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american politics

A note about the “mainstream media”

What does “mainstream” mean? Here’s the definition according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary:

mainstream
n. (the mainstream) normal or conventional ideas, attitudes, or activities.
adj. belonging to or characteristic of the mainstream.

Here’s an example: Bob and Sue have a disagreement over something. They have 20 mutual friends, and 15 of them agree with Sue and 5 agree with Bob. The “mainstream” of their mutual friends agree with Sue, but under the logic of the anti-vaxxers Bob is right because the “mainstream” can’t be trusted!

This is the logic under which the anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers and anti-mandates people operate, when they call for everything from the de-funding of the “mainstream media” (MSM) to their execution.

I get it. I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I have a mob of reporters banging on my door for one reason or another, but the media does have a job to do. Part of that job, sadly, is to bang on certain peoples’ doors! Do they make mistakes? Sure they do, and one would hope that they would own up to those mistakes when they make them. There are ways to (at least) try and hold the media responsible for their mistakes.

I know that the media is biased. Everyone on this planet is biased, and it’s nigh on impossible to create an organisation that is one hundred percent neutral. As long as you’re aware of the biases of where you’re getting your news, you can read that news through that filter, and get the story from other sources as well and then decided for yourself where the truth likely lies. I’ve read stories from different sources that describe the same event in very different terms. But it’s up to me (and you) to seek out other reliable news sources and collate that information to determine what you believe to be the most likely version of the truth. However, those sources need to be reliable, and the Twitter feed of some left- or right-wing nut — or even my blog! — is not a reliable news source.

With respect to the so-called Freedom/Trucker Convoy, the fact that they bash the media, don’t invite them to their so-called press conferences, and walk out of said press conferences without answering any of the questions they would find difficult, is clear evidence to me that they don’t have the courage of their convictions.

The beginning of civil war in Canada?

I’m not trying to be alarmist with this title, but the actions of a minority of Canadians are having very negative effects on their fellow Canadians. Some have gone as far as to refer to it as “terrorism”, and if you’re in Ottawa in the middle of it and you can’t sleep at night because of the blaring of horns, that adjective is all too real to you. It’s a classic torture technique to deprive your captive of sleep, and the residents of Ottawa in the vicinity of the occupiers of the city are indeed captives, as are the people being laid off because their employers can’t receive the deliveries they’re expecting across our borders.

So if your actions go beyond simple “peaceful” protest and start very negatively affecting the lives of your follow citizens — whether that effect is death or something slightly less drastic, like depriving them of sleep and income — how is that fundamentally different from an actual shooting civil war? The protestors make the point that if they don’t have this great an effect their point will be ignored. Well, they may be right. However, if you’re such a small minority and your demands are so great — as seems to be the case here — then your point, your demands, should be ignored! Every single one of us in a civilised society has to live within the confines of behaviour accepted by the majority. Anyone who has ever read Lord of the Flies learnt the alternative in high school!

How did we get here? As I said in my last post, this ostensibly started out as a trucker protest by people who opposed “vaccine mandates”. However, it has clearly morphed. The thousands of participants are clearly not the 10-15% of truckers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Others have glommed onto their protest. Who are the others? That seems to be the biggest unanswered question here, and I sure don’t have the answer. The current federal government is a minority government, which means that most Canadians didn’t vote for them, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. Personally speaking I am one of them, but as much as Justin Trudeau irks me, and as much as I have written against him and his leadership on my blog, I support his stance against this array of yobbos, and I think their calls for him to be jailed are abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous.

But why do these people honestly think that they can make this demand? Because they’re extremists who all talk to each other in their own little social-media bubbles. People on both sides of the political spectrum make this mistake and come to different extremist conclusions. In addition to coming to the conclusion that they can call for the overthrow of a duly elected government before the next scheduled election, they advocate for the jailing and execution of the politicians, and the “lying media”, the “fake news”. It’s just bizarre. No matter what beliefs you hold, you cannot reasonably come to the conclusion that you can effectively segregate the population and eliminate every last person who disagrees with you. That guy standing next to you on the protest line likely has a slightly different position to you on any number of issues, so should he/she be executed too? If you answer “yes”, who will be left standing next to you?! Nobody, that’s who.

