Canada's calamitous approach to the crisis of the two Michaels began on November 30, 2018, the day we received an explosive U.S. extradition request for an emergency arrest of Huawei's CFO, Meng Wanzhou. To be carried out the very next morning, when her flight from Hong Kong landed in Vancouver.

The warning signs should have flashed red across the federal government that this request would likely result in the seizure of Canadians in China.

Taking Canadians hostage worked for China the last time

More than anything, Canada needed to buy time.

Because taking two Canadian civilians hostage is exactly what China did the last time we detained a politically sensitive Chinese citizen on a U.S. warrant, in 2014.

Beijing's political calculus is pretty clear. Canadian hostages for each Chinese national arrest.

They knew it. We knew it. The Americans knew it.

An emergency provisional warrant request endangering Canadians demanded, above all, immediate diplomacy with the Americans, rather than the timid and unquestioning processing it apparently received.

As outraged as all Canadians rightfully are at the conduct of President Xi Jinping's government, our own leadership should object to being strong-armed by our supposedly closest ally in a way that jeopardized our citizens' safety. Sermons about the rule of law unfairly distort the bigger picture that the public is entitled to know.

"Our justice system, and the federal Crown have been hoodwinked into participating in a show trial and shakedown, against our own national interests and risking our citizens." 

Canadians deserve to know that the Americans ginned up this foolhardy extradition application, possibly for political purposes.

They should know the history of America's noble, but ultimately failed strategy behind these indictments.

Over the last decade, beginning under president Barack Obama, the DOJ, State and Defense departments became impatient with passively monitoring an alarming increase of cyber-espionage, theft, and threat to critical infrastructure, particularly when conducted by proxies of nation-states such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

As John Carlin, then assistant attorney general for U.S. national security, outlined in an address on cyber-forensics in 2015:

...(W)e face an onslaught of new threats and intrusions that raise national security concerns...

We have a host of tools available to us to combat online threats to the national security – criminal prosecution, sanctions, designations and diplomatic options – and we have the ability to pick the best tool or combination of tools to get the job done under the rule of law.

The United States is pursuing a comprehensive, whole-of-government strategy to confront malicious actors who seek to harm critical infrastructure, damage computer systems and steal trade secrets and sensitive information.

The criminal justice system is a central and effective component of this disruption effort. Indictments and prosecutions are a clear and powerful way, governed by the rule of law, to legitimize and prove allegations.

In May 2014, the DOJ launched a new strategy of publicly naming and charging state-sponsored individuals, even those beyond reach of U.S. arrest. Such was the infamous “Ugly Gorilla” case, in which the U.S. indicted five members of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) on charges of conspiracy, hacking, and espionage directed at six American companies in the U.S. nuclear power, metals and solar products industries.

Even though the alleged PLA hackers were beyond the reach of authorities, just laying the charge was considered incendiary. Paul M. Tiao, a former senior counsellor on cybersecurity to FBI director Robert Mueller, told Bloomberg at the time, “This will have significant diplomatic implications and will affect our relationship with the Chinese government.”

As Canada was about to discover, it most certainly would.

As dramatic as his PLA indictment was, Carlin wanted to inflict even greater pain on Beijing. The DOJ's calculation at the time was that the Chinese government is a rational actor that will respond rationally to pressure. “The next case," he told colleagues, “we need a body.”

That “next body” would come from Canada. In June 2014, the U.S. requested Canadian authorities to arrest and extradite Su Bin, a Chinese national living in Richmond, B.C., on cyber-espionage charges.

Su had spent almost six years guiding a PLA hacking operation that broke into multiple senior defense contractor sites and stole massive files of critical U.S. military plans representing tens of billions of dollars in development cost. His oversight enabled the PLA, among other things, to replicate Lockheed Martin fighter jets and Boeing military cargo planes.

China's Xi'an Y-20 military cargo plane on airshow tarmac next to Boeing's C-17. Xi'an Y-20 built from Boeing plans hacked under the direction of Richmond, BC resident Su Bin.

Su Bin was arrested in British Columbia on a US extradition request alleging multiple counts of conspiracy, espionage, and theft of military secrets.

But Beijing didn't play the rational actor game as Carlin expected. They retaliated by abducting and imprisoning two Canadian missionaries, Julia and Kevin Garratt, for six months and two years, respectively.

In one move, China flipped Washington's script, and turned the criminal trial into a hostage negotiation, and Washington blinked.

In terms of U.S. national security, criminal targets don't come much higher value than Su Bin. Yet he consented to extradition and pled guilty to a single count, for which he was fined $10,000 and sentenced to a mere 18 additional months in custody.

By contrast, the typical plea bargain sentencing for espionage is in the range of 25 years to life imprisonment.

