Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Will it be principle or politics on the death penalty?

Worth noting...a Globe editorial today supporting the Federal Court decision earlier this month that slapped the Harper government over its arbitrary clemency policy for Canadians facing the death penalty abroad: "Death and the duty to be coherent." We're still waiting to learn what the government will do in response to this ruling, let it stand or appeal. That's likely because they're running out the clock, waiting for the state of Montana to act and abolish capital punishment as it is expected to do shortly. Then they can say that the Smith case is moot and there's no need to appeal it.

Which would be a victory of sorts, a return to a principled stance for Canada, that we have no death penalty domestically, we do not support it abroad. And of course it would be good news for Canadians facing the death penalty abroad who can therefore expect consistency from the federal government, that they won't obtain conditional support dependent on some analysis done by Foreign Affairs of the adequacy of the legal system in that foreign country. The judgment in early March ordered the Harper government, in the absence of a new policy, to resume its support for those Canadians by reverting to the previous historical Canadian position, i.e., seeking clemency for them.

Whether the Harper gang will let that principled directive stand or whether they think it's politically wise to attempt a re-write of the clemency policy along the lines of its bungled effort of the past few years, that's another story.