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The Globe and Mail

Canada's diplomats teach China a lesson in due process

Lai Changxing photographed in Vancouver August 11, 2009.


When Canada's embassy in Beijing posted last month's ruling from the Federal Court of Canada about the deportation of Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing, it acted in an appropriate fashion – one might even say with wonderful appropriateness.

Canada has taken a good deal of heat from China during the dozen years in which the deportation of Mr. Lai was before the courts. Fair enough – the length of deportation processes in Canada sometimes baffles Canadians, too. But it's entirely just, then, for Canada to post, on a popular Chinese social-networking site, a judge's ruling that explains how due process worked in this particular case.

No doubt Chinese authorities would not like what Mr. Justice Michel Shore had to say about the Chinese criminal justice system. But in Canada, judges are independent from government, which is as it should be.

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"The detention of an individual in a society and the reasons for such detention constitute a means by which to analyze the nature of justice or the lack thereof in that society," Judge Shore begins, framing the discussion beautifully.

Canada values the rule of law, he suggests, and China doesn't. In fact, the many steps in the court process accorded Mr. Lai before he could finally be deported were required because China's justice system is not trusted in this country to give due process. China has jailed Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, and treated him in the same manner as it treats common criminals, Judge Shore pointed out.

This is not Canada being unduly provocative – it did not, for instance, translate the ruling into Chinese. As Ambassador David Mulroney explained, he was not lecturing anyone; he simply let the Canadian ruling on Mr. Lai, wanted for bribery, fraud and other non-political crimes, speak for itself.

Too bad that the Canadian Embassy's posting was made to disappear last Wednesday. But good for Canada that, a day later, it posted a link to the ruling. Canada has a right to explain to foreign audiences how justice, Canadian-style, works.

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