This was an unimaginably sweet deal for Su, but perhaps sweetest of all for Kevin Garratt, who was released shortly after the sentencing in 2016.

While informed sources suggest that Su's deal took the Chinese government by surprise, there are likely only two explanations for such a weak plea agreement: either Su Bin became a cooperating witness, providing the U.S. government valuable Chinese military intelligence, or he was, in effect, traded for Garratt.

The only clue we have is that Kevin and Julia Garratt were both home, safe and sound, by 2016. If Su Bin was singing like a canary, they wouldn't be.

At least during the Obama administration, it appears that Canada's interests were observed and respected in extradition matters.

U.S. indictment strategy "a magnificent failure"

Yet on the international stage, the Su Bin plea agreement represented a humiliation for the DOJ and a vindication of China's strategy of ruthless retribution.

The message could not have been clearer to everyone involved that the Chinese would see that hostage-taking works, and at all costs to avoid a replay of this scenario.

Yet just two years later, on November 30, the DOJ would try the extradition route again, Trump-style, this time seeking the arrest of the CFO of a major multinational telecom company, and the daughter of its founder, Ren Zhengfei.

Yet by now, Carlin's indictment strategy was under fire for failing to deter Chinese theft of intellectual property. If anything, China's brutal methods everywhere have only become stronger. Harvard law professor and US national security expert Jack Goldsmith declared it a "magnificent failure."

A moment for emergency diplomatic intervention

So the request for yet another attempt at an unsuccessful strategy in Canada was a moment for emergency diplomatic intervention — for Canada to call on the U.S. State Department to suspend or postpone its request, in order for both countries to consider all options, given the dangers facing our citizens in China.

There's no outward sign that anything of this nature happened. In any event, Canada appears to have meekly granted unquestioning deference to the United States. We walked straight into the buzzsaw.

While it's easy to condemn China's indefensible conduct both domestically and on the world stage, it's vital that Canadians understand just how objectionable the U.S. conduct of this case has been, and how inadequately we met the moment.

Any extradition request that puts Canadians in harm's way should be manifestly necessary, urgent, effective, and support a compelling national security interest.

Not one of those conditions applied here.

Unlike Su Bin, in criminal terms, Meng's indictment is almost entirely gratuitous. While she may be technically guilty, the US has traditionally only charged corporate entities and not individuals for Iran sanctions violations. There is no defensible rationale supporting the endangerment of other civilians just to lay inconsequential charges.

The DOJ doesn't need the Meng charges at all. They can easily proceed against their main target, Huawei, without her.

logo of Huawei, research and development centre, Dongguan, China, Guangdong province,
The DOJ does not require extradition of Huawei's CFO, Meng Wanzhou to proceed with charges against the company. File photo from AP.

Extradition request misleading

Nor was there any urgency to her arrest, and the DOJ appears to have misled Canadian authorities in claiming that there was.

The Globe and Mail reported that the American warrant stated: “Unless Meng is provisionally arrested in Canada on Saturday, Dec. 1 … it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to secure her presence in the United States for prosecution...”

This was not true at all.

As a senior executive of a major multi-national corporation, Meng travelled routinely all over the world, and maintained two homes in Vancouver. As the Globe reported, she had recently traveled to the U.K., Ireland, France, Belgium, Poland and Japan, and was slated to next visit Mexico, Costa Rica and Argentina. All have mutual U.S. extradition treaties.

Why pick Canada for this request, since we'd just gone through years of hostage imprisonment on another U.S. case?

And why the unseemly rush?

There was no hint of time pressure, unless Americans had another, undisclosed objective in mind in urgently seeking a Dec. 1 arrest.

Which as it turns out, they very probably did.

Meng's arrest a glorified perp walk for a G20 show

Mere hours after Meng's arrest in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, presidents Trump and Xi sat down to dinner with their trade teams at the G20 in Buenos Aires.

What could be a better pressure tactic in trade talks than to orchestrate a surprise glorified perp walk on the global stage?

Meng's arrest wasn't important, necessary or urgent.

It was a show.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Buenos Aires, Argentina at a working dinner during the G20 summit on December 1, 2018. File photo from REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Emerging from the meeting, Trump and Xi announced a cease-fire in the impending trade war. But days later, Trump twisted the knife into Xi by publicly offering to exchange Meng for trade concessions.

Just as he did with Ukraine, or with Turkey (for whom he fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara as a favour), or firing FBI director James Comey, or having his henchman AG Bill Barr get Mike Flynn’s charges dropped and Roger Stone’s sentencing manipulated, or unilaterally cancelling hard-won sanctions against China’s ZTE, Trump’s relationship with his DOJ and foreign relations is a study in dominance and self-dealing.

The moment Trump bartered Meng for a trade deal, he turned our justice system into his personal hostage-keeper. From that moment on, indeed from the moment the DOJ presented misleading evidence for its provisional extradition warrant, this proceeding has been stripped of legitimacy.