I used to think that America was on the verge of civil war, and we reasonable people in Canada would be watching the refugees streaming across the border into our civilised country. However, it’s becoming clear that many Americans, mainstream politicians (e.g., Trump, Cruz) and underground right-wing extremists, are treating Canada as the fifty-first state. And we may actually be! The people behind the protests are the sheep of the American right-wing movement (and they even carry their flags!), and they are blindly (and very rapidly!) importing American civil-war politics into a country that simply doesn’t need that garbage!

The supply chain is falling, the supply chain is falling!

With apologies to Chicken Little.

If I hear another news story about the failing supply chain I’m going to scream. It seems that the term “supply chain” is the latest buzzword. I suppose the pandemic, global weather events and/or inflation have not helped things, but society seems to be coming to grips with the fact that we can’t have everything we want at our fingertips all of the time. The attitude that we should is what has lead us into overusing and abusing the planet’s resources, which leads to destruction of the environment, which leads to the aforementioned global weather events … and so the vicious circle goes.

But really, I didn’t have a reason to write about this until the 10% of Canadian truckers who are not vaccinated against COVID got bees in their bonnets, and decided to drive from Vancouver to Ottawa.

It’s clear that this protest is no longer really led by the truckers, and has been co-opted by right-wing extremists who want another “January 6th” (a reference to the lame insurrection attempt in Washington DC in the United States), but this time in Canada. I haven’t personally seen the rhetoric apparently calling for the overthrow of the Canadian government (but it doesn’t take a huge leap of faith to know it exists), but I did see an idiot who claimed that they want every single member of parliament to resign and for all COVID-related mandates to be immediately rescinded.

*sigh*

News flash buddy: the federal government has no jurisdiction over COVID mandates, which are a health-care issue; those are mandated by the provincial and territorial governments! Secondly, I don’t know who you want governing the country after all of the MPs resign, but I sure don’t want it to be you and your “F🍁CK TRUDEAU” flag wavers! If you become prime minister that will surely get me off my couch!

The truckers got bees in their bonnets over the fact that the Canadian government now requires all cross-border truckers to be vaccinated. They seem to be too dense to understand that the Americans have the same requirement, and so even if the Canadian government folds tomorrow and rescinds the requirement, it won’t make one iota of difference!

If this isn’t an example of a minority (10%) holding a majority (90%) hostage, I don’t know what is. As for all of the flag wavers coming out along the route (and swelling occupations on weekends), it’s not a surprise that a population of about 40 million people has more than its fair share of idiots. Sadly, there is no IQ test required to vote but, if you believe the 10%, that voting requirement is surely in the works.

As a former trans-border trucker myself, I know that many of these guys have been supping with their American counterparts, guys (mostly) who are gun-rights champions and various other wackos. Enough said about that, except that the last thing we need in Canada is the left-right, my-way-or-the-highway, extremist divide that they suffer from down there. Not all trucking needs to cross the international border with the United States, so if you don’t want to take a vaccine that has a very high chance of preventing you from dying of a very transmissible airborne disease, then work a domestic route. It’s not rocket science dude.

I’ve had this piece sitting on my computer for the last week or two, and things have evolved since then. I’m just going to publish this as is — because none of it is no longer correct — and I’m going to write something more cogent and current.

China releases two Canadian hostages

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor

After 1020 days — 2.8 years, 34 1/2 months — the Chinese have finally released the two Canadian hostages (the “two Michaels”, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor) they took after the lawful arrest of Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the behest of the Americans.

This, mind you, was after almost consistent but vehement denials by China of any connection between the two cases! The two Michaels just happened to have been caught “spying” mere days after Meng was arrested!

