CALGARY - The Federal Government’s plan to negotiate a formal extradition treaty with the “People’s Republic” of China flies in the face of Canada’s tradition of respecting the rights of all persons within our borders and cannot possibly comply with the Canadian Constitution, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, unless it contains so many exceptions and caveats as to render it effectively toothless. The rights of accused criminals, most importantly the right to due process, simply cannot be guaranteed on a blanket basis by this Chinese government. In the Chinese “justice” system, charges are often politically-motivated acts of the Communist Party and convictions are usually a formality. Nor can the Chinese government guarantee that persons detained before or after conviction will be held in humane conditions free from torture, as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang admitted during his visit to Canada. That Canada would even consider an extradition treaty under these conditions - an idea that all of our peer countries have rejected - is, frankly, shocking.
While there are undoubtedly some persons residing in Canada who are legitimately sought by the Chinese government for illegal actions, it is also the case that prosecutions by the Chinese government are often used to settle political scores rather than to enforce the law. Requests for extradition should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and, where Canada believes there is a good reason to extradite an individual, specific guarantees of fair treatment should be sought and China’s compliance with those conditions should be monitored, including through proceedings in open court observed by Canadian officials or designated third party organizations. There should be an understanding that, if China fails to follow through on agreed-upon conditions with respect to any extradited individual, then it can expect no further cooperation from Canada on future requests. Anything more formal than this, including a ratified treaty, would be a cynical exercise based on promises we already know China will not keep.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation is deeply concerned about the rights of individuals in Canada who are sought by totalitarian regimes that do not follow the rule of law. We are also concerned about recent reports of intimidation of wanted persons in Canada by Chinese state agents. While we take no political positions, including with respect to Canada’s relations with the “People’s Republic” of China, we will be watching closely the terms of this proposed extradition treaty and, if ratified, we will defend vigorously and vocally the constitutional rights of anyone to whom it is applied.