Alberta Politics
Americans express their thanks to Canada in 1979. That was then, of course. This is now (Photo: U.S. State Department).

With friends like these … it’s sure depressing to compare Canada in 1979 to the U.S. in 2018

Posted on December 15, 2018, 12:27 am
9 mins

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.

Ken Taylor, Canada’s ambassador to Iran in 1979 (Photo: Copyright unknown; source Wikipedia).

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 we did.

It was such a good yarn that Hollywood eventually made a movie about it … and gave all the credit to the CIA. Mr. Taylor, who died in 2015, was graceful about that predictable slight.

Now, so to speak, the shoe is on the other foot.

Chinese technology executive Meng Wanzhou (Photo: Huawei Technologies).

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 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.

Jimmy Carter, president of the United States in 1979 (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense).

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 Ms. 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 Mr. Trump in 2016, if they could pick up the phone and call some of their pals in Mr. Trump’s Administration. Weren’t those contacts the reason Opposition Leader Jason Kenney made Mr. 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.

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo: Shealah Craighead, White House).

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 Ms. 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 Ms. 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!

No need to imagine the brouhaha in Conservative circles!

In my previous post, I noted the oft-Tweeted view of a certain prominent oilman that environmental “traitors” should be hanged.

Activist journalist Nora Loreto (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I asked: “Can you imagine the brouhaha that would erupt in conservative circles in this province if some environmentalist started openly tweeting about hanging oil company executives?”

I don’t think anyone has gone quite that far, but it nevertheless didn’t take long to find out.

Shortly before I cobbled together my post, Nora Loreto, activist and contributor to the Washington Post and other well-known journals, Tweeted: “I propose we give blowtorches and pitchforks to the kids who are talking about their fears for the future on @TheCurrentCBC … and the addresses of every oil exec and politician in Canada.”

Jason Kenney or one of his social media surrogates soon responded: “The same individual who notably attacked Humboldt crash victims for their ‘whiteness’ now seemingly calling for violence against those who work in oil & gas. Even David Suzuki stopped at calling for the jailing of his opponents.”

This misrepresents Ms. Loreto’s controversial Tweet, of course, as Mr. Kenney tends to do. But let’s accept his point and concede that “calling for violence against those who work in oil & gas” is inappropriate, even when the intended irony is pretty clear.

So is Mr. Kenney prepared to similarly condemn W. Brett Wilson for calling for violence against those who oppose pipelines to the West Coast?

Ms. Loreto’s Tweet has been suspended by Twitter. Tweets by Mr. Wilson, like this one, remain.

Mr. Kenney?

13 Comments to: With friends like these … it’s sure depressing to compare Canada in 1979 to the U.S. in 2018

  1. Bob Raynard

    December 15th, 2018

    In addition to the Iran evacuation, it is also worth bringing up how Canada allowed American jets to land in Canada when the US closed their airspace on September 11, 2001, in response to the terrorist activity. We accepted the planes full of Americans that the US authorities deemed unsafe to enter American air space.

    Reply
    • Lulymay

      December 17th, 2018

      And if I remember correctly, the only planes allowed to leave US air space when the twin towers were crumbling before our very own eyes on TV, carrying a group of Saudis, who were meeting at a high end financial group’s office that included ex-POTUS George HW Bush, were flying out of New York.

      Seems like the Saudis have ‘owned’ a lot of US politicians for a number of years! And were some of the perpetrators of the World Trade Center terrorist attack based in Saudi Arabia? Or has history been re-written, once again?

      Reply
  2. J.E. Molnar

    December 15th, 2018

    I too have memories of when Americans were considered great allies, friends and respected by most Canadians — Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan notwithstanding.

