Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Canada's lack of consistency on death penalty policy getting attention

"Tories criticized for vastly divergent reactions to Canadians on death row." As well they should be.
The Canadian government's urgent appeal to stop Iran from executing a Canadian citizen imprisoned there may be blunted by its "grudging" support for another condemned Canadian — Montana death-row inmate Ronald Smith — says the former top federal bureaucrat responsible for protecting Canadian citizens abroad.

Gar Pardy, the retired head of the consular affairs division at the Department of Foreign Affairs, said the Conservative government's "hypocritical" approach to death-penalty cases in different countries is sending a mixed message to the world and potentially impairing the efforts of diplomats to effectively lobby other jurisdictions to spare the lives of Canadians facing execution beyond our borders.

That view is echoed by the Canadian arm of Amnesty International, which is also pressing Iran to commute the death sentence of Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen accused of espionage in his birth country and held in jail there since 2008.
This haphazard - and really, immoral - policy where the Canadian government is picking and choosing the nations in which they will fight for Canadians facing the death penalty clearly deserves reconsideration. It should not be the fact of the nation in which a Canadian citizen sits that determines whether they get the help of the Canadian government. It should be the fact of Canadian citizenship that our government considers in making the determination to assist. That will lead to consistent application of clemency policy by our government, irrespective of the nation in which a Canadian citizen finds themself. The Irans of the world will not be able to look at us and say we are cherry picking which Canadians we stand up for.

Maybe Mr. Baird and his Foreign Affairs department should amend their position on the Smith case in Montana, by publicly indicating now that they will speak at and support the Smith clemency case at the upcoming hearing on May 2nd, in order to send a signal to Iran on Hamid Ghassemi-Shall's case. Canada would be showing some needed consistency in its international approach to the death penalty at a critical time. 

Related: Death penalty: Canada needs to be consistent.