The prisoner swap was almost completely in line with my suggested method, except that it was over in a matter of hours via aircraft rather than days via ship. But it was completely in line, as noted in other media, with any prisoner swap done during the Cold War! The Chinese didn’t even make any kind of an effort to make it look like there was due process in the trumped-up spying cases of the two Michaels whereby, months or years after the release of Meng, they discovered new “evidence” that their charges were incorrect and the Michaels were exonerated by the courts. Nope, just, “Get in the van, we’re taking you to the airport.”

Unbelievable!


Updated, later 2021-09-26: I get caught up in the blatant injustice of it all — three years each stolen from the lives of two innocent humans, while the reason for it all enjoyed damn nearly 100% freedom in one of her Vancouver mansions and availing herself of the near paradise that is Vancouver and Canada, all while showing off her ankle bracelet as a fashion accessory and waving at supporters like she’s a celebrity — and lash out against the Chinese government, but the fact of the matter is that I was personally elated to hear the news on Friday our time. I am immeasurably happy for the Spavor and Kovrig families, and of course the two Michaels themselves. Welcome home guys!

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels).

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels)

More whingeing about COVID

(The date on this post is 25 May, but it was posted on 24 May in the Pacific time zone.)

Forgive me, but I really can’t get away from it. Perhaps I should just stop watching the news.

There are two groups of people in the news these days who really can’t stop whining about the situation in which they find themselves. Look, I get it. Pandemics are no fun, especially when they have decimated or even destroyed your business or almost destroyed your industry. But unless or until someone produces evidence that some government somewhere intentionally inflicted this disease on us, you can’t pick and choose your targets. In this particular part of the world, it is not the fault of the Canadian or British Columbian governments.

Two groups in particular need to keep that in mind: restaurants, and the cruise ship industry.

By all accounts, the health restrictions that have kept restaurants closed over the last couple of months will be relaxed tomorrow, Tuesday 25 May. (See date note above.) But that’s not good enough for the restaurant owners! No! They want advance notice! These idiots need to realise that advance notice isn’t the issue; it’s everyone getting the same amount of notice. So if the government of BC states tomorrow that restaurants can open again, what more could you possibly want? Were you thinking that there’d be a queue of diners at your place on Tuesday for breakfast? Give your fucking head a shake! If it’s going to take you a week to order food and schedule staff, then it means that you and your competitors won’t open for a week. Or, if your competitors are better than you and therefore more deserving of being patronised, they’ll beat you, and you’ll earn a day or a few day’s less revenue than them. That’s your fault, not the fault of the BC government.

On today’s Global News, the President and CEO of the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Ian Tostenson, stated that “the most important” consideration is predictability for the industry! It almost sounds like he’s catering to the likes of the owner of Corduroy, the idiot anti-masker who flouted health rules and was closed down. Tostenson has, admittedly, done a fairly decent job of being more moderate, but placing “predictability” for restaurant owners above the health of the population is completely idiotic. As I’ve said before, COVID isn’t taking calls right now, so without the disease’s cooperation, there won’t be any predictability. The government doesn’t control COVID; COVID controls the government.

Cruise ship, Canada Place, Vancouver

Cruise ship, Canada Place, Vancouver. (Picture courtesy of PxHere.)

And then there’s the cruise ship industry. The Canadian government has barred cruise ships from Canadian ports until sometime after this summer, or perhaps early next year. (The notice seems to be missing from the Government of Canada travel advisories website, or it’s buried, so I don’t know the exact date off the top of my head.) In the meantime, the United States has passed a government bill that no longer requires cruise ships leaving US ports (e.g., Seattle) to stop in a foreign port (i.e., one in Canada) before sailing onto Alaska. To be frank, although I’ve known about this law for some time, I don’t know the details of it, including why it came into existence. However, I suspect that it was a requirement of these ships being allowed to transit through Canadian national waters.

