On January 26th, Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum was removed from his position following controversial comments he made regarding Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. In 2018, Canada arrested Meng, who is Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, at the behest of the United States, who believes that she violated U.S sanctions against Iran by conducting business with them. Canada had to comply with the United States’ demand because of its obligation under the Extradition Treaty.
Meng’s arrest placed Canada in a precarious position since Chinese authorities have vowed to retaliate against Canada if she is not released. For instance, Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China, while Robert Lloyd Schellenberg was sentenced to death in a sudden retrial of his drug-smuggling case. U.S President Donald Trump further complicated matters because he suggested to interfere in the case if it furthers U.S national security interests or facilitates in negotiating a trade deal between the U.S and China.
Moreover, her arrest sparked a debate speculating whether it was politically motivated. Canada has maintained that they are upholding the rule of law and has persistently tried to shed concerns about her arrest as politically instigated. However, MacCallum’s comments contradicted the federal government’s stance on her case.
Global News reported that the ambassador thinks that “she has quite good arguments on her side. One, political involvement by comments from Donald Trump in her case. Two, there’s an extraterritorial aspect to her case. And three, there’s the issue of Iran sanctions in her case and Canada does not sign on to these. So, I think she has some strong arguments she can make before a judge”. He later apologized for his remarks but the next day he was quoted saying that it would be “great for Canada” if the United States dropped its extradition request for Meng Wanzhou.”
MacCallum’s comments were problematic for many reasons but its most significant implication was to invalidate the federal government’s message regarding her case. He implied that Trump’s comments would help her case because a person cannot be extradited for political reasons and that Canada has not signed onto the sanctions against Iran which the United States is using as a reason to extradite her. As a diplomat, his responsibility was to show restraint in political affairs; however his comments could have severe political repercussions. It could sour Canada and China’s diplomatic relationship even further because it proves what China already believes — Meng’s arrest was political.
Meng’s case might gain the legitimacy it needs to help prove that her case is, in fact, politically motivated and consequently avoid extradition to the U.S. Not to mention, his comments might damage Canada-U.S relations because he outwardly discredited the U.S’s argument to extradite her.
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