Editor’s Take: Send in the clowns

The finding of ‘double criminality’ by B.C. Supreme Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes in the Huawei case last week dashed any hopes of a quick and orderly wrap-up to Canada’s ongoing diplomatic war with China.

Justice Holmes ruled that the crimes Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is charged with in the U.S. are also crimes in Canada, clearing a major hurdle for her extradition to the U.S.

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For the Canadian canola industry that no doubt means a ban on shipments from Canada’s two largest grain companies will drag on, to say nothing of the fate of two Canadian prisoners — or perhaps more accurately, political prisoners — currently held in Chinese custody.

Certainly the Chinese politbureau’s response to the ruling was swift and furious.

Through their state media they thunderously denounced the ruling that the case should proceed.

The tone from the China Communist Party-run Global Times summed up the Cold War-style rhetoric nicely where one source called Canada a “pathetic clown” and “scapegoat” in a fight between the U.S. and China.

In part, those words likely sting more than a little because there’s some germ of truth to them. While Canada continues to be the global Boy Scout, the U.S. clown-in-chief Donald Trump has himself mused about intervening in the process if it would help him secure a U.S.-China trade deal.

It’s a bit difficult to insist on the principals of rule of law and judicial independence when the very party you’re acting on behalf of, out of treaty obligation, is publicly musing otherwise.

The whole situation underscores the precarious situation in which Canada now finds itself, suddenly sleeping with not one, but two elephants.

These are, however, far from the “friendly and even-tempered” elephant of the first Prime Minister Trudeau’s speech to the Washington Press Club more than 50 years ago. These are angry elephants, gone rogue, roaring and clashing and trampling anything in their path as they vie for dominance.

David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China, succinctly observed recently when speaking to Global News that China considers Canada a small country that it can push around.

It’s difficult to view the actions of our closest neighbour in a more positive light, given its recent conduct in the CUSMA negotiations, where it cut Canada out of negotiations all but entirely at the end, presenting a take-it-or-leave-it deal.

So what are small countries like Canada to do on this new world stage? We’re hardly alone in falling afoul of the ascendant Beijing government, that has become increasingly fierce in its dictation of terms.

The short list includes what would ordinarily be a list of the globe’s least offensive nations: Sweden, Norway, Australia and Canada. Their sins, respectively have been: supporting Hong Kong booksellers, awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to a dissident, proposing independent inspectors be granted free access to countries during pandemics and arresting a business executive with close ties to the regime.

More recently the threads of the old British Commonwealth have pulled together to chide China for its crackdown on Hong Kong.

Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement May 23 criticizing the imposition of restrictive national security laws on Hong Kong in response to long-running pro-democracy protests in the territory.

The three Commonwealth countries warned the Chinese Communist Party’s planned laws forbidding treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the Central People’s Government in Beijing would “clearly undermine” Hong Kong’s autonomy and its citizens’ civil liberties, the Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time.

The China News Service noted that the Chinese Embassy in Canada expressed “strong opposition” to such “gross interference” in Hong Kong.

It’s not hard to imagine that in the fall of 1939 Völkischer Beobachter might have similarly protested the Commonwealth’s gross interference in Poland.

It is time for the West to take a principled stand against such autocratic behaviour and to endorse those quaint old-fashioned values such as democracy, freedom of speech, economic liberty, and rule of law. This needs to happen with or without U.S. leadership.

And if that means there needs to be a ‘coalition of the clowns’ where the smaller nations come together to guard their own interests against the ill-tempered giants, so be it.

Unfortunately, for farmers, this means accepting that it may be some time before the canola market returns to its former status with China — if that happens at all.

No one wants to be a modern-day Neville Chamberlain, promising “peace in our time” even as the storm clouds gather. By the same token, any fallout from standing up to China is something all Canadians must share.

Farmers shouldn’t be asked to carry the cost of doing the right thing alone.

About the author

Editor

Gord Gilmour

Gord Gilmour is Editor of the Manitoba Co-operator.

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