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Detained Huawei CFO has good arguments to fight extradition to U.S., says Canada's ambassador to China

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing by his ambassador to China who voiced his opinion that Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou has “quite good” and “strong arguments” to fight extradition from Canada to the United States.

In a series of surprisingly frank comments, John McCallum revealed new details about the strain Meng’s arrest has placed on Canada-China relations, his opinion that her legal chances of fighting the extradition are very good, and allied’ pressure Canada faces to ban Huawei.

Speaking to mostly Chinese-language media in his former riding, McCallum expressed regret over the “difficult situation” and hope that if the U.S. cuts a deal with China in which it dropped Meng’s extradition, that China would release two detained Canadians.

“I think she has quite good arguments on her side: 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 onto these Iran sanctions,” said McCallum.

“So I think she has some strong arguments that she can make before a judge, and then the judge will decide whether he thinks — he or she thinks that she should be extradited or not.

McCallum revealed new details of how angrily China’s leader reacted to Canada’s arrest of Meng.

“What I do know is that President Xi Jinping was very angry about this. And so others in the Chinese government have taken the lead from him. And — and I don’t know exactly why. Maybe it is because Huawei is a national flagship company of China. And so it’s not just any company; it’s a special Chinese company, so maybe that is why he is so angry, or there may be other reasons that I don’t know.”

McCallum said when the foreign ministry summoned him after the Meng arrest to formally object and demand Meng’s release, the meeting was “very hostile.”

McCallum expressed regret over the impact of it all on the Canada-China relationship.

“I still want those ties to be strengthened. I am sorry that this incident, this difficult incident, arose. It was a total surprise for everybody in Canada. But it happened, and we have to deal with it.”

“Because this is a hiccup along the road. It’s not a small hiccup, it’s a big hiccup, but it’s a hiccup, and we will eventually solve it and move forward.”

McCallum said there are three possible outcomes in the Meng affair:

“One, she is deported, she is extradited. That would not be a happy outcome, and that would take years before it happened because she would have the right to appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada. But I’m just talking options. I’m not saying what’s good and what’s bad.”

“The second option would be that the United States made some kind of a deal with China, and part of the deal would be that they would no longer seek her extradition. And we would hope, if the U.S. made such a deal, part of the deal would also be to release the two Canadians…but that is more under the control of the United States than it is under the control of Canada.

“And the third option…is that she could be released by a Canadian court. And that would be up to the judge, and her hearing will occur in several months.”

While Trudeau did not say explicitly that he agreed with McCallum that Meng has “strong arguments,” the prime minister did not publicly criticize McCallum for breaking with his government’s practice of refraining from expressing any view of the strength of the U.S. extradition case against Meng.

“I think part of the strength of our justice system is that people get to mount their own defence and I know she (Meng) will do that,” said Trudeau in Saskatchewan Wednesday.

“I know we will ensure as a government and as a country that all the rules and the independence of our justice system is properly defended and properly supported.”

At the request of the U.S. Justice Department, Canada arrested Meng on a provisional arrest warrant on Dec. 1.

The U.S. wants Canada to extradite Meng, the chief financial officer of Huawei, to face fraud charges. The U.S. accuses her of misleading multinational banks about Huawei’s ties to a company doing business in Iran, and put them at risk of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

McCallum’s remarks are a much franker and more sobering view of the United States’ case against her — one that until now, the Liberal government has refrained from expressing publicly. It could put Canada’s justice minister in an awkward position when it comes to whether to ultimately surrender Meng to the U.S.

McCallum also said while Canada has not yet taken a decision on whether to ban Huawei from participating in Canada’s 5G network, he admitted there’s “pressure” to ban it.

“Other members of what we call the Five Eyes — United States, Australia, UK, New Zealand — have said no to Huawei, or at least UK, one of their big companies has. So there’s pressure on Canada to say no,” McCallum said.

McCallum tried to insist nevertheless that the fate of Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer and daughter of its founder Ren Zhengfei, is up to the courts to decide, not the federal Liberal government.

“My point is that 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. Indeed, the father of Ms. Meng, the founder of Huawei, has said publicly that he thinks that …the justice system will give her a fair trial.”

B.C. lawyer Gary Botting, an expert in extradition law, said in an interview with the Star that McCallum tried to “neutralize” his comments with those caveats.

But Botting also defended McCallum, saying that until the U.S. legal case is properly before a court, “it’s fair game for somebody like McCallum to make a comment like this.”

Botting, who has written 10 books on extradition law, said Trudeau’s oft-repeated talking points, that Canada will follow the “rule of law” in the case, “are a red herring.”

