OTTAWA — NDP MP Niki Ashton says Western Canada has too much at stake if Ottawa doesn’t free Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. executive Meng Wanzhou, and allow the Chinese company to take part in constructing the nation's 5G networks.
"Particularly for Western Canada, we stand to lose a great deal by being the tail on the dog of Trump-style, American foreign policy, and jumping on the anti-Chinese bandwagon," Ashton said in an exclusive interview with the Free Press.
In December 2018, Canadian officials arrested Meng at the Vancouver airport, at the request of U.S. tax authorities.
China later arrested Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and restricted imports on Canadian goods such as canola — actions that are almost universally seen as retaliation, despite claims from the Chinese regime.
Meng’s extradition hearings are ongoing, and the Trudeau government has resisted calls to intervene, saying Canada has an independent judiciary.
However, Ashton says the economic toll and risk to the two Michaels means it’s time to cut Canada's losses.
She sponsored an official petition to the House of Commons, calling on Ottawa to release Meng and craft its own foreign policy toward China.
"It’s important we be clear about the need for an independent foreign policy, and that we take action within our own control, to engage with China on the diplomatic level in a way that continues a positive relationship," she said.
Ashton said the future of the Port of Churchill, canola sales and hog exports are all on the line if Canada doesn’t fix its relationship with China, which dates to prime minister John Diefenbaker (1957-63) securing market access for Canadian farmers before the two countries started formal diplomatic relations.
The MP for northern Manitoba said that’s why she declined interviews with national media Monday.
"There’s a particularly lens we should be keeping in mind here in Western Canada," she said. "We ignore that at our own peril."
Ashton said national security officials haven’t given Canadians any concrete explanation for barring telecommunications firm Huawei from deploying 5G networks.
Meanwhile, she feels Canadian politicians are echoing racist sentiments towards people with Chinese roots.
"We have an opportunity as Canadians to do things differently than we have," said Ashton, who has a master’s degree in international affairs. Her party has not endorsed the petition.
Ashton added she’s deeply concerned about China’s human rights record, and the ongoing curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong, where she studied on a high-school scholarship.
In June, other prominent Canadians, such as former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy and previous Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour, joined Kovrig’s wife in calling for Canada to halt Meng’s extradition. They cited the safety of the two Michaels, and the inability for Canada to assert its own concerns about human rights in China.