Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fired his ambassador to China, John McCallum, on Saturday over remarks McCallum made about the arrest and possible extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
McCallum told a news conference last Tuesday that Meng, arrested in early December by Canadian authorities, has an excellent case against extradition to the United States to face charges of financial fraud and violating sanctions against Iran.
“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,” McCallum said.
McCallum nevertheless insisted the Canadian government will not intervene in the case despite China’s demands.
“I know this has angered China, but we have a system of extradition treaty, a system of rules of law, which are above the government. The government cannot change these things, and as I said, I think Ms. Meng has quite a strong case,” he said.
McCallum retracted his remarks on Thursday after a firestorm of outrage in both Canada and the United States, apologizing for the “confusion” he created when he “misspoke,” but then on Friday, he told a reporter for the Star it would be “great for Canada” if the U.S. dropped its extradition request, presumably because the Trudeau administration could capitulate to Chinese demands and let Meng go.
This was apparently a step too far for Trudeau, although his official statement on Saturday did not explain precisely why he asked for McCallum’s resignation:
Last night I asked for and accepted John McCallum’s resignation as Canada’s Ambassador to China.
For almost two decades, John McCallum has served Canadians honourably and with distinction. He held many positions in Cabinet over the years, including Minister of National Defence, Minister of Veterans Affairs and, most recently, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. His work as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in bringing in over 39,500 Syrian refugees remains an inspiration to Canadians and an example to the world. I thank him and his family for his service over the past many years.
Effective immediately and in keeping with standard practice, Jim Nickel, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Canada in Beijing, will represent Canada in China as Chargé d’affaires.
China’s state-run Global Times jumped in to interpret McCallum’s sacking as a symptom of Canadian Sinophobia, evidence Trudeau is indeed politically interfering with Meng’s case, and proof that Canada is a vassal of the United States:
McCallum held positions in the Canadian cabinet for years, but had strong personal ties with China and his wife is of Chinese ethnicity. A number of Canadians are well aware that his remarks are true. Being besieged and eventually fired can be put down to the political incorrectness of his words in the current Canada.
According to Associated Press quoted by VOA Chinese, Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said McCallum’s remarks are true but he should have kept his mouth shut. The Daily Herald also reported that Robert Bothwell, a professor at the University of Toronto, said, “McCallum may be right on the extradition case, and the arguments to be used for the defense.”
Ottawa is now as sensitive as a frightened bird. A few words by the ambassador should not have posed any impact on court decisions. Nonetheless, judging from the reactions of many politicians and journalists in Canada, McCallum’s remarks are like a dreadful monster.
What happened to the “legal state”? The only explanation lies probably in a guilty conscience. Ottawa has recognized clearly that arresting Meng was against the basic legal spirit. McCallum commented on Meng’s case several times and didn’t even stop after apologizing as the entire Canadian political arena swayed.
“You cannot live the life of a whore and expect a monument to your chastity,” the Global Times pontificated, which is not really the sort of thing one says to the citizens of a country one is attempting to befriend. This was followed by the now-familiar Chinese threat to make Canada “pay” for daring to arrest Meng, a princess of Chinese Communist royalty.
The Globe and Mail saw Trudeau taking heavy fire from opposition party leaders over McCallum’s comments, leaving him little choice but to dump his ambassador. Firing McCallum, in turn, alienated some members of Trudeau’s party who believe he has “destroyed” relations between Canada and China by allowing Meng’s arrest. The result is the worst of all possible worlds for Trudeau, who will likely face criticism from all quarters of Canadian politics.