[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Nov 2 17:02:47 CDT 2007
Death penalty by proxy
When, in 1976, the Canadian government passed a bill to officially ban the
death penalty, it acknowledged that capital punishment was inhumane. To
kill a citizen whoby the fact of his incarcerationposes a minimal risk to
society is a purely retributive act, and one, the Trudeau government of
the time decided, not for the state to take. A natural extension of that
lawand arguably a moral consequence of the ideology behind itis the
foreign policy adopted by Canadian governments ever since: Namely, to seek
clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty in other countries. The
Conservative government turned its back on this traditional policy
yesterday, when Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day stated that the
ruling Tories would no longer lobby to halt the executions of Canadians,
so long as they were "tried in a democratic country that supports the rule
During yesterdays Question Period, Liberal human rights critic Irwin
Cotler raised the case of Ronald Allen Smith, the only Canadian currently
on death row in the US, who was convicted in a Montana court of the murder
of 2 men in 1982. In response, the Tory benches erupted with cries of
"He's a murderer!" Of course, as Cotler later pointed out on The National,
that is not the point; we have murderers in Canada, too, but we determined
30 years ago that, regardless of how abhorrent their crimes, it was wrong
to punish them by ending their lives. The Star has Bloc Qubcois leader
Gilles Duceppe pointing out that, besides the problematic moral dimension
of the Conservatives decision, Days wording also sets the government up
for an international relations nightmare. If the government should ever
choose to seek clemency for a Canadian facing death in another country, it
would first have to make a public determination that that country is
undemocratic or does not recognize the rule of law. The Globe has Liberal
leader Stphane Dion suggesting that the Tories' foreign policy apostasy
implies that, if the Conservatives were to win a majority, "we could see
the return of the capital-punishment debate in Canada." Given the
unpopularity of the death penalty in Canadaand increasingly even in the
USthis seems an unlikely and counterproductive claim. Dion neednt scare
Canadians with what Harper might do, when what he is doing amounts to
complicity in the transgression of a Canadian value, made law in 1976.
(source : Maisonneuve Magazine -- Jordan Himelfarb is a Quebec City-based
MediaScout writer for Maisonneuve Magazine)
Policy Slammed by Amnesty International
"We are not going to seek clemency in cases in democratic countries, like
the United States, where there has been a fair trial," says the new
policy, issued just days after the government had reiterated Canada's
traditional opposition to the death penalty and its continuing commitment
to seek clemency for Smith.
Liberal human rights critic Irwin Cotler, the former justice minister,
targeted the new policy during yesterday's question period. Noting
Canadian law "prohibits the extradition of an American citizen back to a
state in the United States that practises the death penalty," Cotler
asked: "Why would we now refuse to intervene to protect a Canadian citizen
sentenced to death in an American state?"
Day responded the government "will not be actively seeking to bring back
to Canada convicted murderers who have been found as such in a
jurisdiction that is both democratic and respects the rule of law."
Day added: "There is no capital punishment in Canada. Nor is there any
attempt at all to change that particular policy."
The government was slammed for its decision by Amnesty International, NDP
leader Jack Layton and other opposition critics.
"We think it's deeply troubling - in our view, a misguided and inhumane
position for a government to take," said Mark Warren, co-ordinator of U.S.
issues for Amnesty International-Canada. "It puts Canada in the unenviable
position of being the only country in the world that's abolished the death
penalty that now refuses to seek clemency on behalf of its death-sentence
Toronto MP Dan McTeague, the former Liberal government's point man on
issues involving Canadians abroad and now the party's critic for consular
affairs, described the new policy as an "alarming" glimpse into the
mindset of an "ideologically transfixed" government.
Canada's new policy on seeking clemency, McTeague said, "suggests clearly
the Harper government is trying to do indirectly that which it cannot do
directly, and that's to change policy on capital punishment within
The uproar over Smith's fate was sparked last week when Montana Governor
Brian Schweitzer commented in an interview that he was under pressure from
Canada to commute the Albertan's death sentence.
"Obviously, I would take into consideration the ideas of the families of
these young men that were brutally executed, and I'm still visiting with
the people from Canada," Schweitzer said last week.
Smith's lawyer, Greg Jackson, said yesterday the Canadian government's
sudden reversal is "dismaying" after more than two decades of "supportive"
contact with consular officials.
(source: The Gazette)
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