Robert Fife reports on Canada’s agreement to negotiate a bilateral extradition treaty with China, and on critics’ reservations about China’s apparently casual attitude toward civil rights.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Social studies, current events, history, law

Key Questions to Explore:

  • What are some of the complicating factors that Canada must consider in negotiating an extradition treaty with China?

New Terminology:

Bilateral, extradition, incarceration, white-collar crime, negotiation

Materials Needed:

Globe article, the Internet

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

Note: This lesson is designed for advanced senior students, including those taking high school law courses.

Following his recent visit to China, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canada would be negotiating a bilateral extradition treaty with China. Such a treaty could conceivably allow Canada to agree to Chinese requests to extradite (send back to country of origin) Chinese citizens suspected of wrongdoing in their own country, and vice versa. Were an extradition treaty to be concluded, Mr. Trudeau assures Canadians that it would contain safeguards to ensure that returned Chinese citizens would receive due process of law in China.

Critics of the process argue that China has consistently demonstrated lack of due process and that even if China claims it will treat extradited persons fairly, there is no way to ensure that this actually will be the case. As well, the Chinese release of Kevin Garratt, a Canadian convicted by China of spying, appears to have coincided with discussions of an extradition treaty during Mr. Trudeau’s visit in September. Conservative critics claim that Canada may have agreed to negotiate a treaty in order to facilitate Mr. Garratt’s release, although Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion claims there no such concessions were made.

Students can benefit from learning about the complications and considerations that apply in constructing an extradition treaty, especially one between a democratic country and an authoritarian state.  Using the attached article, students will work in groups to explain, then list, some of the details involved in negotiating this treaty, as well as describing critics’ objections to it.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Start by clarifying the language and terminology found in the article.  Challenge students to find definitions of the following words and terms as fast as they can: bilateral, extradition, incarceration, white-collar crime, negotiation. Have them read the definitions to the class as they find them.
  • Next, engage them in a brief discussion around the question: If China were to claim that one of its citizens had committed crimes in China and then fled to Canada, should Canada send that person back to China to face the justice system there? Would students’ opinions change if China agreed to do the same for Canada? Tell them that the latter would be an example of a bilateral extradition agreement.
  • Next organize students four or five to a group and provide them with the article and the following work sheet.

Work Sheet

Ask for volunteers to read the article to your group, to take notes and to lead the group. Using the article provided by your teacher, complete the following tasks:

  • Why does China want to have an extradition treaty with Canada?
  • Why does Canada want to have an extradition treaty with China?
  • What is meant, typically, by “due process of law” and what are some examples of China’s failure to provide due process to its people? (Consider Mr. Kent’s examples in the article)
  • What did Mr. Kent mean when he said that the release of Mr. Garratt was “more than a coincidence”?
  • What objections does former diplomat Mr. Burton raise regarding a possible extradition treaty with China?
  • How does the case of Lai Changxing support or weaken the case for having an extradition treaty?
  • How many Chinese nationals (citizens of China) has Canada sent back to China since 2009 and why were they sent back?
  • Do you think Canada should agree to send people suspected of crimes in their own country back to that country even if that country has different or more strict laws than Canada’s? What are some reasons for and against extradition treaties, in general?
  • How does your group feel about Canada negotiating an extradition treaty with China? Would you be in favour? Why or why not?

Be prepared to deliver an oral report on your findings to the class.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Students share and discuss their group’s findings with the class.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • Students can list and describe some of the complicating factors involved in attempting to construct an extradition agreement between Canada and China.

Confirming Activity:

  • Students report on Canada’s progress in creating an extradition agreement with China, when and if it makes the news over the next several months.