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The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has joined with the chorus of Western countries supporting Canada’s protestations against the “arbitrary,” and “politically motivated” death sentence imposed by a Chinese court on Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland praised Pompeo’s “recognition of the principle that we are speaking about.” She argues that the application of the death sentence to a Canadian national in this case is “inhumane”, and represents a, “way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.”

Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, echoed Freeland’s cry of victory for having won US support. “I hope they continue to back Canada in this particular dispute,” MacNaughton said.

Yet, isn’t it strange that Canada would call on support from the United States in its appeal for clemency in the Shellenberg case? The United States has executed 48 persons in the past 2 years, and drug offences are a capital crime under federal law, and in the states of Florida and Missouri. In fact, President Trump has recently called for more use of the death penalty to punish drug trafficking:

“My department of Justice will be seeking much tougher penalties for the big pushers, and that penalty is going to be the death penalty.”

No wonder the Chinese government has so easily dismissed Canadian objections as“staging the play of a thief crying “stop the thief!”

Canadian self-righteousness in the current dispute with China is also troublesome given its starting point with a notoriously corrupt extradition process, according to which Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the request of the U.S.

The CBC reported in May 2018 that legal challenges face the specialized division of the Canadian Department of Justice responsible for extradition – known as the International Assistance Group (IAG). The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG) have joined Amnesty International and the BCCLA in calling for a public inquiry into Canada’s Extradition Act with a view to substantial reform.

According to these groups, the extent to which Canada’s extradition process is in fact politicized, as China has claimed, is suggested by the “ferocity” with which the IAG prosecutes extradition requests leading to a 90% surrender rate. This does not bode well for Meng’s chances. As Robert Currie, a professor of law at Dalhousie University said, “Once you are sought for extradition, your goose is pretty much cooked.”

According to the CBC, the IAG is even accused of having withheld evidence in past cases such as that of Ottawa sociology professor Hassan Diab, extradited to France in 2014 where hespent more than three years in near-solitary confinement in a French prison while being investigated for terrorism charges that were later dropped.

The multiple levels of hypocrisy behind Canada’s claim that it is humane and adhering to the rule of law while China is “politically motivated,” in the current stand-off, begs the question as to Ottawa’s real motives. Coming alongside Chrystia Freeland’s rabid anti-communist campaign in Venezuala and Armenia (she has, for example, recently condemned Maduro as an illegitimate “dictator”); it might make sense that the extradition of Meng is part of a larger conspiracy amongst elements of the Western elite to stage a Cold War II, with China playing the part of the Soviet Union.

If this is true, we might ask whether Prime Minister Trudeau is entirely comfortable with the direction his Foreign Minister is taking Canadian foreign policy. I doubt it would sit well with his father who famously befriended Mao and Castro, and who, it has recently been revealed, was himself under surveillance by the RCMP because of his leftist sympathies.

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Paul Bentley holds an MSc. (Econ) in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and an Ed. D. in the History and Philosophy of Education from the University of Toronto. He has worked as a History Teacher and Head of Department in Ontario High Schools for over 25 years. He is the author of Strange Journey: John R. Friedeberg Seeley and the Quest for Mental Health — Academic Studies Press.

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