    Way before Donald Trump Jr. was even a gleam in his father’s eye — back in 1973 — a young, full-throated baritone radio newscaster from CKLW Radio in Windsor, Ontario named Byron McGregor, recorded a tribute (based on Gordon Sinclair’s earlier version) in defense of the Americans who, like every other industrialized country in the world, were caught up in the ’73 global oil crisis and were battling 6 per cent inflation and other calamities. The record, “The Americans”, went as high as #33 on the Billboard charts that year and raised thousands upon thousands of dollars for the then-broke American Red Cross. Listening to it today is like we’ve crossed generational divide that can never recover, based on the most odious president in American history. It runs 3:37 and is worth a listen, given today’s topic at albertapolitics.ca

    The Americans – Byron McGregor
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAMAch_jBnU

    Reply
  3. ronmac

    December 15th, 2018

    The “Meng Affair” feels like it came out of an Austin Powers movie.

    My own take is that it’s a deliberate attempt to sour Canada-China relations. Recall clause 32.10 in the recently signed USMCA which requires Canada notify its partners of trade talks with any non-market country such as China. Are we jumping the gun and getting too cozy with the Chinese in our trade relations? According to a recent CBC report, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa issued a statement claiming this clause gave the Americans veto power over any attempt by Mexico and Canada to pursure trade talks with China.

    Reply
    • Scotty on Denman

      December 15th, 2018

      Remind: the CMUSA (formerly called “NAFTA”) has yet to be ratified by the requisite bodies.

      Reply
  4. Scotty on Denman

    December 15th, 2018

    As I understand it, Trump has amply indicated he would interfere in any judgement concerning Ms Meng which, in this single instance, would be an abrogation of the Canada-US extradition treaty since it’s understood an deportee of either country would get a fair trial in the other. The treaty does not imply in any way that one signatory may expect the other to breach this understanding by ignoring its own rule-of-law—that is, Trump cannot authorize Canadian jurisprudence to ignore its own rule-of-law. If the Canadians truly do respect the rule-of-law, the judge hearing Ms Meng’s extradition trial would, it seems upon evidence Trump supplied, have to refuse extraditing her because presumably she wouldn’t get a fair trial in the US. Superficially, at least.

    The counter argument would have to be, in seeking her extradition to the US, that the treaty has not been abrogated in this or any other instance because, despite whatever Trump might say, he simply cannot interfere with the rule-of-law—or with any law, statutory or constitutional, for that matter. His thousands of lies and their general ineffectiveness would, ironically, be submitted as evidence in defending the treaty in general, and the legality of this particular extradition.

    The claim that a defendant cannot get a fair trial in certain locations has often succeeded in the Common Law of both nations. While this argument can’t acquit the defendant, it can get the trial moved on the presumption a local judge or jury might be prejudiced by insubmissable popular opinion prevailing around this local. But where else could Ms Meng be tried for American offences if not in the USA? Canada? Not likely! (Although some US border patrols may arrest suspects on Canadian soil—like when the suspect is making a connecting flight on Canadian soil.)

    In her defence, Ms Meng’s counsel might submit that Trump has demonstrably interfered with the rule-of-law by appointing a Supreme Court judge who’d made and overtly partisan case against Trump’s political Democratic Party rival in order to secure the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval but, so far, Judge Kavanaugh hasn’t made a decision in his new job that would indicate he is inappropriately biased in judgement of any case before the supreme court, let alone that he had done so under direction from Trump in contravention of the rule-of-law.

    Nor has Trump succeeded in bullying sitting judges on any matter, despite trying as hard and loudly as he possible could in a number of high-profile instances.

    As Justice Minister Chrystia Freeland has noted with her typical correct and dispassionate demeanour, Canadian trials proceed by the rule-of-law, no matter what. Trump probably doesn’t much care about lessons he so obviously needs to learn, but any official attempt at submitting to a Canadian extradition hearing the irrefutable fact that The Orange One really needs to be taught a lesson, or that he might learn from any proffered, would, we should hope, be ignored by the judge.

    There is nothing but the patently unsubmissable to argue that Ms Meng would not get a fair trial if she were extradited to the USA. It’s a mouthwatering thought, though, that the president could get a comeuppance from his nation’s best and most valuable ally which he has so boorishly treated—but that’s not what this extradition hearing is about. It’s up to the judge to decide if she should or should not be extradited on the merits of her defence and the American’s case against her.

