Canadians condemned to die
Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister objects to the judicially authorized beheading facing a Canadian man in Saudi Arabia, saying it is out of step with this country's values. Yet that same Foreign Minister, Maxime Bernier, is silent in the face of the death penalty by lethal injection facing another Canadian man, this one in the United States. The message is obvious: The U.S. death penalty is in line with Canada's values, as perceived by the Canadian government.
The government's position is odious and absurd. The Canadian government itself is out of step with this country's values, as embodied in its laws, its Supreme Court of Canada judgments and its long-time practices. By this glaring inconsistency, the government may have fatally undermined its ability to seek clemency for Canadians such as 23-year-old Mohamed Kohail of Montreal, who faces beheading in Saudi Arabia after being convicted in connection with a schoolyard brawl that took a life.
Why should Saudi Arabia listen to Canada's pleas for Mr. Kohail, when Canada will not also plead for the life of Ronald Allen Smith, who is on Montana's death row? Canada will get nowhere if it simply asks for its nationals to be in effect exempt from the justice systems of certain countries. "To not seek clemency in Country X because it was seen as democratic and where the rule of law predominates, would seriously erode efforts to obtain clemency in Country Y - where such conditions did not exist," says the retired Gar Pardy, whose job it was in Foreign Affairs to try to save the lives of Canadians on death row around the world.
To seek clemency for Mr. Smith would not be to declare any sympathy for the convicted killer of two men. It would simply be consistent with Canada's obligation to protect its citizens from inhumane practices abroad. Not only does Canada have no death penalty; our Supreme Court will not permit accused killers to be extradited to face the death penalty. Canada has long sought clemency in death-penalty cases in the United States, and spoken up against the death penalty in international forums - even under the current government. Canada's abhorrence of state-sanctioned killing is a matter of record.
The Stephen Harper government's refusal to seek clemency for Mr. Smith is a damaging retreat from this country's principled stand against the death penalty. Whatever limited powers of persuasion Canada possessed in standing up against the death penalty for people like Mr. Kohail are probably gone.
more hypocrisy from the harper government
I was going to write this myself, but the Globe and Mail saved me the trouble.