Good morning! Wendy Cox here in Vancouver.
Actor Julia Hackstaff thought she was getting work as an extra when a contact arranged for her to turn up at a specified address on Monday morning. The address, it turned out, was a Vancouver courthouse and Monday was the long-awaited start of the U.S application to have Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou extradited on fraud charges.
Ms. Hackstaff didn’t know anything about that. She arrived expecting to work for a couple hours and be paid $100. She joined a group of people that “looked kind of lost” and she was handed a sign and told to hold it while protesting.
Ms. Hackstaff said she even originally thought the reporter asking her questions was also part of the act. "But after two or three questions, I obviously noticed that she was a professional journalist with professional equipment, asking real questions. That’s when I totally freaked out.”
Globe reporter Andrea Woo was also at the courthouse Monday morning and took note of the group of protesters, waving signs with similar handwriting and bearing slogans: “Free Ms. Meng,” Bring Michael home," Trump stop bullying us." The protesters wouldn’t answer questions and hid their faces behind the signs.
The repeated references to a singular Michael were particularly odd – there are two, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who have been detained in China apparently in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Ms. Meng.
Ms. Hackstaff doesn’t know who arranged her hiring and she fled the courthouse without waiting around to be paid. A Huawei executive has said the company had nothing to do with the protesters. China Central Television, China’s main state television broadcaster which reported on the protest, also did not return a request for comment.
The incident is another bizarre chapter in a story that has been unprecedented at every level. The United States’ efforts to have Ms. Meng extradited from Canada to face charges there have already had enormous consequences for Canada, including harsh trade measures imposed by China on Canadian agriculture products.
The case has prompted a vigorous debate within political circles and led to the eyebrow-raising situation whereby Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to strongly squelch calls for Ms. Meng’s release whipped up by former senior Liberals. They include Jean Chrétien’s once right-hand aide Eddie Goldenberg who recommended over the weekend that Canada exchange Ms. Meng for the two Michaels. Mr. Trudeau moved to stick a pin in that particular trial balloon, saying Tuesday: “We are a country of the rule of law and we will abide by the rule of law.”
Amid the continuing international political furor around the case, the woman at the centre of it walked smartly into court Monday for the start of the proceedings.
Justice reporter Sean Fine has been following the case closely and offered readers a synopsis of what will unfold this week. Much of the argument that will be heard by Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes has been aired in court documents made public to the media. Monday was the first phase of the arguments: The focus this week is on the legal principle of “double criminality.” Her lawyers want to convince Justice Homes that the offence Ms. Meng is accused of in the U.S. would not be a crime if committed in Canada and, therefore, Ms. Meng should be freed.
Ms. Meng’s lawyers have argued the U.S. is falsely portraying the case as one of alleged fraud when it is really about evasion of economic sanctions against Iran. The difference between the two types of charges is critical. Fraud is an offence in both the U.S. and Canada. But Canada has not had economic sanctions against Iran since 2016, when it signed an international agreement to limit its nuclear program. For an extradition to occur, any criminal acts must be deemed an offence if committed in either country.
The Canadian Attorney-General’s department will argue when it gets its turn later this week that sanctions simply provide the context for what it considers Ms. Meng’s fraudulent misrepresentations.
On Tuesday, Justice Holmes indicated she was struggling with aspects of Ms. Meng’s argument. She issued a series of hypothetical questions to Ms. Meng’s legal team, questioning the premise of their argument.
For anyone interested in the multiple tentacles of this case, this explainer will keep you up to date.
This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here. This is a new project and we’ll be experimenting as we go, so let us know what you think.
Around the West:
STREET CHECKS: The Vancouver Police Department has brought in rules governing when its officers can stop people on the street and question them. However, the department chose not to ban the checks all together, which is what some other forces in Canada have done. The checks have been found to disproportionately target people of colour. Chief Constable Adam Palmer did not comment Tuesday but is expected to address the issue Thursday.
COASTAL GASLINK PROTESTS: A group of Indigenous leaders are criticizing the B.C. Human Rights Commission and other human-rights agencies about comments made regarding the Coastal GasLink conflict. The pipeline, which has been approved by 20 First Nations, is being blocked from construction by the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leaders. That conflict prompted criticism in recent months from Amnesty International, B.C.'s Human Rights Commission and the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, who say all Indigenous peoples affected by the project should give free, prior and informed consent before it can proceed.
