No matter how the ruling goes today in the case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, it will have an impact on the fraught relationship between Canada and China.
A B.C. court is expected to issue a ruling today on the question of so-called “double criminality” in Meng’s extradition case — whether what Meng is accused of in the United States would be a crime in Canada. The judge could end up ruling in her favour, although Canada could appeal.
Tuesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian issued a warning to Canada in his daily news conference.
“China’s position on the Meng Wanzhou case is consistent and clear,” he said. “The U.S. and Canada abused their bilateral extradition treaty and arbitrarily took compulsory measures against a Chinese citizen without cause. This is entirely a serious political incident that grossly violates the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese citizen.”
Zhao — who has used his Twitter account to promote a conspiracy theory claiming that a visiting U.S. military sports team deliberately released the novel coronavirus in China — continued:
“The Canadian side should immediately correct its mistake, release Ms. Meng and ensure her safe return to China at an early date so as to avoid any continuous harm to China-Canada relations.”
Optimism in party circles
The Global Times, the English-language mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party, wrote this week that “legal experts are cautiously optimistic” and say that “Meng is ‘highly likely’ to be freed from a purely legal perspective if Canada truly has the judicial system completely independent from any political influence, as it always boasts.”
Lynette Ong, director of China initiatives at the University of Toronto’s Munk School, said Chinese officials seem genuinely to believe that the facts of the case, and Canadian law, favour Meng.
“I think they are expecting a favourable outcome,” she told CBC News. “I think that would be seen as a rightful and fair decision” in Beijing, rather than just a capitulation to Chinese pressure, because Meng’s lawyers have done a good job of raising doubts about the federal Department of Justice’s claim that Meng violated Canadian laws, she added.
On the other hand, Ong said, a ruling against Meng would be sure to renew Chinese allegations that Canada’s courts are not independent.
“Put it this way — no court in China is independent of the government. Therefore, the dominant mindset is that the Canadian courts are not independent either, not independent of the Canadian government and also not independent of the U.S. government,” she said.
Prominent Chinese academic and dissident Xiao Qiang agrees. “They see everything as politics, rather than an independent judicial system.”
Xiao Qiang is director of the Counter-Power Lab at UC Berkeley, which studies censorship, disinformation and propaganda with a strong focus on China.
“If the result is what China’s government welcomes, then they will interpret it as their pressure on Canada worked. If the result is not what China wanted, then they will see that as the Canadian government not giving them what they want.”
Reciprocity not guaranteed
The Chinese side may be optimistic, but any Canadian hoping that a favourable decision in the Meng case might lead China to quickly release Canadian detainees Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor would have found little to celebrate in Zhao’s statement yesterday.
“They were involved in activities endangering China’s national security,” Zhao said in his statement. “In accordance with law, China’s judicial authorities have been dealing with the cases independently and ensuring their legal rights. China urges the Canadian side to respect the spirit of the rule of law and China’s judicial sovereignty and stop making irresponsible remarks.”
Chinese officials have steadfastly refused to acknowledge suggestions that Kovrig and Spavor are, in effect, hostages for Meng. Beijing’s representatives — including Ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu — also have declined to discuss the vast differences in the treatment experienced by Meng and the two Canadians.
Kovrig and Spavor are being held alone in solitary confinement without access to lawyers or family members. Meng, meanwhile, took advantage of her generous bail conditions on Saturday to stage a celebratory photo shoot outside the B.C. Supreme Court.
Quid pro quo … or no?
Beijing has insisted that the two Canadians were arrested on legitimate national security grounds, and repeatedly denied they were being held in retaliation for Meng.
China has been censured by several other countries over the case, including the U.S., U.K., Germany and Australia.
Xiao Qiang says it would now be difficult for Beijing to follow Meng’s release with a swift liberation of Kovrig and Spavor without conceding that they were, after all, just bargaining chips.
“For that reason China may not release them.”
China likely would want something like Richard Nixon’s “decent interval” to pass before engaging in such a naked transaction.
Ong said the next steps China takes will be determined partly by the groundwork Canadian diplomats in Beijing have done to prepare for today’s ruling.
