Canadians of a certain vintage will clearly remember "the Canadian Caper," that dangerous moment in 1979 when our diplomats put their lives on the line to smuggle six of their American colleagues out of revolutionary Iran.
Given the situation in Iran -- revolutionaries storming the U.S. Embassy, diplomats held hostage, the revolutionary government unable to control its own supporters, and war clouds on the horizon -- the name given to this rescue significantly trivializes the risks taken by Ambassador Ken Taylor and his fellow Canadian diplomats.
But the United States was our friend, neighbour and ally. What else would we do?
Of course, Canadians were there for the half dozen American diplomats who had slipped away from the chaos of the hostage taking. It took courage and resolve -- and a flexible attitude about the rule of law -- to sneak them out. But sneak them out they did.
It was such a good yarn that Hollywood eventually made a movie about it ... and gave all the credit to the CIA. Taylor, who died in 2015, was gracious about that predictable slight.
Now, the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak.
Two Canadian businessmen are being held in China, supposedly on suspicion of "endangering national security" but, in reality, almost certainly in retaliation for Canada's adherence to its extradition treaty with the United States. The U.S. wants the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, the Chinese cellphone giant, shipped south to face what sounds suspiciously like Trumped-up fraud charges allegedly stemming from her company's willingness to sell technology to -- where else? -- Iran.
Why would we put ourselves in this position, letting our police grab Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver airport as she passed through Canada, where she maintains a residence, on her way to a business meeting in Mexico?
Well, it's the rule of law. We signed the extradition treaty with the States, right? Take that from Chrystia Freeland, the foreign minister: We had to observe the law.
So Canada could use a little support from the U.S. government to help us free our citizens and get this sensibly resolved. The risks are significantly less for the Americans in 2018 than they were for the Canadians in 1979.
So what do we get? Instead of the small favour we need, the president of the United States all but states openly that the charges against Meng are bogus, a Trumpian negotiating tactic designed to put pressure on a China in a presidential trade war.
So there you have it, my fellow Canadians, just what the friendship of our Great Neighbour to the south is worth in the age of a Trump, Donald, that is.
One is tempted to ask Canadian politicians like Devin Dreeshen, the Alberta Conservative who went south to campaign for Trump in 2016, if they could pick up the phone and call some of their pals in Trump's administration. Weren't those contacts the reason Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney made Dreeshen his trade critic?
Oh, silly me! Asking a Canadian Conservative to help his fellow citizens when there's the potential to embarrass Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by doing nothing? I should know better!
I mentioned the fact that in '79, we were none too scrupulous about the rule of law. Canada quickly issued real passports in fake names to the American diplomats hiding out in the Canadian Embassy's residence compound. That way, they could pretend to be a Canadian film crew before they headed "home" to Canada.
Technically, this would be a serious no-no, rule-of-law wise. But under the circumstances, it was completely reasonable and what any true friend would have done. So we did it.
Now, we're in the middle of a fight between the U.S. and China -- neither of which seem to give a hang about the rule of law if you go by their actions instead of their rhetoric.
I imagine if Jimmy Carter were still president of the United States, U.S. officials wouldn't blink at doing what they could to help out. Alas, that nuclear submarine sailed long ago.
But surely it would be fully in the spirit of Tehran '79 to look the other way if someone happened to slip Meng a new passport and she quietly headed to the airport.
It's only going to get worse if we wait for her extradition hearing to rule that she can't get a fair trial in the United States. Can you imagine how the Americans would react to that? This is true, by the way, whether or not Huawei does all those awful things Western intelligence agencies claim.
After all, the president of the United States -- the most powerful man in the world -- has already indicated he intends to put his tiny finger on the scale of justice in Meng's case.
We're a country that still respects the rule of law. How can we then extradite her to the United States given that? Surely it would be in the spirit of the law to expedite the matter!
This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
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