Thursday, June 04, 2009

Four cheers for the Federal Court: attempting to correct Harper government international incompetence

To recap the Federal Court's activity over the past few months.

They ordered the Harper government to seek clemency for Canadian Ronald Smith, sitting on death row in Colorado. Notable in that decision was the court calling out the Harper government's arbitrary policy of intermittently seeking to help Canadians facing the death penalty abroad.

They ordered the Harper government to repatriate Omar Khadr. That of course is being appealed by the Reformatories, their arguments filed yesterday: "Ottawa says it has no duty to protect Canadians outside country." Remarkable that a Canadian government goes to court to take such a position. I've already argued that Justice O'Reilly in his trial level decision narrowed his order sufficiently so that an appeal arguing that he'd established a broader duty to protect would likely not be successful, so I won't repeat it here. Hopefully the Federal Court of Appeal will agree and join with the legion of other decisions occurring within the court at a remarkable rate these days going against Harper government choices.

They ordered the Harper government to permit the Military Police Complaints Commission to hold hearings on the issue of Afghan detainee treatment and their transfers by the military to the Afghans. The Harper government has fought that process at every turn, attempting to sweep this scrutiny under the rug. Other nations are examining their processes and wrestling publicly with their involvement in conflicts that have posed serious challenges to the application of the law by military personnel in Afghanistan, Iraq. Why Canada cannot is a mystery.

Today, they've ordered the Harper government to permit the return of another Canadian stranded abroad, Abousfian Abdelrazik.
Mr. Abdelrazik's Charter right to enter Canada has been breached by the respondents,'' Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn said in a judgment released today. “Mr. Abdelrazik is entitled to an appropriate remedy which, in the unique circumstances of his situation, requires that the Canadian government take immediate action so that Mr. Abdelrazik is returned to Canada.''
No wonder prominent Canadians are speaking out about our international leadership being squandered. The latest, former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour. On the weekend, Professor Errol Mendes.

The Federal Court is clearly holding the Harper government to account for its international failures. They are providing an absolutely necessary and important check on this legally challenged government we have on our hands.