International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland listens to a question from the media following a signing ceremony in Shanghai, Thursday September 1, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Freeland says corners could not be cut with U.S. arrest request of Huawei exec

2 Canadians have been detained in Beijing since the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, CFO of Huawei Technologies, by the RCMP

Cutting corners to avoid arresting a Chinese executive at the request of the Americans simply was not an option to keep Canada out of a difficult political situation, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Freeland said that type of tactic would erode Canada’s commitment to the rule of law at a time when it is under threat across the globe.

“I think people need to be very careful when they start to suggest that corners be cut when it comes to the rule of law and when it comes to international treaty obligations,” said Freeland.

“That is one of the core foundations of everything that’s great about our country, one of the core foundations of our democracy,” she added.

“It’s not an accident that among our heroes are the RCMP.”

Two Canadians have been detained in Beijing since the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, by the RCMP.

Some business leaders and analysts have suggested Canada should have found a way to circumvent its treaty obligations with the United States under the Extradition Act to avoid the current political turmoil with China and the U.S.

Freeland rejected that notion outright, saying it would undermine Canada’s credibility with other countries, including Canada’s “extradition partners.”

READ MORE: B.C. judge grants $10M bail for Huawei executive wanted by U.S.

READ MORE: ‘Naive approach’ to China at fault in Meng mess, says Scheer

The Chinese government and state-run media have vilified the Canadian decision to arrest Meng, and ridiculed the rule-of-law argument. U.S. President Donald Trump also undermined Canada’s position when he mused in an interview last week he might intervene in the Meng case if it would help him get a trade deal with China.

“You might call it a slippery slope approach; you could call it a salad bar approach,” Freeland said.

“The rule of law is not about following the rule of law when it suits you.”

Freeland said it is important that John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, has been able to meet in recent days with the two detained Canadians, the entrepreneur Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who is on a leave of absence from Global Affairs.

But she said the access is only a “first step” in providing assistance to them and their families.

“It’s important to Canada that we were able to see them. We know where they are,” Freeland said. “We are really throwing everything we have at this.”

Freeland said she has also spoken personally to families of the two men.

“I also hope that Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor will hear my comments too, ultimately. We are incredibly seized with this case.”

Former diplomats said the fact that Canada was granted access to the two men relatively quickly is a positive sign.

Gar Pardy, a retired director general of the consular affairs bureau of Canada’s foreign ministry, has said it was “quite extraordinary” for Canadian officials to gain access to citizens detained in China within a matter of days.

Meng has since been released on bail and is to return to court in February for what most legal observers predict could be a long, drawn out legal process.

The Meng incident has cast a shadow over the Trudeau government’s desire to deepen trade with China as the cornerstone of a broader strategy to diversify into Asian markets.

On Friday, Tourism Minister Melanie Joly cancelled a planned trip to China to mark the end of a special year of tourism exchanges.

But that same day, China’s ambassador to Canada, Lu Shaye, sounded a more conciliatory note about the bilateral relationship, saying there was potential for Canada to take part in his country’s massive international infrastructure project known as the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Although achieving a China-Canada Free Trade Agreement faces new obstacles due to reasons known to all, the two sides can strengthen policy co-ordination and adopt trade and investment facilitation,” Lu said in a speech at Ottawa’s Carleton University that was posted on the Chinese embassy’s website.

“It is also of great significance for China and Canada to strengthen people-to-people co-operation by promoting exchanges so as to enhance mutual understanding and trust of the two peoples.”

Lu’s tone was far more positive than the column he wrote in the Globe and Mail newspaper the previous day when he called Meng’s arrest in Canada “a miscarriage of justice” that has “chilled” the feelings of the Chinese people towards Canada. Lu said Canada was complicit in a U.S. “witch hunt.”

The Chinese embassy has said Lu is not available for interviews.

Mike Blanchfield, 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

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

UPDATED: Man dies from injuries at Custom House construction site in Victoria

Government Street remains closed as investigation continues

VIJHL season could start Oct. 1, says league president

League awaiting final approval from local health authorities and viaSport

Netflix, Warner Bros filming 10-part series in Colwood

Filming takes place now until March 2021

Saanich explores options for adding shelters to parks

Covered areas would encourage safe outdoor socializing during rainy season

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

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

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Most Read