“If Meng walks free, the two Michaels need to be released, they need to make sure that end of the bargain is fulfilled too,” she said.
“I don’t know what Ottawa is doing, but they really should be talking to their Beijing counterparts to discuss different scenarios of this case, and the implications for the fate of the two Michaels. I hope they are doing that.”
CBC News put that question to Global Affairs Canada. Spokesman Adam Austen responded: “While we cannot comment on a matter before the courts, we are closely following the extradition case of Meng Wanzhou currently in its judicial phase.
“When it comes to China, our top priority continues to be securing the release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor and calling for clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty in China, including Robert Schellenberg. We will continue to advocate on their behalf.”
China’s authoritarian government has been acting lately like an organization that knows it is living through a pivotal moment in its history. It has seen both danger and opportunity in the COVID-19 pandemic and has moved forcefully to forestall the former (as demonstrated by its PPE diplomacy around the world) and seize the latter — in Hong Kong, where it has proposed new national security laws that many see as an attempt to crush Hong Kong’s autonomy.
But the party has never lost sight of the Meng case.
Lately, Beijing has made a modest effort at mending fences with Canada as part of its attempt to bend the narrative of COVID-19 to one of international collaboration.
“China and Canada have been cooperating in the anti-epidemic fight,” opined the Global Times in its editorial Tuesday, “and are also cooperating on developing COVID-19 medicines and vaccines … In February, when China was hit hard by the virus, the Trudeau government provided 16 tons of anti-virus supplies. Later in March, the Bank of China returned the favour …
“Moreover, Canada has been keeping a rational attitude toward the U.S.’s well-calculated campaign of ‘holding China accountable’ for the COVID-19 pandemic,” it said.
American hostility growing
Still, today’s ruling comes at a time when China increasingly feels under pressure on the world stage.
In the U.S., President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden appear to be trying to out-do one another in taking a tough approach to China, with Trump accusing Biden of having given China “EVERYTHING they wanted, including rip-off Trade Deals.”
Biden in turn accused Trump of turning a blind eye to China’s rights abuses and breaches of past agreements.
“It is no surprise China’s government believes it can act with impunity to violate its commitments. The administration’s protests are too little, too late — and Donald Trump has conspicuously had very little to say,” Biden said in a statement.
And U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien has continued to accuse China of perpetuating its own version of the Chernobyl cover-up with COVID-19. “We want good relations with China and with the Chinese people, but unfortunately, we’re seeing just action after action by the Chinese Communist Party that makes it difficult,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
The hits keep coming
Meanwhile, in the U.K., Meng Wanzhou’s company Huawei (and China) suffered a major setback this week when Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to reverse an earlier decision allowing the Chinese firm to participate in the building of the country’s 5G system.
Up to 50 members of his own party were set to rebel against his government’s proposal to allow Huawei to participate up to a market share of 35 per cent. Johnson now says Huawei’s share will be reduced to zero by 2023.
The threatened backbench revolt, and the government’s response to it, reflect the darkening mood toward China provoked by the Communist Party’s perceived efforts to leverage the pandemic for strategic and economic gains.
The U.S., which already had banned Huawei from its 5G network, went further on May 15 when it expanded the Commerce Department’s foreign direct product rule. “We will not tolerate efforts by the Chinese Communist Party to undermine the privacy of our citizens or the integrity of next-generation networks worldwide,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Huawei is an untrustworthy vendor and a tool of the Chinese Communist Party, beholden to its orders,” Pompeo said, a charge Huawei’s founder, Meng’s father, has denied.
Canadians souring on China, Huawei
In Canada, too, the public’s attitude toward China has darkened dramatically, especially during the season of coronavirus.
The University of British Columbia has tracked a decline in positive feelings toward China over the past two years.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed China’s public standing in Canada even lower. According to a more recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute, just 14 per cent of Canadians have a favourable impression of China — and 85 per cent believe its government has not been honest about the pandemic.
