Thursday, November 01, 2007

Back to the '50's with Stock and Harpie

News of more goodies today that we never expected from the least not in the guise of a minority government, that is. How about the death penalty? Like that one? Well, contrary to decades of Canada's standing up against foreign governments and insisting that the death penalty not be applied to Canadians abroad who face execution, the Harper Conservatives have turned on a dime. No more of that silly advocacy to foreign governments. You want to hang 'em high? Be Harper's guest.
The Conservative government's announcement that it will no longer stand up for Canadians who face the death penalty in the United States is drawing fire from the opposition.

The Tories officially announced a change in Canada's foreign policy when it comes to Canadians on death row.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said his government will not plead for the life of Alberta-born Ronald Allen Smith, who faces lethal injection in Montana for the 1982 murder of two men.

"We will not actively pursue bringing back to Canada murderers who have been tried in a democratic country that supports the rule of law," Day told the House of Commons on Thursday.

"It would send a wrong message. We want to preserve public safety here in Canada."

Canada has not had a state-sanctioned execution since 1962, and the federal government has habitually opposed the death penalty abroad in cases involving Canadians.

Having simply assumed that Canada's policy would continue, employees at the Department of Foreign Affairs indicated last week that they would seek to have Smith's sentence commuted.

But they were publicly corrected by their new political bosses on Thursday. (emphasis added)
You see, according to Stock, we can't have these murderers roaming free in the streets of Canada, as he so implies by suggesting that they would affect "public safety here in Canada." Because, you know, it's not like they wouldn't be in PRISON or anything.

The opposition explains the ultimate irony of the back to the 50's Conservative policy:
"Foreign policy is always a mirror of our domestic values," McTeague said. "Here's the ideologues in the Conservative party trying to do indirectly that which they cannot do directly - which is capital punishment by proxy.

"(We must) expose for Canadians the ideological bent of this party, which is an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth mentality. That's completely inconsistent with where Canadians have been on this issue."
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler - the former justice minister - pointed out the inherent irony in the new Tory policy.

Canadian law prohibits the extradition of an American citizen back to the U.S. when facing the death penalty. But the government will now remain silent while Canadians are executed down south.

"Why would we now refuse to intervene to protect a Canadian citizen sentenced to death in an American state - thereby effectively reinstating capital punishment for Canadians?" Cotler asked Day.

"Are we going to change our extradition law as well as changing our policy on capital punishment?"
That's right, Americans who are in Canada but who face the death penalty back home, won't be sent by Canada. But Canadians in the states? They don't get the same consideration.

In an era when American legal principles are fast eroding and when the right of a Canadian citizen to a fundamental right of habeas corpus when arrested in the U.S. is gone, it is unacceptable for the Conservatives to be ceding ground to the Americans on legal process. And unacceptable that it's failing to stand up for Canadian citizens. It doesn't matter what the crime is. We don't support the death penalty. Unless you're the Harper government, that is.