By Rachel Marsden
Vancouver’s Shaughnessy neighborhood is tucked away under so many massive trees that even on an overcast day earlier this month, both the temperature and the decibel level plummeted when I turned off busy Granville Street into this urban oasis. The neighborhood is perhaps best known as the onetime Canadian residence of actors Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Celebrities, legal eagles and tycoons, have all called this discreet enclave home. Shaughnessy is also home to one of the most prominent symbols of the geopolitical standoff between East and West — Meng Wanzhou, deputy chairwoman and chief financial officer of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Meng was arrested by Canadian authorities in December, at the request of the U.S., while changing planes at Vancouver International Airport. The longtime Vancouver resident now spends her time here under strict bail conditions and under court-ordered surveillance while her Shaughnessy home undergoes renovations. Meanwhile, Meng’s lawyers are fighting her possible extradition to America. Conspicuous black trucks occupy the street outside Meng’s home, and a couple of friendly security guards at a booth that looks like a lemonade stand greet passersby at the end of the short driveway.
Take about 30 steps from that driveway and you’ll reach American soil: the residence of the U.S. consul general to Vancouver, complete with U.S. flag and the Great Seal of the United States on the front gate.
Too bad Meng and the consul general couldn’t each take 15 steps in the other’s direction and leave Canada out of their business.
Meng, the princess of China’s reigning 5G network, is wanted in the U.S. for allegedly violating sanctions with the sale of telecom equipment to Iran — sanctions that don’t exist in Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had expressed dismay over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal — a withdrawal that led to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
This fiasco never should have been Canada’s problem. It’s not like there weren’t other options. The Canadian justice minister could have “filed” the U.S. extradition request at the bottom of a large pile of bureaucracy. Or some Mountie could have pulled a Dudley Do-Right and “oops-ed” Meng straight onto her connecting flight.
Instead, Canada jumped on the grenade, professing that Canada is a nation of laws. Yeah, U.S. laws, apparently — because it’s hard to see how Meng violated any Canadian laws.
And what thanks does Canada get? Was it treated any better by the Trump administration in the recent North American trade negotiations alongside Mexico? It doesn’t appear so. And now China is attempting to put the screws to Canada over Meng’s predicament by detaining, or even retrying the court cases of, Canadian citizens in China. A Canadian man originally sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to smuggle drugs out of China was recently retried and given a death sentence.
Trudeau’s leadership on this issue has put Canada in a lose-lose situation. If Meng wins her extradition case and heads back to China, Trump will probably flip out. If Meng loses her case and is sent to the U.S., China will be livid. Either way, it’s going to be a hard lesson for Canada about the necessity of an independent foreign policy that allows one to fly the middle finger when it’s in the country’s best interests.
It’s no secret why the U.S. is ratcheting up pressure against Huawei — the company is trying to dominate the global 5G telecommunications market at the expense of U.S. competitors. American allies have been bombarded with breathless warnings about the potential for Huawei to use its technology for spying.
Canada needs to stop playing politics and once again start acting like a sensible, fair-minded arbiter. A case in point that reeks of politics: Reuters reported this week that Canada will likely wait until after the federal election in October before deciding whether to allow Huawei 5G network equipment in the country.
“We don’t have leverage,” has been a frequent response from some of Trudeau’s senior policy advisers to pleas for a foreign policy that’s less dependent on the whims of the U.S. president. That mindset is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.
Citizens of both the U.S. and Canada are better off when the two countries serve as sounding boards for each other, particularly on matters of foreign policy, and when both operate from a position of strength. As Donald Trump’s relationships with other world leaders have proven, it’s really the only thing that the Negotiator in Chief in the White House respects.
Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at www.rachelmarsden.com.