He said the Meng case — and any extradition decision — is anything but a simple legal matter and absolutely takes account — and should weigh — political factors.

He said the Canada-U.S. extradition treaty and the extradition act both grant the government power to decline to an extradition request if it believes a case like the one against Huawei is politicized or is part of a political agenda.

The federal government now has two opportunities to exert its own power to decline an extradition — when it decides whether to send an extradition request to court in the first place, and when it decides whether to surrender a wanted person after a court rules the papers are all in order.

Botting slammed the Canadian government for repeatedly leaving that first decision — whether to issue an “authority to proceed” to put the case to a Canadian court — up to Justice Department officials.

“It’s the tail wagging the dog, frankly,” he said.

Another legal expert agreed McCallum’s comments are not entirely inappropriate.

“This is legitimate rebuke against the (U.S.) president,” said University of Ottawa law professor Errol Mendes, and shows “his intervention undermines the legitimacy of the rule of law process in the extradition hearing. It may be a desire to show China that we are not servile to the wishes of the Trump administration.”

But Mendes said while Meng may well have a strong case to defend, “until the evidence is presented and analyzed, it is too early to either suggest a strong case or a slam dunk case either.”

He said Trudeau gave a more politically “nuanced” view of things.

“Given that it is important for Canada to stand by a rigorous support for the rule of law process not just in this extradition case, but also even against Trump and China in other areas such as in the international trade law arena, we can’t afford to side with either China or the U.S. when they attack the fundamental norms of the rule of law.”

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a Bloomberg interviewer on Tuesday the Canadian government has not and will not ask the U.S. to drop its extradition.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at Wednesday’s daily briefing in Beijing declined to comment on the prospect of harm to U.S.-China trade talks, but said that “the U.S. side claimed that its extradition request to Canada is essentially related to the U.S. sanction bills on Iran.”

She said Huawei says “it complies with all applicable laws and regulations where it operates” and added China opposes the “U.S. unilateral sanctions on Iran outside the framework of the UN Security Council.”

“What the U.S. has done does not accord with the international law and has been opposed by the whole world, including its allies. The Canadian side is also opposed to that.”

“Therefore, the U.S. actions… are highly political and are in nature scientific bullying.”

Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamacc

Doug Ford names election readiness team for 2022

Just seven months after winning a majority government, Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives have formed an “election readiness committee” to get ready for the 2022 vote.

The nine-member team includes major players from last spring’s campaign and new party president Brian Patterson, along with Ford chief of staff Dean French. There is one woman in the group.

Ford said in a statement Wednesday that the committee “will offer invaluable leadership and advice to ensure the Ontario PC Party is prepared for victory in 2022.”

The announcement comes as the Liberals, reduced to seven MPPs in the June 7 vote and without official party status in the legislature, scramble to raise money and are debating when to hold a leadership convention to replace former leader Kathleen Wynne.

New Democrats, now the official opposition party, will hold a mandatory review of Andrea Horwath’s leadership this spring.

Ford’s committee will be lead by veteran strategist Chris Froggatt, who was a vice-chairman of the spring effort and travelled on the leader’s bus with French, along with Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark, Mike Crase, Tony Miele, Amin Massoudi and Simone Daniels.

Conspicuously absent is former Ford principal secretary Jenni Byrne, who recently left the premier’s office for an appointment to the Ontario Energy Board.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

Crews trying to determine next steps for 260 Wellesley St. E. after burst pipe leaves residents without power, water

Tenants of a 33-storey apartment building without power and water should find out by the end of the day whether they can stay in their units, Mayor John Tory says.

Power was cut after a burst pipe flooded the electrical room on Tuesday afternoon of the building at 260 Wellesley St. E., near Parliament St., in St. James Town, disrupting the lives of the roughly 1,000 people who live there.

“By the end of the day, at the latest, if not mid-afternoon, we will have a much better idea of, first of all, where we’re going with the repairs, secondly, whether it is possible for people to stay in place if they wish to do so safely,” Tory told reporters Wednesday morning.

“And safely means, in this case safe from any hazard including cold weather, because the building is not heated — and then thirdly, of course, they’re going to be working on a plan that would be available to be implemented right away, if necessary, to make alternate arrangements for people to live somewhere else if it’s decided the building can’t be safe.”

For some of these residents, it’s the second time they’ve been forced to find alternative accommodation in the last year.

The building at 260 Wellesley St. E. is run by WPSQ, the same property management company that operated 650 Parliament St., which is still uninhabitable after a fire last August.

