FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2018, file photo, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrives at a parole office in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2018, file photo, Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou arrives at a parole office in Vancouver, British Columbia. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

China-Canada relations hang in the balance as Meng extradition case to heat up

The RCMP arrested Meng at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of the United States

The international spotlight will be turned on British Columbia’s Supreme Court this month as Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou’s extradition hearing is set to begin, more than a year after her arrest shattered Canada-China relations.

Beijing’s detainment of two Canadians and its restriction of some imports including canola have left many observers eager for a resolution. Some are hopeful the court process will bring relief, while others want Justice Minister David Lametti to step in.

Lametti has the legal authority to stop the process at any time, said extradition lawyer Gary Botting.

“It’s really silliness for him to say he has to obey the rule of law because it’s before the courts. No. What (the law) says is that he can stop the whole process and the courts must comply with whatever he decides,” Botting said.

The RCMP arrested Meng at Vancouver’s airport on Dec. 1, 2018, at the request of the United States, which is seeking her extradition on fraud charges. Meng denies the allegations and also accuses Canadian authorities of violating her rights during the arrest.

The Huawei chief financial officer is on bail and living in one of her two multimillion-dollar homes in Vancouver. A hearing is set to begin Jan. 20, focusing on the test of dual criminality, or whether the U.S. allegations would also be a crime in Canada.

If the judge rules the test has not been met, Meng will be free to leave Canada, though she’ll still have to avoid the U.S. if she wants to evade the charges. If the judge finds there is dual criminality, the hearing will proceed to a second phase.

The second phase, scheduled for June, will consider defence allegations that the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP and Federal Bureau of Investigation conspired to conduct a “covert criminal investigation” at the airport.

Border officers detained Meng for three hours, seized her electronic devices and passcodes and handed them to the RCMP. Meng did not have access to a lawyer during the detainment and a border guard questioned her about Huawei’s business in Iran.

A lawyer for the Attorney General of Canada has said border officers are required by law to conduct an admissibility examination on all travellers entering Canada and the passcodes were given to the Mounties by mistake.

READ MORE: Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

The turmoil could have been avoided, Botting said, had former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould declined the U.S. request to arrest Meng in the first place. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also said he was informed of the arrest before it occurred.

“Jody Wilson-Raybould got it wrong on this and so did the prime minister,” said Botting.

It’s unclear what rejecting the request might have meant for the relationship between the two close allies. But Botting argued that — both then and now — tossing the Meng case wouldn’t have much of an effect.

“There are just so many layers of nonsense that are going on in North America, generally, between the United States and Canada, that it would get lost in the shuffle.”

The Justice Department said the minister does not make any decisions related to extradition until and unless a judge commits the person for extradition. At that point, the minister decides whether to surrender the individual to the requesting country.

“This speaks to the independence of Canada’s judicial system,” the department said in a statement.

Wilson-Raybould, now an Independent MP, did not respond to a request for comment.

The justice minister can legally halt the process at any time, but in practice the minister has not used that power, said Yves Tiberghien, a political science professor and Asia expert at the University of British Columbia.

It would be politically risky to step in now, said Tiberghien.

“It’s true that the cost of this case is enormous. Essentially, the relationship between Canada and China is frozen when China is the second-largest economy in the world, second most-powerful country in the world,” he said.

“On the other hand, because we’re over a year after the start of the case, and for the whole year Canada has justified the case as being one of strict following … of the rule of law, to intervene now looks like we’re buckling.”

He added that if the court hearings go according to schedule, there is an incentive for the minister to wait for a ruling.

“It’s so much cleaner if the court does it. Then there’s no question about it. It’s proper.”

READ MORE: Pompeo backs Canada on ‘coercive detentions’ of Canadians in China

Some 88 per cent of people arrested in Canada at the request of the United States were surrendered for extradition between 2008 and 2018, Department of Justice statistics show.

The fraud charges against Meng are based on an allegation that she lied about Huawei’s relationship with its Iran-based affiliate Skycom to one of its bankers, HSBC.

Her legal team has argued the alleged misrepresentation does not amount to fraud. The defence says the case is really about the United States seeking to enforce its sanctions against Iran even though Canada has no such sanctions.

A lawyer for the Attorney General has called the argument a “complete red herring.”

Seth Weinstein, a criminal defence lawyer with Greenspan Humphrey Weinstein, said that if the judge finds the allegations are focused on sanctions and not fraud, then they would not meet the test of dual criminality.

As for the defence’s claim that Meng’s rights were violated at the airport, if those arguments are successful then it would be concerning for Canada as a country of the “rule of law,” said Weinstein.

“But, assuming that finding were to be made, we have judicial oversight of police misconduct that ensures that the person’s rights are protected,” he said.

Abuses of process have been found in extradition cases in the past and they didn’t cause irreparable damage to U.S.-Canadian relations, Weinstein added.

Botting said the U.S. would likely ask another ally for a provisional arrest warrant and “be more careful next time.”

“They’d say, ‘Oh, too bad. OK, I’m going home with my marbles. Shucks.’ “

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser Health issued an overdose alert on Jan. 21, 2021 after an increase in overdoses over the past week in Chilliwack associated with a “greeny-blue/turquoise down substance.” (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Fraser Health issues drug overdose alert in Chilliwack

Alert comes after increase in overdoses associated with ‘greeny-blue/turquoise down substance’

ds
Mission potbellied-pig sanctuary mourns death of beloved old hog named Roscoe

14-year-old, 800-pound pig was ‘quite a character,’ said owner Janice Gillett

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA holds a webinar on Jan. 26 titled Staying Safe Online.
‘Staying Safe Online’ is subject of Fraser Valley webinar

Session on Tuesday, Jan. 26 is hosted by non-profit Circles of Support and Accountability

Competitors make their way through the course at the 2019 Canadian Cross Country Championships, which was hosted by Abbotsford in 2019. (File photo)
Abbotsford to host 2023 Canadian Cross Country Championships

Clearbrook Park last hosted the event in 2019, Ottawa hosting 2021 and 2022 races

A door is boarded up following a fire at Pho Xuan restaurant on Yale Road on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE: Early morning fire at vacant Chilliwack restaurant was deliberately set

Fire erupted north of the Yale Road overpass at Pho Xuan, which was permanently closed

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Most Read