But guess what folks? There’s a pandemic!

The US government has stated that the authorisation to bypass Canadian ports is temporary. I don’t have any contacts in the US government, but if they say that, why can’t we accept them at their word? If the American population is largely fully vaccinated, and they want to open up domestic travel, then why the fuck would we stop them?! Why would we get in their way?! And why would Americans want to stop in a country that now has a higher infection rate than they, at one time, did? It’s the Canadian government that is stopping those cruise ships from stopping in Victoria, Vancouver and (possibly) Prince Rupert, not the American government! The American’s are completely within their rights to attempt to get their economy back on the rails, without any interference from a foreign authority. If the American government won’t repeal this law at some point in the future, then Canada can always bar cruise ships from Canadian waters entirely, forcing them to sail 200 nautical miles to international waters before heading to Alaska, or pass a law requiring them to stop if they want to use Canada’s waters — despite what idiot politicians may or may not utter.

End of rant. Get a grip people. History will not look too kindly on you morons.

This month’s news … so far

Like all the TV news broadcasts these days, I’ll start with the latest COVID-19 stupidity.

BC starts three-week lockdown, Big White parties

Big White party

Big White party.

So at the end of March 2021 the Province of British Columbia ordered a three-week (now extended) “lockdown” … although the definition of “lockdown” does seem to vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To “celebrate” this — and, apparently, to sell off liquor stock, and deal with the fact that the ski season and the jobs of many had ended abruptly and unexpectedly as a result — an establishment at Big White Ski Resort apparently hosted an impromptu party. Here’s a video.

Apparently Big White has terminated the lease of the establishment, Charlie Victoria’s. The owner also apparently apologised, for which he deserves kudos, but it just goes to show you that too many people don’t take this disease seriously.

Other restaurants flagrantly defying health orders

Corduroy owner smirks as she sees inspectors out. The inspectors had the last laugh though; she's shut down.

Corduroy owner smirks as she sees inspectors out. The inspectors had the last laugh though; she’s shut down.

Also after the three-week lockdown started, Corduroy and Gusto restaurants in Vancouver openly defied the health orders. There have been noises by them and others about not being able to survive another lockdown. I sympathise with this, I really do. However, unless you belong to the anti-mask and/or conspiracy theory crowds, this pandemic isn’t designed to drive everyone out of business. So if you’re defying health orders, you’re barking up the wrong tree. You should be complaining to COVID-19, but since COVID-19 isn’t taking calls right now, just fucking follow the health orders and complain to or ask the government for more money to help you through. Get with the programme.

It was particularly amusing to see the owner/manager of Gusto being interviewed the day after he was shut down. All of his Italian bravado from the day before — his “gusto” — had disappeared with his tail between his legs!

As for the owner/manager of Corduroy, she apparently made some comment to the health inspectors about being immune from the order because she is a woman, only subject to “common law” and was holding her child. Huh? She clearly doesn’t know what “common law” is. However, there were known anti-maskers at her restaurant (according to the video, they all congregated there after an anti-mask demonstration), so who the hell knows what kind of kooky view she and they have of the law. Maybe they’re “sovereign citizens“. Whatever the case, they certainly demonstrated the well-known mob mentality here in Vancouver, the same stupidity that has led to two Stanley Cup riots here. They have it in Calgary too though, where a crowd was calling health inspectors there “Nazis”, and people there are calling for the arrest and jailing of the Province’s health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. Such incredible fucking ignorance.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary gets some air time!

Shorter Oxford English Dictionary

Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

On the opposite end of the scale, we have the various doctors, specialists and scientists who have been providing commentary to the media. One of the most prolific standouts has been Dr. Lynora Saxinger. I check in on her Twitter feed occasionally, and am amazed at how well she handles her detractors.

But what stands out most to me is her set of Shorter Oxford English Dictionaries on her bookshelf in what appears to be her home office. I give her two thumbs up for those!

