I grew up a little to the west of Amherstview. However, when I was in Grade 5, my parents decided that my brother and I would attend Kingston Christian School, which was on Wright Crescent at the time.
When I was in Grade 7, Dr. Rang, the principal of the school, taught me and the other students in the Grade 7 and 8 class a course called “current affairs.” I “plagiarized” the concept behind this course when designing a course at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea.
In this course, we discussed and debated issues that were prevalent at the time. Dr. Rang encouraged students to try to see both sides of an issue, and we were also encouraged to read newspaper articles that extolled the virtues of both sides of a current issue before debating or discussing the issue in class. For example, I remember discussing Dr. Henry Morgentaler and the abortion issue in that class. We were asked to read articles in favour of and against legalizing abortion in Canada. The class then debated and discussed the issue. The students in the class tended to argue their perspective, irrespective of the practical consequences of their views. One expects students of that age to be idealistic and not necessarily proponents of “Realpolitik” or practical politics. However, intolerant idealism is not something one looks for in adults who are practising politicians.
I taught in three Chinese public schools, which means that, at the very least, I understand the Chinese perspective on some very complicated issues. Issues have two sides. As I said, I learned this in Grade 7. And while I may not always agree with the Chinese government on everything, I empathize with the fact that some of China’s actions and policies, which we may criticize in the West, are based on China trying to fix things that arose out of 19th-century European imperialism.
I think we need to revisit the Meng Wanzhou issue. Obviously, this issue is not related to 19th-century imperialism. However, the Huawei chief financial officer’s arrest led to the cessation of a relatively good relationship between Canada and China. Is this in Canada’s interest? It is not. Moreover, Canadian politicians need to be reminded that Meng Wanzhou did not break any Canadian laws. So, if we accept the idea that all countries place their own interests first, then what should/could Canada have done?
Meng Wanzhou was on vacation in Mexico before being arrested on her return trip to China, which included a stopover in Vancouver. I would imagine that one could infer from this scenario that the Canadian government had some notification about the extradition order. This means that the government had some time to discuss this request in caucus. This also means that it had some time to consider what it could, would and should do about this request.
The past cannot be changed, but it is important to learn from our mistakes.
I would like to suggest that it would have been best for Canada, if the Liberal caucus had decided to ask someone’s chief of staff, to discreetly call the Chinese Embassy and notify it that an extradition order for Meng Wanzhou had been issued by the American government. With this information, Meng Wanzhou would surely have decided to fly back to China another way. This would have allowed the politicians responsible for enforcing the extradition order to publicly say they had done their best to fulfil this request. Ideally, this would have allowed Canada to maintain a good relationship with both the U.S. and China. Again, something I assume is in Canada’s best interest.
This approach would not have been discussed in my Grade 7 class on current affairs because it is a little cagey, but expecting adult politicians to be purely idealistic is childish. If someone had made an effort to notify Meng Wanzhou of the extradition order, Canadian companies selling their goods or services in China would not have been blacklisted, an expected outcome of the arrest. Moreover, our prime minister could now be potentially discussing other more pressing issues, from a Canadian perspective, with the Chinese government, if Canada and China still had a good relationship.
What can be done now?
It appears from the polls that Democratic nominee Joe Biden will likely win the American election. Therefore, the practical thing to do, if this transpires, is to ask the new American president to rescind the extradition order for Meng Wanzhou. This will allow Canada and China to get back to making agreements on trade and such that satisfy our mutual interests. Moreover, if Canada rebuilds a good relationship with China, Canada may be able to act as an intermediary to help the U.S. and China resolve some of their current differences. Again, something that is in Canada’s, China’s and America’s interests. However, should President Donald Trump be the victor, a different process will have to be followed should the government of Canada desire to repair its relationship with China.
There are basically two ways out of the Meng Wanzhou situation should Trump win the election. In this situation, it would be unlikely that the Americans would withdraw the charges. The first approach would be to ask the Governor General to use the Royal Prerogative of Mercy, which is the monarch’s prerogative in Canada and allows the “monarch” to pardon, stay or withdraw charges. Moreover, the attorney general has similar powers that can be exercised in the public interest. Obviously, it would be up to the prime minister to decide which strategy would be best for Canada. Again, this may appear to be a bit duplicitous. However, so is signing a free trade agreement and then immediately afterward imposing a trade embargo on your trading partner.
Canada needs politicians who can act like grown-ups and be practical.