Even among many American veterans of the war in Vietnam, there is a general consensus that the war was unjust, futile and all together wrong. For others Americans, Canada was a country that provide safe refuge from a military draft that saw young Americans forced into a military that sent many such men to fight and die in Vietnam, against their better judgement and in a broader sense against their will.
In spite of Canada’s economic ties to the US, in terms of foreign policy, the Canada of Pierre Trudeau, whilst a committed NATO member, pursued a diverse and truly independent foreign policy, one which saw Canada develop positive ties with the People’s Republic of China at a time when the US remained firmly in favour of a Taiwanese version of the One China Policy.
As a country that defied Washington in the pursuit of early win-win relations with China and furthermore, as a country that offered refuge to Americans who did not wish to fight in the aggressive war in Vietnam, it is hard to imagine that a Trudeau government would have ever agreed to illegally detain a Chinese businesswoman before disgracefully handing her over to the United States.
At yet this is exactly what a Trudeau government is about to do in respect of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou. Of course, the Trudeau government in question is the government of Justin Trudeau, the ideologically wayward son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Making matters all the more absurd in respect of the Canadian government’s position, the US President has already admitted that the Meng case is politicised in nature and could well have a politically based resolution. Later, Canada’s then Ambassador to China, John McCallum indicated that he agreed that the US perspective on Meng was politicised and that furthermore, she had not violated any Canadian law.
When asked about the possibility of granting the US request for Meng’s extradition, McCallum suggested that Meng stands a good chance of fighting extradition in a Canadian court on the following grounds:
“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 which are involved in her case, and Canada does not sign on to these Iran sanctions.
So I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge”.
For stating the basic facts, McCallum was fired by Trudeau and now Canada is ready to extradite Meng to the United States in a move that not only violates her human rights, but one which violates the very letter of Canadian law and anything remotely related to ethics and decency. As a result, China has vowed not to allow Canada’s disgraceful behaviour to go unchallenged.
But while Meng is self-evidently a human sacrifice in Trump’s trade war, one who might be released from US custody on the condition that the US is happy with a new China trade deal (as Trump himself has alluded to) – in terms of China-Canada relations, the damage is already done.
Whereas Pierre Trudeau was able to skilfully balance economic relations with the US and NATO membership on the one hand, against an independent and often ethical foreign policy on the other, his son has proved to have no such skillets. Instead, Justin Trudeau heads a government infamous for attempts to meddle in the internal affairs of countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia, whilst his government has taken decades of a productive relationship with China and thrown matters into disarray by his refusal to obey basic legal norms and in so doing, stand up to the clear bully tactics that Washington has employed in respect of Meng.
In an multipolar age where zero-sum geopolitics is becoming a thing of the past outside of Washington and an ever diminishing amount of European capitals, one would have hoped that Canada would have cherished its reputation for defying American unilateralism whether under Pierre Trudeau or even more recently when Canada refused to participate in nor endorse America’s war on Iraq.
But instead, Canada has turned its back on what was once an independent streak in foreign affairs and has done so under the Premiership of the son of a man known for establishing Canada’s foreign policy independence.
Such a disgraceful reality for Canada is one that in the eyes of an ever more watchful world, may take years to undo. The trust that previous Canadian governments had built has been inexorably eroded.