It was after this that China seized the two Michaels.

Our justice system, and the federal Crown have been hoodwinked into participating in a show trial and shakedown, against our own national interests and risking our citizens.

And we've been roped into a cartoonishly two-dimensional portrayal of the global dynamics at play. China bad, Canada good.

How did we get suckered so badly? How did we fail to protect our own citizens and courts from this reckless insult and abuse? How can we continue to dignify it by cloaking it in the robes of our judicial system, and lip-sync "rule of law" bromides?

We aren't courageously standing on principle, we're tip-toeing around Donald Trump, while our own citizens rot in a Chinese prison.

The time has come to put an end to this cruel charade.

End these extradition proceedings now, and bring our Michaels home.

Note to the editor: Because taking two Canadian civilians hostage is exactly what China [did] the last time we detained a politically sensitive Chinese citizen on a U.S. warrant, in 2014.

Excellent analysis of this mess. Canada could ask the (remaining adults) in US government to drop the charges - is this option dead?

Terrific piece. Agree 100%

A defining moment was the arrival of an extradition request in Ottawa. The legally designated cabinet minister to respond is the Attorney General. There are rumours that the individual then holding the Office did not consult colleagues but simply rubber-stamped the request as if routine.

And the larger issue is: how much autonomy does Canada still have in this world dominated by China, a country which has a totalitarian government that does not respect human rights nor the rule of law?

I agree, the US should drop the charges against Meng Wanzhou. It's appalling how badly the Trump administration has treated Canada, its closest ally. We need to wise up...

I suspect the SNC Lavalin mess has made Trudeau reluctant to intervene. It’s up to some others in our Justice Department to figure things out.

Great analysis. As Garossino notes: "We aren't courageously standing on principle, we're tip-toeing around Donald Trump, while our own citizens rot in a Chinese prison."

And while we're talking of "our citizens rotting," let us not overlook the devastating impact US sanctions have had on Iran, suffering which Trudeau has wilfully ignored or simply dismissed from his line of "bowing to Beijing" line of reasoning.

After pulling the US out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, consider the impact of Trump's May 2018 sanctions on Iran:
-- its economy has fallen into a deep recession;
-- oil exports have plummeted;
-- its currency has hit record lows recently;
-- living costs have risen dramatically; and
-- Iran’s health infrastructure is being destroyed, leading to immediate deaths and suffering of the Iranian population. (Source: Common Dreams, Nov 7, 2019)

Moreover, PM Trudeau should not overlook January 3, 2020 when the US, our professed military ally, assassinated Iran's top military commander, Gen Qasem Soleimani, in a drone strike.

Bowing to Beijing is one thing. Being suckered by an extradition ploy conceived by Trump, a conniving bully, is quite another.

Insert that factor into your rationalization equation if you dare, Mr. Trudeau.

From the tenor of this article and the comments below, it seems that Canadian schools have largely succeeded in banishing both bullying and history from schools. The writers seem to have no concept of how demands escalate when you give in to bullies. If you have not had personal experience, then go back and read some history, for example Europe, 1937 - 1942 or Ukraine, 2013-2020. Apparently there are still a large number of Canadians who think that appeasement wins the day. Not so. Read your history.

How about reading some history about the current world's bully, the USA? The American Empire has a long history of bullying other nations - not just bullying, but actually planning and coordinating the overthrow of democratically elected governments in order to put a puppet in place to carry out the wishes of American Corporations. Familiar with that history - Iran, Chile, Guatemala, etc, etc.? Check out historian Peter Kuznick's and producer Oliver Stone's 'The Untold History of the United States' and educate yourself about the real bully in today's world. By acquiescing to the USA's request to arrest this Chinese CEO, Canada has once again demonstrated to the rest of the world that it is a toady of the American Empire. We shouldn't pride ourselves on Canada's foreign policy either - Canada is one the 10 largest arms exporters in the world, selling arms to brutal dictatorships and authoritarian states around the world. Let's not forget the Canadian government's support for the various Canadian owned mining corporations that have been guilty of bullying (and murdering) indigenous activists, who were protesting the environmental damage being caused by the mining operations, in various countries around the world. He who lives in glass house should not throw rocks.

To bad, isn't it? The world is not a nice place. Canada is a minor player on the world stage, unlike China and the USA. We don't have the ability to influence world events, but we can choose our friends.