WPSQ spokesperson Danny Roth said 26 of 1,500 residents displaced from 650 Parliament were living at 260 Wellesley at the time of Tuesday’s flood.

Yolanda Ediza, 54, one of those residents, spent Wednesday morning at a warming centre at the Wellesley Community Centre set up to house those displaced.

The personal support worker went to the warming centre with her husband Vincente and her toy poddle Porsche for food and water and for updates on the building’s status. She and four family members live in a one-bedroom unit in the building.

They lived in a one-bedroom at 650 Parliament St. for two years before August’s fire.

Ediza says she’s “frustrated and traumatized” about being displaced yet again.

“It’s emotionally distressing. I can’t believe this has happened to us again,” she said.

Since the fire, she says every time she and her family members hear an alarm they remember the fire. Ediza said she was planning to talk to her son and family about staying at the Wellesley Community Centre Wednesday night.

“We have made it very clear — I did, this morning, directly to the representatives of the owners — some of the owners were here themselves — that we, again, view the well-being of these tenants as being their responsibility, but we’re certainly going to back them up and support them,” Tory said. “But we’re also going to make sure they do it.”

Security staff are on-site to help residents get to and from their units. Fire services requested that the landlord provide at least 31 security guards to check in with residents who chose to stay in their units.

“Our objective by the end of today is to be able to communicate to the tenants what the reality is of the repairs, what the plan is to deal with it, and say to those who can’t find accommodation with relatives or friends or otherwise, that this is the plan that we have — and by ‘we’ I mean the landlords, backed up by the city,” Tory said.

Just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam tweeted that electrical repairs would take at least 48 hours but no official evacuation order was issued. City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross tweeted that the Wellesley Community Centre was available to shelter residents so they can “stay warm, charge devices, get water and snacks.”

In a press release in November, management of 650 Parliament said it would continue providing assistance through April 2019, including to those staying in hotels, reversing an earlier announcement from that which said financial assistance to those in hotels would end after Nov. 30.

More to come

With files from Stefanie Marotta and Jack Hauen

Donovan Vincent is a housing reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @donovanvincent

Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou has an extra passport that wasn’t listed in court records — and it’s only available to China’s elite

VANCOUVER—The U.S. government’s hunch that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou had passports beyond the seven it listed to oppose her release on bail appears to be true.

What it actually means is unclear, as no one would say whether she handed over the special Chinese passport, let alone whether it could be used to leave the country.

The Hong Kong Companies Registry has confirmed to StarMetro that Meng has a special public affairs passport issued by the Chinese government. It was not included in a December court submission by U.S. federal attorney Richard Donoghue, who warned that it was “entirely possible” she had more than the seven passports she had previously used to travel to the U.S.

When asked if the passport was still valid, Hong Kong’s Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said companies are required by law to keep an index with identity information of its directors and that the information must be up to date.

“There are statutory requirements that if there is any change in the particulars mentioned, the company must, within 15 days of the change, deliver to the Registrar for registration a notice in the specified form to report such change,” the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau said in an email.

It’s unclear if Meng surrendered the public affairs passport — issued only to China’s elite business and government officials — as part of her bail conditions, because documents released to StarMetro have been heavily redacted. Government and court officials on both sides of the border have either not responded to or declined multiple requests for interviews related to Meng’s travel documents.

Read more:

U.S. Department of Justice says it will proceed with request to extradite Meng Wanzhou

China tells U.S. to back off Meng extradition demand and warns of ‘further response’

Former ambassadors and academics urge China’s president to release Canadian men

The Canadian Department of Justice said any passports held by Meng must be handed over to the RCMP, but declined to comment on whether this particular passport was among those surrendered. The RCMP also declined to comment, citing the case as an ongoing investigation.

“The bail order issued by the BC Supreme Court specifies that Ms. Meng must surrender any and all passports and travel documents to the RCMP. For privacy reasons, we cannot specify the numbers of the passports that were surrendered,” said Ian McLeod, a spokesman with the Canadian Department of Justice.

The public affairs passport has the letter P before its numbers — setting it apart from all passport numbers that have been linked to Meng and made public.

Former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said holding one of these passports is a sign of prestige in the country.

Among other things, “it means you can use special lanes at the airport,” Saint-Jacques said.

“When we received requests of Chinese delegations coming to Canada, I would ask how come they have such a passport and not a regular passport? I think it’s part of these shenanigans and the way the China government works and the connections one has,” he added.

Meng’s numerous passports played a key role in the lengthy bail hearing that followed her Dec. 1 arrest at the Vancouver airport.

