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'We don't need to apologize' for justice system decisions, says PM on eve of key Huawei decision
OTTAWA -- The day before the British Columbia Supreme Court is slated to release a key decision in the extradition case of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government doesn't need to apologize for decisions made by the independent Canadian justice system.
"One of the good things about having a truly independent justice system is that we don't need to apologize or explain for the decisions taken by our independent justice system. We have confidence in that system, in its independence, and we of course will continue to abide and defend our system," Trudeau said, speaking from the front steps of Rideau Cottage on Tuesday.
Tensions between Canada and China plunged into a deep freeze following Meng's arrest in December 2018. Canadian authorities arrested Meng in Vancouver after the United States requested her extradition.
Wednesday's decision will determine whether the crime Meng is accused of committing is also illegal in Canada, which could prompt fresh rounds of legal arguments — including ones regarding the lawfulness of her December arrest.
The United States has charged Meng with fraud, accusing her of violating American sanctions against Iran. Both Meng and Huawei have denied the charges, and her lawyers say the case should be thrown out as Canada rejected similar sanctions. However, the Crown is arguing that the judge must determine if there is evidence of fraud.
The decision could set into motion a firestorm of political blowback for Canada.
Canada's arrest of the executive in Vancouver infuriated China, which subsequently arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig in what the Canadian government has described as retaliation — though China insists otherwise. China also briefly banned the import of Canadian beef and pork, blaming it on a banned animal feed additive they claim was found in a shipment of Canadian pork.
Chinese state-run media has ridiculed the idea that Meng would be dealt with by an independent judiciary, and U.S. President Donald Trump has further fuelled Chinese conspiracy theories about political motivations behind Meng's arrest. Shortly after Meng's arrest in 2018, Trump told Reuters he would "certainly intervene" in Meng's case if he "thought it was necessary" to help forge a trade deal with China.
Canada has fiercely defended the independence of its judiciary, despite Chinese pressure for Meng to be returned to home soil — pressure that resulted in what Canadian officials have called the arbitrary detention of the two Canadians in China.
As the decision looms, Trudeau said Canadians have been speaking to both China and the United States about the ongoing issue.
"We have continued to engage diplomatically with our partners, both with the Americans and the Chinese on the issue of Meng Wanzhou and indeed of the two Michaels who have been arbitrarily detained in China," Trudeau said.
While some speculated the co-operation between China and Canada in the fight against COVID-19 could help cool off the heated dispute between the two countries, China's ambassador to Canada Cong Peiwu shot down the suggestion in early March.
"You know the outstanding issue for the bilateral relationship," Cong told reporters on March 4, though he added that the co-operation in the fight against COVID-19 has been "appreciated" and is "good."
With files from The Canadian Press