I’m not exactly Room Rater, but I do contrast that with the doctor whose room decorations are two, seemingly strategically placed guitar cases, either side of and behind him. Maybe there are guitars in them — who knows? — but, they’re very puzzling decorations to have in his camera’s field of vision for someone who is on TV for non-musical reasons.

The trump of Canada

Staying in Alberta, Jason Kenney (the premier of Alberta) made reference in an appearance to “abstract political principles” recently when he was criticising people who were being critical of his government’s public health orders rolling back premature openings. This is the guy who criticised the Federal government for violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms early in and several times during the pandemic. How is that not the pot calling the kettle black?!

Vaccines

Shantanu Kuveskar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Shantanu Kuveskar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

I heard today that vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxers are so prevalent in the United States that the whole country may never actually achieve herd immunity. What is wrong with Americans?! They’re supposedly the smartest, richest people on the planet, but they behave like monkeys … except many monkeys may be smarter.

Then again, this week Canada overtook America in our number of infections per hundred people. Go Team Canada! We can be as stupid as Americans!

As for me, I’ll take the first damn vaccine I can get as soon as I can get it, even if it’s the OxfordAstraZeneca vaccine. Or give me the one-shot-and-you’re-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Absolutely no vaccine hesitancy here, I can guarantee you. I am reasonably adept at maths and am willing to take the chance with blood clots.

But at the rate things are going — with public health policy apparently rewarding bad behaviour by giving early vaccines to populations who and areas (Whistler, Surrey) that have been getting sick — I might be the last person in the country who is vaccinated, simply because I have followed all the rules and have not caught the disease. Yay me. That said, I do realise that many of those getting the disease these days are essential workers, so I’m torn between wanting to get my vaccine yesterday, and wanting all of the people who don’t have a choice of where and when they work to get protected.

Last word to the restaurant owners

I came upon this letter to the editor from Kathony Jerauld in Amador City (which appears to be in central California, USA) on Twitter recently. Apologies for not noting the URL at the time, but here it is:

"Freedom Café", by Kathony Jerauld

“Freedom Café”, by Kathony Jerauld.

Turns out there is actually at least one relatively intelligent American!

The American right is laughable

If their storming of Capitol Hill on Wednesday 6 January 2021 was their idea of a “revolution” — as one tearful insurrectionist put it to a videographer — they’re an absolute joke. A revolution has leaders and goals and lasts more than a couple of hours; that was just a disorganised mob getting their jollies and selfies for a few hours.

Note to self: If I ever need someone on my side in a revolution, don’t go into battle with American alt-righters, especially a “leader” who says he will walk with you, and then gets in his limousine and is driven off.


Updated, 2021-01-09: Added link to video of the revolutionary, “Elizabeth … from Knoxville, Tennessee.” “We’re stormin’ the Capitol, it’s a revolution!” OMG, she’s fucking hilarious!

The coming US civil war

Quite frankly, I have lost my will to write this piece. It’s now as obvious as the nose on my face to just about everyone how bad the situation is in the United States. I don’t need to assemble all the facts and lay them out along with my prediction.

There are so many sides: you have a president who foments just about every negative, anti-government grievance a paranoid American can think of, whether it’s against the Internal Revenue Service, Democratic state governors (viz. Michigan/Whitmer/kidnapping/”liberation“), the US Postal Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Fauci himself personally, whatever organisation(s) is/are in charge of running elections (and collecting all of those “fraudulent” mail-in ballots), masks and the “China virus”, and Blacks, Latinos, anyone whose ancestry can be traced to a “shithole country”, killed and captured war veterans … the list goes on and on and grows by the day; you have ordinary Americans who just want to get on with their lives; you have members and supporters of the Democratic Party who would like nothing more than to get rid of the guy; you have the National Rifle Association; you have The Lincoln Project; you have supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement; and on and on that list goes too. What has been and is happening in various major American cities (especially Portland) are, in fact, small civil wars, just very disorganised and disjointed.