    But there’s plenty of politcal hay that could be made in referring this case with the famous Canadian rescue of American diplomats during the Iranian revolution. Nevertheless, the facts that Canada still owns the largest bilateral trade with the Americans (also of all world history), that China owns the biggest —and growing—unilateral trade relationship with the US (American media frequently confuse the difference), and that Canada is strategically attached to the world’s greatest superpower while China is not allied with any all ride on realpolitik much, much bigger than either Ms Meng or The Donald. Thus the hay that might be made should probably remain squarely in the Canadian politcal arena.

    It’s just one of those things we have to put up with until Trump is gone, just like everybody else. The only thing Canada should do is observe the rule-of-law in its own country and take a pass on China-US relationships.

    Reply
    • Keith McClary

      December 16th, 2018

      “despite whatever Trump might say, he simply cannot interfere with the rule-of-law”
      He can pardon her in exchange for trade concessions from China.

      “But where else could Ms Meng be tried for American offences if not in the USA? Canada?”
      My understanding is that one can only be extradited for a specific list of offences that are similar in both countries. She is accused of a fraudulent act against HSBC. Media reports are not clear on where this occurred (China or HK?). Why would this be in US jurisdiction and not Canadian?

      Reply
    • Harland Wolfe

      December 21st, 2018

      If I may ask, do you have any credible information that did not come from CNN or MSNBC or any of the other Trump hating media outlets (WaPo, NYT, HuffPo, Toronto Star etc…) to back up your acertations that Mr. Trump is this serial liar? Also, Snopes does not count either. Or do you just parrot and regurgitate what you are told and fed without any substansive research? Just wondering…..

      Reply
  5. Political Ranger

    December 15th, 2018

    Trump is a crook. A mob-boss overseeing a criminal enterprise. He’s a slow-witted moron and a dirty rotten bastard.
    American’s on the whole, are a pretty good bunch.

    As for Albaturdans, the likes of Brett Wilson and other cave-dwelling climate deniers, they are a serious embarrassment. The nutbars are calling for the murder of anyone who dares to criticize the petroleum industry. How anyone, in their right mind, can equate questions about the petro-industries actions to support municipalities to mitigate or adapt to the on-coming affects of climate change with an attack on the petro-industry itself is indicative of the hysteria and empty-headed thinking prevalent on that side.
    Why industry insiders and senior decision-makers wouldn’t want to get together with other community leaders to sort out best practices for everybody’s well-being is as short sighted and mean-spirited as any Klien, or Trump, policy ever was.

    Climate change is upon us now.
    The affects will be increasingly thrust upon individuals and communities.
    Petroleum is responsible for at least 1/3 of GHG emissions.
    Petro-producers will be required to reduce emissions.
    People will be required to consume less petroleum products, and less in general.

    It’s really quite simple. Either plan for the future that is rushing straight at us, or be bowled over by it. For a provincial culture that has never managed to get in front of it’s boom and bust petroleum industry; it’s painfully obvious what’s going to happen.

    Reply
  6. David

    December 16th, 2018

    Mr. Trumps comments in the Huawei case are euphemistically “not helpful”. Interesting you brought up Iran, because the US has its sh*t list of countries and Iran is on it and has been for a long time, so is Cuba and certain other countries. We in Canada can argue it is unfair and silly and perhaps it is, but US laws are US laws and unfortunately in this case we have a long standing extradition treaty with them. Bank robbers or hijackers used to flee to Cuba or other such places, because they knew they would not be extradited or sent back to the US or perhaps Canada. If we start second guessing US extradition requests, guess what will happen the next time Canada wants some person sent back who has done something that offends us greatly, but perhaps not the US as much. So we really are in between a rock or a hard place here.

