OTTAWA — Canada’s defective extradition system will be on full international display as the world closely watches the case of top Chinese corporate executive Meng Wanzhou, says a prominent lawyer who has fought major cases under the act.
Defence lawyer Donald Bayne says Canada’s Extradition Act essentially gives judges no discretion — which means practically everybody gets extradited no matter how flimsy the evidence against the accused person.
One of Bayne’s former clients, Hassan Diab, was extradited to France years ago on charges he’d bombed a Paris synagogue in 1980, even though the Ottawa judge presiding over the extradition case acknowledged the evidence was too weak to have led to a conviction in Canada.
The case took six years to make its way through Canadian courts before Diab was sent to France. Last January, after Diab spent years in a French jail, the French dropped all the charges against him for lack of evidence and he returned to Canada.
Meng was arrested in Vancouver earlier this month following a request from the United States, which is calling for her extradition over allegations she tried to bypass American trade sanctions on Iran and lied to U.S. banks about her actions.
China threatened severe consequences for Canada if did not release Meng and, this week, Chinese authorities detained two Canadians on suspicion of “endangering national security.”
Bayne says Canada is about to become the victim of its own faulty system as it now finds itself caught in the middle of an immense showdown between China and the U.S.
He says because of the high-stakes nature of Meng’s case the federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould could block the extradition — but he believes such a step would be a first in Canada.
Many questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the Meng case following U.S. President Donald Trump’s musing this week that he would be willing to intervene on her behalf if it would help him strike a trade deal with China.
On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Meng could use Trump’s remark to help fight her extradition to the U.S.
The Canadian Press