My latest: treason?

Can he be charged with treason?

It’s a question many are asking. It’s a fair question.

Since Wednesday night, when Global News dropped a bomb on Canadian politics – that former Liberal MP Han Dong had allegedly lobbied China’s regime to keep two Canadians in prison there – that’s a question I’ve been asked many times: if the allegations are true, can Dong be prosecuted for treason?

It’s important to emphasize, here, that the Toronto-area MP hasn’t been charged with any crime. He’s resigned from the Liberal caucus to clear his name – as did a Conservative MPP in Ontario did earlier this month, for similar reasons – but no one has charged Han Dong with breaking any law.

And that may be because there’s no law to charge him with breaking.

In Canada, as with our allies, “treason” remains a serious crime. In the Criminal Code, it is defined in this way: “Every one commits treason who, in Canada, uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province…

“[Or] without lawful authority, communicates or makes available to an agent of a state other than Canada, military or scientific information or any sketch, plan, model, article, note or document of a military or scientific character that he knows or ought to know may be used by that state for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or defence of Canada.”

We’ve got a criminal prohibition against “high treason,” too. But it’s a dramatically higher bar for prosecutors to clear. High treason is killing or attempting to kill our King or Queen – or waging actual war against Canada, or helping the enemy during a time of war.

But, as far as we know, we’re not at war. And, so far, the allegations against Dong don’t seem to fit a “treason” charge, either.

In the United States, someone facing similar charges might not be so lucky.

The Americans don’t mess around. There, treason is a capital offence – you can be put to death for it.

Chapter 115 of the U.S. Code: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years.”

Having sworn an oath to Canada, the allegations Dong faces would be a violation of a similar law here. And “giving aid or comfort” to the enemy – here, China – would easily describe the untried allegations against Han Dong.

In Britain, the law against treason has been around for nearly seven centuries. It’s one of the oldest statutes in the United Kingdom

Though amended many times over the years, The Treason Act 1351, as in Canada, distinguishes between treason and high treason. High treason is killing the King or Queen – but also, originally, less serious offences like making counterfeit currency.

Ironically (given their origins), Americans seem to have borrowed the “aid or comfort” idea from the Brits. There, the allegations against Dong would arguably amount to high treason. The last Briton executed for treason – collaborating with wartime Germany – was hanged in 1946.

For those who remain livid about the allegations against Han Dong, we’re sorry: he can’t be charged with high treason or even mere treason.

He wasn’t a cabinet minister or a senior bureaucrat or a member of the military, so he isn’t easily caught by the new version of the Official Secrets Act, the Security of Information Act. Did he – as the Act says – harm “Canadian interests”?

The interests of the two Michaels, to be sure. But were those identical to Canada’s? That’s less clear.

What’s clear, however, is this: while Han Dong may not be in any legal jeopardy, he sure is, politically.

CSIS is not his friend. And CSIS has apparently decided he needed to be removed from the Trudeau government.

And he has been.

My latest: when in a hole

When in a hole, stop digging.

That’s advice my former boss Jean Chretien used to give us. In life, as in politics, it’s good advice.

The denizens of Parliament Hill — which is essentially 22 square acres surrounded by reality — often forget that. They often forget, or don’t care, that what seems smart or strategic to them looks completely insane to Joe and Jane Frontporch.

The Meech Lake Accord. Hotel rooms costing $6,000 a night. Eighteen dollar orange juice. And on and on: These are just a few of the things that elicit disinterested shrugs by folks in Ottawa. And which cause everyday Canadians to reach for their pitchforks and torches and, sometimes, a sturdy tree branch.

The latest example: The Liberal Party of Trudeau — because, rest assured, it is no longer the Liberal Party of Pearson, Chretien, Turner or Martin — has been in a deep, deep hole over the burgeoning China election interference scandal. Their collective response?

They kept digging.

Here’s what is known: China criminally interfered in our elections in 2019 and 2021. Documents authored by intelligence agencies have made clear that the interference included payoffs, manipulation and disinformation.

Ominously, there has been a suggestion that Justin Trudeau and his office knew all about the interference, and did nothing. Most seriously, the implication has been that the China-friendly Liberal prime minister and his senior staff covered it all up.

The opposition parties, and those of us in the media, have accordingly wanted answers to one key question: What did the prime minister and his chief of staff know, and when did they know it?

Oh, and this question too: What did they do about it, if anything?

Those are not unreasonable questions. But what the Tru regime has been doing in the past few weeks has been unreasonable in the extreme.

Stonewalling, fibbing, prevaricating. Delaying and denying information. And, until this week, doing all that they could to prevent Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff, from being called before committee to answer a few predictable questions.

Full disclosure: I knew Telford in her previous life, when she was simply a lobbyist. She worked at a Toronto lobby firm, and she was decidedly not the boss.

If she did anything of significance in her political life span, it was one thing: Glomming onto Justin Trudeau’s cape, and riding a 2015 wave with him into the Office of the Prime Minister.

This writer has known practically every prime ministerial chief of staff over the past generation. Of all of them, Telford is the least noteworthy. If she ever devised some brilliant innovation or some important policy, nobody knows what it is.