By ‘current’, what did you have in mind? Your examples, which I do not dispute, do not seem current. And, if we are going to go back into history, I think one also needs to list the positive things. There treatment of defeated foes, post WW2 was exemplary, and many countries, including China, have moved billions out of poverty under the trade rules established under the leadership of the US. That development accelerated during the period when the US was the world’s sole superpower. Those rules are far from perfect, but were intended to, and did, move us away from the laws of the jungle. Do you think we would have moved toward a rules based system had the USSR emerged from WW2 with the power of the US? And, does it look as though China is interested in a rules based approach, now that it has power? As an example, my understanding is that China is relying on coercive pressure and brinkmanship to press claims in the South China Sea, and is unwilling to submit them to international arbitration/adjudication. Recent activity on the Indian boarder appears to follow a similar pattern. Also, any instances that you are aware of where the US has used the CIA to steal commercial secrets, then give them to US companies?

So, shall we defer to China knowing they are bullies and knowing they won’t play nice? What solution does the author have besides surrendering to Chinese aggression? Shall we let people like Su Bin continue his espionage work? Canada is far too naive and deferential to China as it is. Read Claws of the Panda for more details.

“Su had spent almost six years guiding a PLA hacking operation that broke into multiple senior defense contractor sites and stole massive files of critical U.S. military plans representing tens of billions of dollars in development cost. His oversight enabled the PLA, among other things, to replicate Lockheed Martin fighter jets and Boeing military cargo planes.”

To illustrate how one sided your comment is, I will quote the statement made by the current U.S. Secretary of State, and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is also an evangelical Christian. When talking at a public event, he proudly boasted that while he was the CIA Director "We lied, we cheated, we stole..."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Our Supreme Court has recognized that justice must not be delayed too long. Surely Meng has been detained too long, and she is likely to be detained for many more years with the present processes. She should be completely freed on bail and a promise to appear in court when requested. If she skips, so be it. She will not be free to travel to any country that has an extradition treaty with the USA or Canada.

It is the lawyers and others in the legal systems who are responsible for the delays. They should be taken to task.

Clearly the world is full of bullies waging war by various nontraditional means. Instead of millions of non-combatants being slaughtered to assuage the wounded egos of the over-privileged, under-ethical "leaders", vulnerable individuals are used bandit style, as hostages to fortune. The globalization of the 24/7 news cycles ensures the the world is infomed of these criminal adventures; titillating the power brokers and the tit-for-tat childish would-be chess players.

There has never been any evidence of "rationality" in the games of war and dominance, only existential fear, cowardice and gratuitous cruelty. Humanity, as it becomes ever more crushed by its own weight, is sinking into greater depravity with every breath.

100% agree with analysis
Add the war crime of siege of Venezuelans to the list condemned by the Pope, the UN human rights and many EU countries to the shameful vassal state parroting of our province of the US empire
to the shameful extortion policies towards Cuba and Iran.

I appreciated this article as it presents a perspective that is new to me. Thanks.

I don't understand the value of this article. Firstly, it uses today's knowledge to criticize earlier action. Hindsight being 20/20, that's pretty easy to do. Why not criticize future plans instead? I think you'll find that a bit harder.
Secondly, what do you think Canada's stance should be dealing with China? China is huge and mighty and expects other nations to bow to it's wishes. It has a very different view of the importance of individuals versus the collective state than we in Canada do. Our world view is much more aligned with that of the USA, despite their current difficulty. We would, in my opinion, do well to minimize our dependence on China and support those elements in the USA who recognize the danger to our way of life of a dominant China.

you are right and your readers might see better how right you are by reading the Supreme Court Judgement here:

The court tried the question solely on the basis of an accusation from HSBC that Huawei might have damaged their reputation in Huawei's efforts to fund Iran's purchase of their equipment. Prior to the Meng fiasco HSBC had paid a fine of nearly 2 billion dollars to the USA for violating their sanctions against Iran.
There is NO charge that a material loss was incurred by HSBC. A potential loss of reputation was all there was.
Sanctions politics is at the heart of it, and it is worth noting that U.S. sanctions against Iran have not been approved by the United Nations, so have no standing in international law.
But power wins. The Supreme Court Judgement seems flimsy, since there was no material loss, and a potential loss of reputation is pretty airy. It would be interesting to see an appeal.
What was HSBC's motive in initiating the action? What pressures were on them? How is it that the USA can unilaterally decide who can trade with whom? There are no good guys in this drama. One can only hope the heat and urgency of the moment led to a breakdown of good judgement.
If Canada was complicit in deliberate way then shame on us.

Thanks for this extra information on the substance of the case. The article offered a new (to me) perspective on this unfolding story, and, as others have noted, we seem caught between two bad actors. It looks like our government may have made a fateful mistake. But, given the current situation and the national interest (which surely has safeguarding Canadians' security as a primary goal), can some experts in international affairs and diplomacy offer options to Canadians (perhaps in the Natl. Obs.) for what Canada should (and can) do now?

According to the extradition act, the final decision to surrender a person to the other country belongs to the minister of justice. The provision was put into the act to give the government some leeway in cases with important political considerations.