On 3 November, election day, Americans may not get the decisive results they are used to as quickly as they’re used to. This is apparently because about half the number of people who voted in the 2016 election have already voted by mail and in advance polls, and those votes won’t all be counted on election night. Trump has already sown the seeds that some will see as a green light to action of some sort, by claiming that, if he loses, the election will have been “rigged”. Any delay in the results will be seen as time for machinations to rig the vote. It will be the only possible explanation for his loss. And if you’re a “good, patriotic” American with a gun, a stockpile of ammunition and a few friends, what would you do? The country is riddled with those nutjobs; hardly a day goes by in America without some mass murderer or spree killer doing his thing.

You know, it amazes me; generally speaking, people get better at something the more they practise it. Some Americans love to refer poetically to what they call their “experiment” in democracy. (After a couple of centuries, you’d figure it wasn’t still an experiment!) And yet, to this day, they have those in power doing everything they can to make it difficult for people to exercise their democratic right to vote. We recently had an election here in British Columbia, and I voted in an early poll. I was in and out of the polling station within five minutes (including parking and walking from and back to my car), and yet, night after night on the news we see queues miles long of Americans trying to vote in their early polls. You really need to be dedicated! And in Texas, their governor has limited election drop boxes to one per county; one county had advertised twelve drop boxes over their 2000 square miles! Of course, it’s all in the name of “enhance[d] ballot security” and “the integrity of our elections,” not vote suppression at all. In most democracies the election authorities will go out of their way to make it so easy to vote they’ll even wipe your ass while you do, but in the American “experiment” they go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible!

The US might not exactly be one of Trump’s “shitholes”, but it sure is a shit show!

African witchdoctors in America

Stella Immanuel Youtube video screen still.

Stella Immanuel Youtube video screen still

I am amused by what little I have read about Stella Immanuel, who seems to have suddenly been brought to prominence by Donald Trump seemingly simply because they share their belief in hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID-19. What a joke.

Nandos witchdoctor poster spoof.

Nandos witchdoctor poster spoof

Her website is down at the moment and the Internet Archive won’t display their cached copy because of directives on the original site (firepowerministr[y|ies].org) that disallow it. But her Youtube profile is still up, thankfully, because it contains the image at left, which is basically the Internet equivalent of the poster at right that you will find on just about every lamp post and telephone pole (if you can find one) in Africa. Of course, the “poster” is a parody (apparently done by Nandos Chicken) of the real posters (see further below) you find all over Africa advertising the local and not-so-local witchdoctors who promise to cure everything from acne to “sexual problems” to “loose, wet sexual organs”. (See the scan of the “Times of Swaziland” below.)

In short, anyone from Africa has seen this shit before, and it’s old news. The only question is this: Who’s the real witchdoctor, her or the guy in the White House?!

Disopi can also help women with loose, wet sexual organs. (Times of Swaziland.)

Disopi can also help women with loose, wet sexual organs. (Times of Swaziland.)

Professor Simbwa is a specialist in sexual problems. (Picture of a poster in Orkney, North West province, South Africa.)

Professor Simbwa is a specialist in sexual problems. (Picture of a poster in Orkney, North West province, South Africa.)

Canada-China prisoner swap

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

Protest sign calling for the release of Kovrig and Spavor

It seems bizarre to me to be writing about this kind of medieval or (I suppose) Cold War-type prisoner swap in the 21st century, but it seems that some countries (namely China) are still in that kind of backwards mindset. (This is particularly ironic, given the assertion by the deputy director of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department [Zhao Lijian] that other countries [namely the US] suffer from a “Cold-War mentality“! Proof that politicians everywhere talk out of both sides of their mouths.)