However, as the most senior aide to a prime minister, she would have been briefed on national intelligence matters. Which is why the Opposition want to question her. That is obvious.

What is less obvious — what is completely and totally inexplicable — is why the Liberals are turned into a Nixonian stonewalling operation to prevent Telford’s testimony. That makes no sense. Why?

Three points.

One, their filibustering and fibbing had precisely the opposite effect: By looking so terrified about Telford testifying, they dramatically increased opposition efforts to get Telford to testify. Their stupidity invited the very thing they wanted to avoid.

Two, they had nothing to worry about. Because the Chinese election interference story entirely concerns national security, Telford could not meaningfully answer questions — even if she wanted to. She just needed to say that she was not permitted, by law, to discuss national security matters, and she would be right to say so.

Three, the PMO-led machinations did nothing to prevent their biggest problem: Namely, leaks by anonymous CSIS agents who are alarmed by the Chinese threat to our democratic institutions. As the Liberal efforts to prevent Telford’s testimony grew, so did the leaks.

And the leaks haven’t stopped: Wednesday saw the stunning Global News revelation about former Liberal MP Han Dong — that he allegedly pushed the Chinese regime to hold onto the two Michaels, to help out the Liberals. CSIS, it seems, has now assigned itself the role of the Official Opposition. (Perhaps because they feel the Tories aren’t doing the job.)

So, after spilling pints of political capital all over Parliament Hill, the Trudeau regime finally had to do what everyone knew they were always going to do. Namely, let Katie Telford testify.

And so she will. And she will not be able to say anything meaningful. And the Liberals will have lost oodles of credibility for no reason at all.

In Ottawa, sometimes they are not being strategic. Sometimes they are just being stupid.

This was. So: When in a hole, boys and girls, stop digging.

Warren Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s Special Assistant and ran his successful War Rooms

My latest: up yours, Google

Evasive. Duplicitous. Condescending.

If you were to (ironically) do a Google search to find a record of the meeting 69 of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, those would be the words you’d use. Because those words describe — perfectly, accurately — the “testimony” of two Google executives before Members of Parliament last week.

The pair were there to offer up objections to Bill C-18, which would provide Canadian news providers with some degree of compensation for the content that Google — and Facebook, and others — routinely swipe from them, and profit from. C-18 is a fair and reasonable approach to a problem that every modern democracy on Earth faces: Namely, how to keep Google et al. from putting real news media out of business.

The company that owns this newspaper supports C-18, yes, as does every other struggling news organization in Canada. But that is not why this writer supports it: I’m a freelancer, and I easily make my living elsewhere. I support C-18 not simply because it is the right thing to do. I support it because it is the bare minimum of what we must do.

Make no mistake: If C-18 is not passed by Parliament, the consequences will be very dire. The costs will be immense. A diminished democracy, an ill-informed populace, and some of the most obscenely rich companies in the world getting even richer. And even less accountable.

Appearing before the Standing Committee to bleat about C-18 was Sabrina Geremia, a vice-president and “country manager” for Google. With her was Google functionary Jason Kee, who liked to say that he runs lots of “tests.”

One of those “tests,” it turns out, is for Google to punish several million Canadians, and bar their access to news reports. That is, censor Canadian news organizations — cancel them, erase them — because Google doesn’t like what C-18 would do.

What would C-18 do? Require Google and others to share in some of the profit it reaps — US$225 billion a year, last year — from pilfering, and posting, the work of journalists. That’s it. Giving Canadians some credit, and some return, on the work that they do.

In her opening remarks, Google Canada’s “country manager” Geremia wheedled that her company has “worked constructively” with Canada and “offered reasonable and balanced solutions” to resolve their issues with C-18. Some of those solutions, it turns out, are to simply deny Canadians access to information.

Also, in her remarks — which revealed a flair for Orwellian Newspeak that was frankly without equal — Geremia huffed that “C-18 puts a price on free links to web pages, setting a dangerous precedent that threatens the foundations of the open and free flow of information.”

Wow? Did you get that? “Dangerous precedents” are being set, ones that literally “threaten the foundation” of all free speech and knowledge. And here we just thought we were asking Google and their cabal to account for what they purloin.

Anyway. In the question-and-answer section of the meeting, the lead Conservative MP, Marilyn Gladu, revealed herself to be an enthusiastic supplicant for Google, declaring that her party “agreed with some of the concerns” Google had. Said she: “I certainly share your concerns with the bill.”

Well, take note, Canada. The Conservative Party now stands for the proposition that wealthy global multinationals should be able to unfairly profit on the hard work of others. But that’s them.

The Liberals, to my surprise, did much better. Montreal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather was absolutely brilliant in the way he took apart the Google apparatchiks. He pointed out that senior Google executives had come to Canada to lobby behind closed doors — but when the Standing Committee summoned them, they arrogantly refused to come.

He pointed out that Google was supposed to provide its emails and notes about C-18 to the committee in advance and didn’t. Asked repeatedly about that, Geremia blinked a lot and actually said she didn’t understand “the premise” of the question. Gotcha.

Anyway. Google the words evasive, duplicitous and condescending. It’ll take you right to the testimony of the two Google executives.

Do it soon, however.

You never know when Google is going to bar your access to news, Canada.