The Morning Brief – 07.07.20

By Bruce Carson



Hong Kong

A Role for Canada? The Trudeau Government Doesn’t Lack for Suggestions

It was just over a couple of weeks ago that 19 prominent Canadians from all political stripes signed a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. The letter contained two suggestions; it expressed concern about the impact of the detention on the physical, mental and emotional heath of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and that the extradition proceedings are making it impossible to define and pursue an effective foreign policy toward China.

At that point the imprisonment of these two men totalled more than 550 days. The solution suggested for the two Michaels was for the Minister of Justice to exercise his discretion and withdraw the authority to proceed and send Ms. Meng back to China in exchange for Kovrig and Spavor.

It was argued that this was entirely consistent with the Rule of Law and would allow the government to “redefine its strategic approach to China, deal with the Huawei 5G issues and allow it to speak out boldly on Hong Kong and human rights abuses in China.”

Trudeau at his morning briefing on June 25 completely shut down the idea of a prisoner swap. His argument was that such an action would put Canadian lives in peril as travelling Canadians would be open to be taken and incarcerated by foreign governments or entities.

Canada’s former ambassador to China, David Mulroney took the position that if we give in, China will up the ante and detain other Canadians.

Hugh Segal, one of the signatories to the letter argued on Power and Politics that human lives are at stake. He set out that Canada has “to look at the world the way it is” and we have two citizens held in prison, having committed no crime and the Minister of Justice should bring this to an end.

The question for the 19 letter writers was then, if the government is not going to do as they suggest, what is it going to do, it can no longer stand idly by.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, who has not been shy about sharing suggestions as to next steps recommended that Canada encourage its allies to speak out but he added “it would be diplomatic self-delusion to think this is having any effect on the Chinese.”

He suggests a more coordinated approach, more muscular, in our response to China’s bullying. Specifically he recommends revoking visas for children of Chinese officials studying in Canada and ask the 5 Eyes to do the same.

Canada should take the cases of Spavor and Kovrig to the International Court of Justice.

“We have allies and friends, China doesn’t really, they have clients like North Korea” and Canada should reach out to its allies and friends for support.

Last week in the Globe, Bob Fife and Steve Chase set out a two part series from interviews with former Prime Minister Mulroney. The second part of the series dealt with Mulroney’s views on an approach to China that should be taken by the Trudeau government.

First, reject and ban Huawei from 5G mobile networks as it would jeopardize intelligence sharing within the 5 Eyes alliance.

Commenting on China, Mulroney said that China has become an aggressive global player and a real threat to Canada and western allies. The view that China could evolve into a constructive partner in international relations, no longer holds true.

Mulroney said “there has to be an immediate and urgent rethink of our entire relationship.”

The former prime minister suggests that the government strike a blue ribbon panel of experts to reshape Canada’s policy towards China. It should take note of how other western countries are re-adapting to confront an ever increasingly belligerent Beijing.

He added “get it done.” Come up with a rethink of what our relationship should be with China. “The world has changed.” Mulroney suggested Canada’s former ambassador to China, David Mulroney should head the panel.

Canada’s former ambassador to the United States and former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Mulroney, Derek Burney wrote an article last week entitled “Rethinking our place in the world” after the rejection of Canada’s attempt to gain a seat on the UN Security Council. He wrote that on foreign policy this is not the time for virtue signalling or posturing on the fads of the moment.

On China, Burney, one of the signatories to the letter to Trudeau wrote, we can’t ignore this relationship. On the letter of the 19 “I would ask you, what do you propose?” Burney believes the Minister of Justice should have acted as soon as President Trump politicized the extradition.

Moving on to Hong Kong the new law security law subjects everyone in Hong Kong to a strict ban on political activity that Beijing deems dangerous to national security. Life sentences will be handed down for terrorism, subversion, secession and collusion.

John Ivison described China in this situation as being “oblivious to shaming and impervious to pressure.”

Canada has halted extraditions to Hong Kong as well as military exports and warned travellers to Hong Kong of the risk of arbitrary arrest. In response the Chinese government is saying “the country reserves the right to make further responses against Canada.” This is the same language used to threaten the U.K., India, Japan and Australia.

Canada is apparently contemplating immigration measures dealing with Hong Kongers, presumably similar to those that Great Britain has dealt with. There are at least 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong who will have to be protected from arbitrary arrest and detention. Canada may also have to get them out of Hong Kong quickly should the situation there deteriorate.

Prime Minister Mulroney described China as increasingly belligerent and this has to be dealt with now.

Colin Robertson in an interview last weekend stated that it is important that Canada speak out in concert with its allies and raise this issue with the G7.

Presumably, dealing with Hong Kong and China will be on the agenda when Cabinet meets later this week. Trudeau now has a menu of actions the government could take.

The vitally important matter is that the government act now and “get it done.”

To Come

July 8
  • The government is to present its “economic snapshot”
  • USMCA meeting in Washington
July 9
  • FMM by teleconference
July 10
  • Job numbers for June to be released
July 15
  • Bank of Canada deals with interest rates and presents its Monetary Policy Report