Recent events also have affected how Canadians feel about Huawei. Even before the pandemic, two-thirds said they wanted the company barred from Canada’s 5G networks. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the Angus Reid poll found that opposition had risen to more than four-fifths.
Lynette Ong said China may win the battle over Meng’s extradition only to find that it has lost a larger war for world public opinion — and is losing market share for its flagship company.
“I think there’s a considerable scar. I think Canadian society has a memory,” she said.
“In Canadian society, the pendulum has swung so much against China in the past year and a half, and even more so under this pandemic. And I really doubt it’s going to be healed any time soon, even if the two Michaels are released.
“But if Meng walks free and the two Michaels are not released … I don’t know. It would be an uproar.”
Stage 3 of Ontario's COVID-19 reopening plan looms nearer – CBC.ca
The chances of large parts of Ontario moving soon to Stage 3 of the province’s COVID-19 reopening plan are looking bright as the spread of the coronavirus remains slow in most public health units.
It’s been nearly three weeks since all of eastern and northern Ontario, as well as much of the southwestern part of the province, advanced to Stage 2. That allowed the opening of shopping malls, hair salons, swimming pools, and bar and restaurant patios.
Data from those 24 public health units — everywhere but the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Niagara, Windsor-Essex, Lambton and Haldimand-Norfolk — show the spread of the virus remains largely contained.
“We hope to be able to move into the next stage as soon as possible,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Tuesday.
“It’s looking very good, but we still need another week’s data to really inform the situation, and then decisions will be made about the opening of Stage 3.”
More than half of Ontario’s 34 public health units currently have fewer than 10 active cases (coronavirus cases that are considered to still be infectious). Fifteen health units have three or fewer active cases.
The parts of the province that were first to advance to Stage 2 — including Ottawa, Waterloo Region and London — have a combined population of nearly six million. In these areas, since restrictions were eased on June 12:
- The combined number of new cases daily has averaged 27, down from a daily average of 34 in the four preceding weeks.
- The number of new cases reported daily has remained below 35 on all but one day.
The trend in the daily number of new cases is the statistic watched most closely by health officials in determining whether restrictions can be lifted.
Provincial-level discussions are currently happening about when to announce Stage 3, Elliott said. She said the decisions to be made include which parts of the province would move ahead and which measures would be relaxed.
“We have to do it safely,” Premier Doug Ford said. “We will do it safely, and we’re going to do it in steps as we did before. We just have to continue seeing the numbers go in the right direction.”
Provincial officials have said any announcements about progressing to the next stage would be made on Mondays.
An announcement on Stage 3 could come within the next week or so, according to Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health for eastern Ontario. He told a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday that officials are looking at increasing the maximum size of gatherings and allowing customers inside restaurants.
Specific Stage 3 changes not yet clear
The province has not laid out precisely what changes will come in Stage 3 of the reopening. Its general framework released back in April suggested Stage 3 would mean “opening all workplaces responsibly” and “further relaxing the restrictions on public gatherings.”
Even with a move to Stage 3, mass gatherings such as concerts and spectator sports events would remain prohibited “for the foreseeable future,” the framework says.
Restrictions currently in place in Stage 2 that could be eased include the closure of playgrounds, the 10-person limit on social gatherings, and the ban on indoor seating at restaurants and bars.
While the daily number of new COVID-19 cases is a crucial metric for determining the timing of Stage 3, the other measures that are considered include the availability of hospitals beds, speed of testing, and effectiveness of tracing close contacts of each person who tests positive.
Some public health units see mandatory mask usage in indoor public settings as a key tool in preventing outbreaks and advancing to Stage 3.
“We want to move to Stage 3,” Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s chief medical officer of health, said while presenting evidence in favour of a mask policy during a news briefing on Monday. “We want all the businesses to be open. We want people to be able to continue to get back to work.”
The public health unit covering Kingston — which previously had among the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the province — ordered masks to be worn in indoor public places in response to an outbreak at a nail salon that is now linked to 27 confirmed cases.