    It is unfortunate Ms. Wanzhou either did not realize or take seriously the close relationship between Canada and the US. Perhaps as some have suggested, it might have been smarter for someone in Canada to unofficially and quietly give her a heads up about that extradition treaty thing and suggest it might be better if she catch her connecting flight elsewhere, while the US was investigating her ties to Iran. Maybe she really didn’t realize how serious the US was about this Iran stuff or she felt she really had nothing to worry about because she felt she was innocent. The funny thing with our justice system is – supposedly innocent people still do get arrested and jailed every day, not so different from China. However, we like to think that justice here prevails more often and they eventually get released and acquitted of the charges, particularly if they are based on only political motives. In any event, it is still a huge inconvenience and I am sure she now wishes she really did explore connecting flights elsewhere.

    Of course the government of China is going to be spewing fire on this – she is a very prominent citizen and it ties into the narrative there that the Americans are trying to unfairly punish them (and it appears to them, with the help of Canada in this case). However, its harder to retaliate against the Americans, as the Chinese realize it will only make their fraught relations with Trump and the US worse, so they go full force after Canada instead. We got into a bad situation, perhaps quite inadvertently, yes life is unfair. I suspect the only thing we can do now it let it play out and try not make it worse. Eventually the matter will resolve itself somehow – maybe Ms. Wanzhou will actually be part of a political solution between the US and China, or the courts will let her go, or find her innocent (or guilty), or China will find some other new outrage elsewhere to focus on next week. I suppose this situation with the US is a good example of the old saying “with friends like that, who needs enemies”.

    Reply
  7. Murphy

    December 16th, 2018

    The Canadian state’s historical relationship to the USA is consistently shameful, and that includes the 1979 “rescue” in Iran. It took fifty-six years for the Americans to admit that they had overthrown Iran’s democratic government. The US-installed Shah turned Iran into a vast money-recycling machine, pumping out oil at rates determined by the US and forking the money back over to the Anglo-British in exchange for $20 billion in advanced weaponry. Which was then set on fire by Canada’s US-vassal colleague Saddam Hussein. All the while the Savak was being schooled by CIA and Israeli experts on extracting democratic thought from people via the application of electrical or mechanical force. I see in another comment words to the effect of “vietnam notwithstanding”. The US undertook the destruction of Vietnam under Eisenhower, originally intending to get the ball rolling in Laos, but eventually settling for Vietnam. Canada bravely helped fill the NATO holes so that the US could drop more bombs on SE Asia than they did on the Third Reich. Ken Taylor was a spy.

    Reply
  8. Paul Harmon

    December 17th, 2018

    As I understand, unless it has happened in the last few days, Ms. Wanzhou was taken into custody on the premise of forthcoming documents of illegal action- “violating sanctions.” Is Canada following the rule of law? A read of Christopher Black’s article https://www.journal-neo.org/2018/12/08/canada-takes-a-hostage-free-meng-wanzhou/ indicates otherwise. Neither Canada or the usa.
    I recall another time Canada aided the usa and by allowing Leonard Peltier to be extradited based on phoney documents. When shown their mistake, Canada just said “oops,” and didn’t demand the usa send him back. Leonard is still in prison based on manipulated evidence and testimony and a very fbi friendly judge they found in another jurisdiction. I’m sure you all can think of others extradited ‘illegally.’
    I am very troubled when people start saying that Canada and the usa ‘follow the rule of law.’ The ‘rule of law’ is only followed when it is applied equitably, usually to those who cannot afford a ‘high priced defense.’ And forget about the following international laws they have agreed to. The usa is killing people daily in foreign countries with drones. In some cases Canada has been an accomplice. It gives a whole new meaning to (state) vigilantes.
    The article https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/canada-us-huawei-arrest-international-trade-cold-war-jeffrey-sachs-1.4947966 shows that Canada is still willingly ‘Holding the Bully’s Coat.’

    Reply
  9. Jerrymacgp

    December 19th, 2018

    Not to be overly pedantic, but—to some of your commenters here—it’s Ms Meng, not Ms Wanzhou. Family names, or surnames, in China come before the given name, not after, unless the individual has westernized their name.

    Reply

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