Maple Ridge council not talking to UBCM about controversial reception

Coun. Yousef asks for letter to UBCM

(THE NEWS/files) Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in March.

Coun. Ahmed Yousef’s suggestion of writing to the Union of B.C. Municipalities over the issue of national governments hosting receptions for city politicians wasn’t supported at Maple Ridge council Tuesday.

Yousef raised the issue at council’s workshop. He wanted to know if council could agree on a letter that would question the UBCM accepting sponsorship of a reception sponsored by the consulate of the People’s Republic of China.

He said if council agreed, he’d like the letter to UBCM express “our discontent … and our dismay that a national government that is currently holding two of our fellow Canadians, under suspicious charges at best … applying massive amounts of pressure, to our national government …”

RELATED: Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says.

He raised the question on Facebook and said that most people wanted councillors to boycott the reception that the Peoples Republic of China consulate is hosting on Sept. 28.

Mayor Michael Morden said he’s been asked about the issue.

“I have said both times that I’m really not keen about getting that far out of my lane,” he added.

“Whether we attend is one thing. There’s a lot of federal moving parts here. I would expect them to do their jobs and to tackle this particular problem.”

Morden said he will not attend the reception.

Yousef added that council had three options: boycott the reception, attend the reception and express their objections, or simply to attend and try to improve the relationship and reach an agreement later.

Coun. Chelsa Meadus said politicians could object to other sponsors of UBCM receptions that they don’t like.

“I like the idea of having a conversation and not closing the door because I don’t think you get anywhere as soon as you slam that door.”

She favoured the third option of attending to try to improve the relationship.

Yousef said later he wasn’t disappointed about council’s decision.

“There’s still a lot of concern around the community as a result of the comments made by [Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad] West.”

West wrote to UBCM this month, voicing his opposition to UBCM allowing the consulate general to host the reception, saying that the Government of China is “engaged in a number of actions that are hostile to our country’s interest and the interests of every Canadian and are completely at odds with our values, the rule of law and the very principles that we are elected to uphold,” West said.

He cited the “hostage taking” of two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, following the arrest of Hauwei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last December for possible extradition to face charges in the U.S.

RELATED: Feds ‘deeply concerned’ by China’s arrests of Canadians Kovrig, Spavor.

The U.S. Department of Justice laid charges of conspiracy, fraud and obstruction of justice against Meng and Huawei, alleging they misled a bank about Huawei’s ownership of a subsidiary called Skycom in an effort to circumvent U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Defence lawyers for a senior Huawei executive have asked Canada’s foreign affairs minister to stop the extradition process against their client, saying the U.S. request was for political purposes, not legitimate law enforcement reasons.

Both Meng and Huawei have denied any wrongdoing.

Yousef said he’s lived under authoritarian regimes.

“Ultimately, it is the same policy that if you disagree with the government you will face imprisonment and … indoctrination camps. I’ve lived under regimes that do the same kind of conduct to their populations, regardless of the reason, be it religion or ethnicity or otherwise, and it’s just completely unacceptable that this is happening in 2019.

“If we are accepting the hospitality of a government who does these things, we’re basically implicit in their conduct in condoning it, to a certain extent, that’s how I personally see it,” Yousef said.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall said he won’t be attending the reception and hasn’t attended in previous years, either.

It’s up to each Pitt Meadows councillor to decide if they’ll go to the reception, Dingwall added.

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