Mask wearing, handwashing likely to remain
The ability to prevent and contain local outbreaks will be one of the province’s considerations about whether a public health unit is ready to move to Stage 3, said Dr. Chris Mackie, the London-Middlesex medical officer of health.
The province is “watching the data carefully and not rushing into a Stage 3 reopening, which I think is appropriate,” Mackie said on Tuesday in a news conference.
The province will take the lead on the decisions about Stage 3, according to Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, medical officer of health for the Region of Waterloo, among the first public health units to advance to Stage 2.
“When we reach Stage 3, it is very likely that many of our current heath measures, such as physical distancing, mask wearing and handwashing, will remain in effect,” Wang said in a statement to CBC News.
Canada to ban 'nuisance seals' killing to keep access to U.S. market – CBC.ca
Canada will abolish permits that allow the killing of “nuisance seals” by commercial fishermen and aquaculture in an effort to maintain access to the lucrative U.S. seafood market, CBC News has learned.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada plans to eliminate nuisance-seal licences. Earlier this spring, the department told commercial fisheries associations that nuisance permits will no longer be issued. Canadian fish farms voluntarily stopped killing seals in 2018.
“DFO is making this change in order to ensure continued access to the U.S. fish and seafood market, a market worth about $5 billion annually to Canada,” DFO spokesperson Benoit Mayrand said.
By Jan. 1, 2022, all countries with fisheries interacting with marine mammals that export to the U.S. will have to demonstrate they have marine mammal protections that are the same or of comparable effectiveness to measures taken in the U.S..
DFO intends to adopt regulatory language aligned with the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act’s import provisions, Mayrand said.
Scotland also banning practice
The U.S. exempts killing marine mammals under specific circumstances, such as where it is imminently necessary to protect human health and safety, and under the Good Samaritan exemption, where the humane dispatch of a seal will avoid serious injury, additional injury, or death to a seal entangled in fishing gear or debris.
DFO said it will post its plans for public comment in coming weeks.
Earlier this month, Scotland announced it will eliminate permits to shoot nuisance seals. Scotland is also keenly aware that market access is at stake.
Mairi Gougeon, the Scottish minister responsible for that portfolio, told the Scottish parliament that its new rules will match the U.S. rules.
“It will ensure that we can still export farmed fish to the United States of America in future. That is one of our most important markets; it was worth £178 million (about $301 million) in 2019,” she said on June 17.
Canada’s aquaculture industry already on board
Tim Kennedy, president and CEO of the Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance, wrote to DFO in a letter dated Dec. 21, 2018.
“The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance would like to state our members’ commitment to ‘no intentional mammal kill’ practices in our seafood farming operations within Canada. We maintain an exception for the very rare possibility of the endangerment of human health, as per the exception in the MMPA legislation,” Kennedy wrote.
The association says it represents 95 per cent Canadian fish farms and shellfish operations.
“This was quite a major step of the Canadian industry to move forward and make this commitment because the population of seals on the East Coast and sea lions on the West Coast have really increased dramatically,” Kennedy told CBC News.
He said producers are now using steel-hardened nets to keep seals out.
‘A critical market issue’
About 80 per cent of the Atlantic salmon grown in Canada gets exported to the U.S..
“This is a critical market-access issue. So with the time being right and with the industry moving in this direction anyway, the formalization of the commitment, I think, made a lot of sense,” Kennedy said.
DFO says in 2018, 66 seals were reported killed under nuisance-seal licences in Atlantic Canada. In 2019, 95 were reported killed.
But that may be an underestimation of how many are killed by fishermen.
On the East Coast, huge grey seal colonies are often blamed by commercial fishermen for the slow recovery of groundfish stocks.
In a 2016 assessment of the grey seal population, DFO scientists estimated a total of 3,732 grey seals were killed in the region — but that number came with a caveat.
“Nuisance-seal licences are issued to fishermen that report seals causing damage to fishing gear or catches,” said DFO’s assessment. “They are required to report the number of seals they have removed, but most fishermen do not provide this information.”
A nuisance-seal licence is different from a commercial-harvest seal licence and the proposed amendments will have no impacts on the directed seal harvest, DFO said.
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