Iain Hunter: We are a country of laws, but only when it suits us

‘We are a country of the rule of law,” declared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

You bet we are: The preamble to the Charter of Rights makes this pretty clear.

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An outfit called the World Justice Project rates Canada ninth in the world on its rule-of-law scale — 10 ranks above the U.S., 66 above China, 80 above Russia and 104 above Venezuela, which will make some of us more smug than we usually are.

Number 19 to the south of us has been waging a high-tech war for some time with Number 75 across the Pacific Ocean. It wants to enlist Canada in that war as a foot soldier — a foot soldier prepared to shoot itself in the foot.

Even though China has arbitrarily detained two Canadians and put another under a quickie death sentence — apparently as a skirmish in this war — we want to be on friendly commercial relations with that country of prospective buyers and sellers.

Worsening those relations could cost us.

Our immediate problem arose with the arrest and detention, in Vancouver, of Meng Wanzhou, a Chinese citizen and executive of the Chinese telecommunications behemoth Huawei.

This is the same company that the U.S. wants shut out of international contracts that threaten American domination in that field. The U.S. says Huawei can’t be trusted. Australia, the U.K. and a few others have been persuaded. Canada dithers defiantly.

Presumably, Meng’s arrest was made by Canadian cops at the request of American cops at the request of American officials at the request of … oh, dear.

Anyway, the intention is not to let Meng languish in her ugly, upscale Dunbar residence, but to get her back to face the music in American courts. That means that a Canadian court must decide whether she should be turned over to the Americans as provided by the extradition treaty concluded between Canada and the U.S. at a time when typewriters were high-tech.

And that, as our prime minister proclaimed, is where the rule of law comes into play. We’re Number 9, remember.

A Canadian judge doesn’t have to examine the evidence against Meng in great detail. The burden of proof can be pretty light.

What matters is that Meng is charged with offences in the U.S. that are offences in Canada. Her company is accused of trying to steal technology from an American company. Theft is a crime in Canada, too.

She is accused of misleading American banks to hide her company’s activities in Iran, exposing the banks to prosecution for violating the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on that country. Fraud, too, is a crime in Canada.

The judge need not be concerned about the Iranian sanctions. That country has been under them in varying degrees, on and off, since the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran in 1979.

They’re American sanctions that don’t have the support of other countries in Europe, but their opposition. They’re based, today, on the assumption that Iran is arming itself for nuclear war. Evidence to the contrary is called fake news.

We might wish that Meng hadn’t strayed into the Vancouver airport, or had at least slipped undetected through the cordon of undercover Mounties with flashlights and Tasers.

We might wish that we had no extradition treaty with the U.S. — like Russia, where 13 are sequestered while under U.S. indictment for interfering clandestinely with the American presidential election in 2016.

We might wish that relying on the rule of law satisfies everyone or solves anything. Because if the Vancouver judge applies the rule to say Meng should be extradited to a country not her own, it will be up to our new minister of justice, David Lemetti, to “surrender” Meng or not.

And even then, the rule of law won’t let go. Appeals all the way to the Supreme Court are in order.

All this concerns us more than the Americans. It’s but a skirmish in the war between nations that have less respect for the law than we do.

The trouble is that laws are not divine prescriptions. They’re made by mortals, with mortal advantages and mortal shortcomings.

The decree of kings and queens has been replaced by statutes designed to protect the interests and secure the advantages of lesser men and women.

And the rule of law is applied when it suits.

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