Thursday, July 23, 2009

Will you live or die overseas? The Harper Conservatives release a handy guide

An article in Le Devoir points the way to a new Web page the Harper Conservatives launched Tuesday through the Foreign Affairs site for Canadians traveling abroad, with advice for Canadians imprisioned abroad and information on the clemency process for Canadians sentenced to death in foreign countries.

With capital punishment having been abolished in Canada, it has long been the policy of Canadian governments of either major political party to seek clemency for our citizens sentenced to death abroad as a matter of course.

Until, that is, the Harper Reformatories came to town. Under Harper, without debate, the death penalty is back for Canadians abroad, because The Harper Government won't fight for you. Well, let me rephrase. They may or may not fight for you. It depends on whether or not you fit their demographic profile, are part of a group they want to woo, or you're what they'd define as a "real Canadian."

This selective implementation of clemency, this "maybe we'll help you, maybe we'll let you die" policy of the Harper Conservatives has rightly been pilloried by the courts, who have routinely had to step in to get this government to remember its primary duty: stand up for ALL Canadians. The court ruling against the government policy (under appeal) vis a vis the Roland Smith case, and its rejection of the UN's clemency position, underline this.

Back to the discredited and morally vacuous Conservative clemency if necessary but not necesarily clemency policy. The Conservatives have now handily released a guide online of factors that will influence whether they'll decide to help you, or let you die. As well, all applications must be submitted in writing.

Read the "factors" for yourself. And be sure to submit your clemency application in writing on Form 6B, titled "Please Don't Kill Me, Mr. Harper" and allow 6-8 weeks for processing, and affix proper postage. The Harper Government is not responsible for lost or misdirected clemency applications, and incomplete or illegible forms will be returned to sender, or next of kin.

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The Rat said...

So, someone goes to US and kills a couple of people to "see what it feels like" and gets caught. The US, a democracy with open and unbiased courts and strong protections for the accused, convicts that someone. Is there a problem there? No. The problem is we don't agree with the punishment. But the punishment is the decision of the jurisdiction in which the crime was committed and beyond the very reasonable set of questions the Government of Canada has put out, it's none of Canada's business. Just because the Liberal party, when in power, had a blanket policy on requesting clemency doesn't mean the CPC has to follow the same policy.

How would we in Canada feel if, say, Robert Picton were a Swedish citizen, Sweden considered life in prison to be inhumane, and they worked towards what they consider a more appropriate sentence? It would be rightly seen as interference in the Canadian justice system, one which is fair, free of bias, and democratically supported by the citizens.

Canada decided to abolish the death penalty and the US didn't. Call me an unCanadian redneck if you must but I believe if you commit the crime somewhere else it isn't reasonable to expect to be treated as if you did it in Canada. I'd be quite happy to argue that one before the people in an election.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Automatic seeking of clemency wasn't just Liberal policy. It was also Progressive Conservative policy.

We did away with capital punishment in Canada. If you want to bring it back, then start that debate. But we did away with it for very sound reasons: if we got the verdict wrong, there's no do-over once they're dead. So your Sweeden example doesn't hold water.

And I don't care how the other government would feel. We should push for clemency. If the foreign jurisdiction says no, then fine, that's their decision and we need to accept it.

But we do need to try.

Gayle said...

Capital punishment violates the Charter. The SCC has already ruled on it, so bringing back that debate would be a waste of time.

The interesting thing about the Smith decision is that the CPC government was criticized, and ultimately lost that case because they did not have a clear, articulated policy on when they will seek clemency. I am not sure this set of factors fits the bill of a clearly articulated policy, but in any event, the Court in Smith noted that once such a policy exists, it is subject to Charter scrutiny.

Which tells me that since the SCC has already ruled capital punishment violates the Charter and that the Canadian government may not extradite someone to another jurisdiction to face trial until that jurisdiction has undertaken NOT to impose the death penalty, it is not a huge leap to say the Canadian government MUST intervene on behalf of its citizens and seek clemency when they are sentenced to death in other jurisdictions.

So basically Harper and his little cronies have just given lawyers a lot more work, and a lot more money as they fight this policy all the way up to the SCC.

ktr said...

Completed forms will be handled professionally by Lisa Raitt's new communications assistant.
Your file should be processed just as soon as we scrap the gun registy.
For more information, contact the prime minister's communications director William Stairs. Err, Sandra Buckler. Err, Kory Teneycke?

The Rat said...

The Charter applies to people in Canada, and I have no desire to fight the capital punishment fight as I am mostly opposed to it. Trying apply our charter to a crime committed in the US is an illegitimate extra-territorial extension of our law. The Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives had lots of policies that the CPC does not. The PCs got wiped out and the Liberals have lost the last two elections so I feel safe in assuming that the people of Canada are somewhat comfortable with new CPC policies, possibly even policies that say if you kill people in the US expect to be tried, convicted, and punished in the US. Trying to force the government, through the courts, to demand clemency for murderers, especially self-admitted thrill-kill murderers is just plain wrong.

Gayle said...

Oh Rat - can I just suggest you read the decision on Smith?

It might clear things up for you.