Both the Attorney General of Canada and the U.S. government, in opposing her release while awaiting extradition, cited the risk she could use her wealth, resources and multiple passports to flee the country. Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley had described her flight risk as “unmanageable.”

Judge William Ehrcke granted Meng’s bail release with multiple conditions, including that she surrender all of her passports.

He concluded, after verbal arguments in the courtroom, that only two of Meng’s passports were valid for travel at that time.

With files from Joanna Chiu

Michael Mui is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @mui24hours

The cannabis tally: 77 municipalities across Ontario opt out, 337 opt in

Dozens of Ontario cities, towns and villages have hung keep-out signs on their borders, opting out of hosting pot shops.

On Wednesday morning, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s website had a decision recorded for all 414 communities granted the opt-out right by the province. The results: 77 municipalities had decided to prohibit the shops. These included large centres like Mississauga, Markham, Oakville, Pickering, Richmond Hill and Vaughan in the 905 regions surrounding Toronto. Toronto itself voted yes to the shops and is scheduled to see five open April Fool’s Day.

The total number opting in was 337. Of that, 54 did not hold copuncil votes, which automatically included them on the opt-in side.

Municipalities that chose to opt out by the Jan. 22 deadline can reconsider and welcome the stores anytime. But a decision to allow them is irrevocable.

Communities that refused the stores, however, have forsaken their full stake in a $40-million implementation fund the province is providing to help defray any increased policing, education or public health costs the shops may bring to welcoming municipalities.

Read More: Which GTA cities voted to opt-in to allow pot stores? Which ones opted out?

Rod Elliot, a senior vice-president and cannabis expert at the consulting firm Global Public Affairs, says the decision to opt out was largely made by older, more conservative councils that still saw a shady haze around cannabis.

“Most local governments rely on the advice of staff reports and I don’t think I came across one city staff report that recommended opting out,” Elliot says. “So the decision by some councils to opt out I think was purely political.”

He saw two main factors. First, the stodginess of older, more socially conservative councils and communities, who frowned on the concept of legal cannabis. Second, “I think the big shocker was Mississauga opting out early and I think that got a lot of people’s attention,” he says.

On Dec. 12, the decision to bar the stores in Mississauga (population 722,000) shocked many — and gave other GTA communities cover to do the same, Elliot says. As well, he says, many opt-out communities resented the lack of control granted them by the province to decide where stores could be located within their precincts.

Even Toronto, which opted in Dec. 13, did so with an attached provision that the city be given greater control over shop placements.

Nick Pateras, vice-president of strategy at the cannabis resource and information company Lift & Co., says large store-free stretches of territory anywhere could draw black-market operations.

“If there’s a whole territory of municipalities that opt out there is a risk that you have a secondary market that would be illegal,” he says.

And aside from traditional dealers, these areas could also invite ordinary people from opted-in communities to stockpile products and sell them to acquaintances or friends in dry districts. While online sales are available to shopless districts, many pot connoisseurs prefer to buy products they can see and smell, Pateras says.

Brampton, the 905’s second largest community, voted overwhelmingly this week to accept the stores, giving cities to the west of Toronto easier access.

A large majority of the communities that said yes, however, will not see stores opening there anytime soon. The first 25 licences — for which a lottery earlier this month gave winners a chance to apply — can only be used in communities with populations greater than 50,000.

But many in the industry expect pot production shortages that badly disrupted recreational rollouts — both online and in physical operations following legalization Oct. 17 — will be remedied by year’s end.

And the rush of store openings that should follow will see the free-for all market anticipated earlier become a reality. Reticent communities may find it harder to deny the stores as retailers open shops along their borders, some experts says.

In the meantime, Pateras says the Ontario map has been sufficiently covered by opt-in communities that a healthy retail cannabis market could emerge across the province in coming years.

“After today’s deadline, the ball is now in the court of the retailers to open welcoming storefronts with well-trained employees who will guide informed consumer purchase decisions,” said Lift’s CEO, Matei Olaru. “Anything less will bolster the black market and discourage other municipalities from opting in later with a greater degree of comfort.

“In general, I’m seeing municipalities opting in who have a stake in capitalizing on the economic benefits of retail. Border cities like Windsor and Niagara Falls stand to benefit from cannabis tourism from the U.S., and Barrie has the potential to capture cottage country. There is also an opportunity for well-placed retail in cities like Hamilton, Brampton and Oshawa, who can draw traffic from the string of GTA cities surrounding Toronto who have opted out.”

Joseph Hall is a Toronto-based reporter and feature writer. Reach him on email: gjhall@thestar.ca

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