MANITOBA’S CLIMATE PLAN: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is pressing the federal government to accept his government’s climate plan rather than continuing to force Ottawa’s carbon pricing system on the province. Mr. Pallister, who met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a federal cabinet retreat in Winnipeg this week, says his province is serious about climate change. The Premier largely declined to say what his plan would include, though he did say his government would exempt grain drying from carbon pricing as a way to allay farmers’ concerns.
ALBERTA INQUIRY: The advocacy group Progress Alberta is threatening to launch a legal challenge of the province’s public inquiry into foreign funding of environmentalists. The group has sent a letter to commissioner Steve Allan arguing the inquiry violates free speech and free association rights in the charter, and says it will sue if the inquiry isn’t shut down.
VANCOUVER RENTAL STOCK: It appears that provincial and municipal policies aimed at forcing investment owners of condos to rent out their units in Vancouver is having an impact. There was a minimum of 2,000 older condos added to the rental stock last year. However, the vacancy rate for Vancouver is only up slightly to 1 per cent (from 0.8 per cent the previous year).
MISSING TAXES: Local governments in Alberta say they’re owed $173-million from oil and gas companies who have been refusing to pay as the province’s resource sector continues to struggle.
POST-SECONDARY FUNDING: The Alberta government is changing the way it funds universities and colleges, tying government money to things such as enrollment, incomes for graduates and employment. The performance-based system will be phased in over several years, beginning this spring.
GRANVILLE BRIDGE REDESIGN: A plan to turn the eight-lane behemoth bridge into a more pedestrian-friendly structure has been kiboshed by the city because the public generally hated the idea, according to officials. The original idea would have built an elevated tree-lined walkway down the middle of the Granville Bridge but people disliked the idea of being surrounded by traffic on either side. Instead, the city is proposing a $30-million to $40-million redesign that would build a space for people and cyclists on the outside lanes of the bridge.
REGINA OIL REFINERY PROTEST: Seven people were arrested during a blockade outside the Co-op oil refinery in Regina on Monday. Unifor members stopped buses of temporary workers and managers from getting access to the building, as well as any shipments of fuel trying to leave. However, managers and replacement workers were allowed to leave the facility. Members of Unifor Local 594 are in a contract dispute with Co-op, with one of the main issues being pensions.
EDMONTON FIRE CHIEF: Edmonton’s fire chief is headed to Australia to command a newly created force tasked with fighting devastating wildfires. Ken Block says climate change means the wildfire situation will only get worse: “I believe it is. [Australians] are living through that right now.”
FOOD: Our Calgary food reviewer, Dan Clapson, checked out Annabelle’s Kitchen, which he says is a pleasant surprise in Marda Loop, a neighbourhood that isn’t known for quality dining. “From a start of bubbly spritzes or stiff White Negronis passed to you at the bar by a cheerful bartender to a sweet finish of dunking warm zeppoles in a chocolate marmalade sauce, there is little to fault here at Annabelle’s.”
Kelly Cryderman on Alberta separatism: “The situation hasn’t reached the pitch of 1982, when separatist Gordon Kesler won a legislature seat in a by-election. Most Albertans still want to be a part of Canada, even as a number of different separation-themed groups have sprouted up – all vying for attention following last year’s federal election that saw the Liberals returned to power with a minority government, but not a single seat in Alberta or Saskatchewan.”
Justine Hunter on the pressures for the upcoming B.C. budget: “Ms. James covets the province’s triple-A credit rating as much as any fiscal conservative, and she is happy to trumpet the private-sector forecasts that project that the province’s economic growth will be first among the provinces this year. But she has to be careful. Ms. James faces all kinds of pressure to embrace deficit spending.”
Shiri Pasternak on the Coastal GasLink protest: “The hereditary governments are not rogue and non-democratic factions. This is a willful misreading of Canadian law. The most important case on Aboriginal title in Canada was fought in 1997 and won by the Wet’suwet’en (and Gitxsan) in the Delgamuukw decision. The court recognized that underlying title continues to rest with the Indigenous nation where treaties have not been signed. This interest in the land was found to be collective, unique and proprietary in nature. Note that it was the hereditary chiefs who brought the case to the Supreme Court and the hereditary chiefs whose authority to govern was recognized in the decision.”