There’s a lot going on now in relations between Canada and China. All of the news stories we’re linking to in today’s briefing touch on the situation in some way.
Huawei, a telecom giant and one of China’s most successful companies, has been at the centre of much of the problems. Throughout last year, national security questions were raised about Huawei, and its involvement in the next-generation 5G mobile network has been curtailed in many countries that are allies of Canada. In December, Canadian police arrested a Huawei executive – chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou – on the request of U.S. authorities, who want her extradited to the United States to face charges of fraud in relation to U.S. sanctions on Iran.
U.S. authorities have launched a new criminal investigation into Huawei, alleging two employees of the company stole trade secrets from rival company T-Mobile.
Days after Ms. Meng’s arrest, in an apparent retaliation, Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor. But that may not be the end of detentions. A Canadian woman, whose father is a pro-democracy activist in China who has been imprisoned for years, was pulled off a Seoul-Toronto flight that connected at a Beijing airport. Ti-Anna Wang said she and her infant daughter were separated from her husband during the temporary detention. “It was a shocking, terrifying and senseless ordeal with no purpose but to bully, punish and intimidate me and my family,” she told The Globe.
There’s also the case of Robert Schellenberg. The Canadian man was found guilty of drug smuggling by a Chinese court in November, 2018, and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Then, in a matter of weeks, a retrial was called on upgraded charges and Mr. Schellenberg suddenly found himself facing the death penalty. “This case is very unusual. Every single step was unusual,” Ms. Schellenberg’s lawyer, Zhang Dongshuo, said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is still figuring out what to do. The Liberal cabinet is currently holding a retreat in Sherbrooke, Que., ahead of the House of Commons returning from winter break later this month. The cabinet is being briefed by many of the country’s ambassadors, including the envoy to China, John McCallum. “This is a difficult moment in our relationship with China,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters.
And it’s also, sometimes, a difficult relationship at home. A Liberal candidate in a by-election in B.C. has had to resign because of how she appealed to the riding’s Chinese Canadian community. Small business owner Karen Wang tried to drum up support on the Chinese-language social-media platform WeChat by pointing out to local Burnaby South residents that she was “the only Chinese candidate” to vote for, in contrast to her main rival (NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh) who was “of Indian descent.” The Liberal Party appeared not to be pleased by that appeal, and Ms. Wang resigned. The Conservatives claim Ms. Wang wanted to run for them, but they turned her down.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay in Ottawa. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Canada-China relations: “It seems pretty clear now that China’s behaviour as a superpower will include intimidation of smaller countries and the ruthless use of citizens caught in the middle.”
Edmonton Journal editorial board on updated travel advisories: “China’s heavy-handed reprisals fully demonstrate its true colours to a Trudeau government that seemed just a little too naive about the economic superpower’s character. Properly warning Canadians about travelling there was a start."
Kelly McParland (National Post) on retaliation measures: “If anything, China’s tactics are self-defeating. In rounding up Canadians and announcing the death penalty for Robert Lloyd Schellenberg — reversing a verdict that had already been issued — Beijing guarantees foreigners will give it an increasingly wide berth in future.”
Cindy Blackstock (The Globe and Mail) on the welfare of Indigenous children: “First Nations youth in care have repeatedly called for more programs to promote healthy connections to family and culture, improved supports to address issues stemming from childhood trauma, youth addictions and turnover in service providers, as well as supports so they are not just left on their own when they turn 18. These are basics a compassionate and rich country like ours should provide without question, but doesn’t.”
Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould: “Her demotion, and the appointment of Seamus O’Regan as Indigenous Services minister, speak volumes about how this Prime Minister’s Office grades performance. It’s the difference between ministers good at virtue-signalling on Twitter and those who prioritize the ‘deep and awesome’ responsibilities of their jobs.”
Denise Balkissoon (The Globe and Mail) on masculinity and that Gillette ad: “The insistence that certain ways of being are ‘natural,’ yet in need of constant reinforcement, is so confusing. If steak-eating and bum-goosing are in men’s DNA, unchangeable no matter how they’re nurtured, it shouldn’t be so frightening to take a close look at masculinity.”