Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Harper Reformatories: We don't need to help Canadians overseas

Surprising pretty much no one, the Harper Conservatives have waited for Parliament to break for the summer before filing their appeal of a Federal Court decision that requires it to seek the repatriation of Canadian citizen Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay.

The facts in the Khadr case have been well-argued and my disgust with the Conservatives' actions on this file are on the record. The appeal only further drags-out this process, further impugns Khadr's charter rights, and once again abdicated Canada's moral leadership as we wait by, the last Western country with a citizen at Gitmo, for the U.S. to tell us what to do.

What I found newly galling though reading coverage of the appeal today was this:

The government argues there is no principle in international law compelling officials to provide diplomatic protection or consular service to nationals abroad, let alone seek their return to Canada.
That's a stunning statement for the government to make in a legal argument. Basically, the Harper reformatories are saying if you find yourself in trouble overeas, Canadian citizen or not, we don't have to do squat to help you if we don't want to. Lose your passport? Maybe we'll issue you a new one. Maybe not. Arrested on bogus charges in a foreign backwater? Maybe we'll make a phonecall.

This argument seems to chrystalize Harper's foreign policy: get in trouble overseas, whether your own fault or not, and MAYBE we'll help you. It helps, of course, if you fit their definition of a "real Canadian" or if it plays into Jason Kenney's outreach strategy.

But, in essence, there's two classes of Canadians: ones the Conservatives like and ones they don't. And apparently only the latter are entitled to the assistance of their country's department of foreign affairs.

Perhaps they should add a disclaimer to Canadian passports...

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