,” he said.