I’d like to make clear a few of my assumptions and biases first:

  • I am not under the influence of China or any Chinese pressure groups, and presumably the authors of both of the letters to which I refer below are not either,
  • I travel internationally as much as I can, and although I have travelled to China, I have not (so far) knowingly travelled to any countries where my life or liberty might be in danger,
  • I am a dual citizen.

I have read the letter from the “distinguished Canadians” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (cached copy), and I think it forms a basis on which Canada could move forward. It disgusts me that a reasonably civilised country like Canada should be in this position, but it is; it’s similarly repugnant that a country like China, who would like to present themselves to the world as being civilised (all the while acting the global bully wherever it thinks it can get away with it), would do such a thing. But they have, and here we are. And why have they taken hostages? Well, Meng Wanzhou isn’t some low-life drug trafficker or any other alleged common criminal; she seems to be about as close as you can get to royalty in China in the modern age, just without (obviously) the diplomatic immunity. Quite frankly, their taking hostages is the international equivalent of an unhappy child throwing their toys out of their cot!

Among the objections to this course of action are those of Trudeau himself (and presumably therefore the Government of Canada) and 53 signatories of an opposing letter from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The objections seem to boil down to three primary issues, with a fourth unstated openly by the Canadian government:

  • Principles: A prisoner swap would weaken Canada’s principles. It matters not that two innocent Canadians have been deprived of their liberty for a year and a half (so far), as long as some unarticulated principle is upheld. I’ll address that shortly.
  • Giving in to hostage takers: I see the value in not giving in to the demands of hostage takers, but in my mind there is a significant difference between a hostage taker that also happens to be a state, and a hostage taker that is an individual or a group (e.g., a terrorist organisation), i.e., not a state. Quite frankly, a state that violates the norms of international practice (if not law) and takes hostages, is a pariah state, and one that should be isolated by all states. Of course, I’m no naïf, and I know that a superpower like China can’t and won’t be isolated by all states, but there are measures that Canada, and others, can take. Also more on that shortly.
  • Endangering travelling Canadians: As if Canadians are somehow magically protected when they’re travelling internationally now, the assertion is made that negotiating the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig will result in Canadians abroad being taken hostage with more frequency. I feel that theory holds when we’re talking about hostages taken by the aforementioned individuals or groups, but not when we’re talking about hostages taken by states. If the principles of due process, comity and international law are not strong enough to prevent states from exercising their unlimited power within their own borders to arbitrarily detain random foreigners, does anyone really think that an unspoken “disapproval” of hostage taking is going to achieve the same goal?!
  • Canada’s commitment to lawful extraditions, and in particular to the United States: While there is no doubt that following some sort of process to “free” Chinese citizen Meng Wanzhou from Canada’s legal system will royally piss of the Americans, let’s not lose sight of the fact that her arrest under an extradition request is nothing short of the United States using an extradition treaty to prosecute their global foreign policy (particularly against Iran and China in this case) through a third party (Canada), not enforcing criminal law alleged to have been broken on its own soil by one of its own citizens. Now, I don’t claim any expert knowledge of extrajurisdictionality (especially as the principle applies to international sanctions), but it seems to me that this must be considered differently to cases involving the citizens of one’s own country fleeing to other jurisdictions to avoid prosecution in the home jurisdiction. In my opinion the United States and China — their empires colliding — need to use other means to carry out their mutual attempts to exert international control, in ways that don’t compromise their so-called allies … or in the latter’s case, the country that many of their citizens now call home, and will likely be calling home to a greater extent following Beijing’s crackdown on freedom in Hong Kong.

On the part of those advocating something more expedient (so to speak) there are the principles of fairness and humanity. It’s not news to most people that communist systems tend to “[override] individual self-interest and [subjugate] the welfare of the general population to achieve [their] goals“, and it’s quite clear to any observer that the “individual self-interest” of the Two Michaels (or their families) is of no interest to the Chinese Government. Then there’s the degree to which Canada’s foreign policy (especially with respect to China) has been hobbled by their inability to speak more bluntly where China continues to abuse its own citizens ([Hong Kong] (whose refugees will shortly be flooding Canada, the UK and other countries), [Tiananmen Square], etc.), its neighbours ([India], [Taiwan], etc.), and others around the world — as they are doing to Canada right now. If a country’s policy in one area or another is hobbled by an identifiable cause, then it certainly is a matter of national interest and perhaps security to take whatever action is necessary to address the problem!

