Question period in Senate - Sep. 27 2016

China - Possible Negotiation of Extradition Treaty

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Liberal government is sending mixed messages regarding possible negotiations for an extradition treaty between Canada and China, a country that, I hardly need to remind my colleagues, regularly imposes the death penalty.

In August, according to media reports, the Minister of Immigration promised that Canada would never negotiate an extradition treaty with China so long as China still had the death penalty. A month later, after the Prime Minister's recent trip to China, we learn that the two counties agreed to hold formal talks on an extradition treaty, and the Prime Minister has publicly confirmed this.

Last weekend, however, the Minister of Foreign Affairs denied the existence of any such negotiations. Here is what he said in The Globe and Mail, and I quote:

Your paper should check the facts. There is no negotiation. To write like pretending it is, it is wrong. Stop that please . . .

My question is rather straightforward, senator. Who is right, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs? Is Canada negotiating an extradition treaty with China, yes or no?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. Like the honourable senator, I share and welcome the Prime Minister's visit to China, as well as hosting the Premier of China last week.

China is an important country globally. Engaging with China regularly on a wide range of issues where we agree and where we disagree is part and parcel of the appropriate modern international discourse.

With respect to the extradition treaty, senators will know that Canada does not presently have an extradition treaty with China. Discussion on the possibility of such a treaty could provide opportunities for further clarifying our mutual expectations and concerns with regard to this issue.

We have ongoing legal cooperation with many countries, including China, to combat transnational crime and corruption. While we do not speak publicly about specific cases involving such issues, I do share with the government the view that the newly established national security and rule of law dialogue which has been instituted as a result of these high-level meetings will enable us to address many issues, including counterterrorism, cybersecurity, cybercrime, nationalized aspects of international crime, legal and judicial cooperation and such discussions as an extradition treaty. But we do not have an extradition treaty at this point, and obviously, should we ever have such a treaty, it would have to address and Canada will have to be answerable to Canadians for the quality of that extradition treaty. And the Prime Minister has made very clear publicly what criteria would not be negotiable in respect of a possible extradition treaty.

Senator Carignan: A simple yes or no would have been a clearer response to my question.

In its 2015-16 report on China, Amnesty International wrote, and I quote:

Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in detention and during interrogation, largely because of shortcomings in domestic law, systemic problems in the criminal justice system, and difficulties with implementing rules and procedures in the face of entrenched practices.

When he visited Parliament Hill last week, Premier Li did not give any indication that China might consider abolishing capital punishment. In fact, Mr. Leader, Premier Li stood beside the Prime Minister of Canada and defended the use of that practice.

Why is the Liberal government prepared to compromise Canada's human rights values by agreeing to negotiate an extradition treaty with China?

Senator Harder: I reject the premise of the question. The government has not forfeited anything by agreeing to have discussions on this matter. In fact, in the process of the last number of weeks, it was made clear what standards would have to be a part of any potential agreement.

I am sure the honourable senator does not wish to fall into a Trumpian view of relations with China. The Canadian government's view is that we ought to engage and be clear in expressing both of our values, where they are shared and where they are different, and advancing Canada's interests. We will do that in all aspects of our relations with China.


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