So what’s my suggestion? Glad you asked. I think Canada should negotiate and implement these points:

  • The last thing Canada should do is simply “free” Meng Wanzhou and then “hope” that China reciprocates. That’s just insanity! Even if they do reciprocate, it could still be years before the Two Michaels are released under one mechanism (also trumped up) or another, simply to show who has the power in the relationship, and to give China the ability to claim (falsely of course) that the release of the Michaels was not connected. No, if China has actually gone as far as to tacitly acknowledge that they have apprehended the Michaels on trumped-up espionage charges, then Canada should publicly state to China that we are ready to negotiate a prisoner swap, and move to begin the negotiations. (To quote China: “Zhao Lijian: … we have also seen reports of an interview with Kovrig’s wife on June 23, during which she said that the Canadian justice minister had the authority to stop Meng Wanzhou’s extradition process at any point; such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians.“)
  • The prisoner swap must be very public, and televised on live television in both countries. Since Canada and China don’t share a land border, I suggest that a Royal Canadian Navy ship meet with a PLA Navy ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to do the exchange, preferably over a gangplank between the ships. Alternatively, and slightly more practically I suppose, the prisoner exchange could take place on one of China’s land borders, or perhaps in the Korean DMZ.
  • Canada's Hong Kong travel advisory, 2 July 2020.

    Canada’s Hong Kong travel advisory, 2 July 2020

    One of the less obvious unilateral actions that Canada (and actually, all countries) should take in the current international climate is to start negotiating bilateral “non-hostage” treaties with other countries, possibly connected to extradition treaties. How would these work? Well, you simply make a pact with another country that neither of you will take each other’s citizens hostage. Of course, arrests in the course of normal law enforcement would be acceptable, but not arbitrary detentions with no evidence. If Canada doesn’t have such a non-hostage treaty with a country, then the travel advisory for that country would state, in very prominent and unambiguous wording, that a such a treaty does not exist and therefore Canada very strongly warns against travel to that country. (There is currently, as of 10 July 2020, a similar warning on the Government of Canada Hong Kong travel advisory [see screenshot] on the “laws and culture” tab, but it is neither prominent nor strong enough, and there is nothing on the China travel advisory advising against travel there except for COVID-19 reasons.) Without a non-hostage treaty, if a Canadian citizen (for the sake of this example) is arbitrarily detained (taken hostage) then Canada will make attempts to provide consular assistance, but will not try that hard. This is more likely to have a greater effect on dual citizens (of which I am one, I should make clear), especially for those for whom Canadian citizenship is a citizenship of convenience.

I have no doubt that the Government of Canada is indeed “doing” something in the background (as happened in Egypt recently), even if it’s just talking amongst themselves, but to the rest of us beer-swilling plebs in the deserted (at the moment) pubs and stalking the blogosphere, it sure looks like the safety and security of Canadians abroad is not a concern to Canada, contrary to their professions otherwise.

Canada is small potatoes to China, in probably every way you can think of except land mass, coastline and morals, but everyone learns when they are still a child that bullies can be stood up to. This is what Canada and most of the rest of the world must to do to stop, or at least ameliorate, China’s bullying tactics. I don’t in any way suggest that China needs to be stomped down as the “enemy”, but just as happens with individual humans they have become too big for their breeches, and for that there are or need to be consequences. Part of the “problem” with China is not even the fault of the Chinese; it’s the West’s constant obsession with “unlimited growth”. However, that’s a debate for another day.

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels).

Collage: Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor (the Two Michaels)