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Canada reverses its death-penalty policy for citizens abroad


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I normally stay away from this forum and from participating in political discussion but this is just disgusting.

Next up I guess is reinstating it here.

Tories decide to stop opposing death penalty for Canadians convicted abroad

OTTAWA - The Conservative government's announcement that it will no longer stand up for Canadians who face the death penalty in the United States is drawing fire from the opposition.

The Tories officially announced a change in Canada's foreign policy when it comes to Canadians on death row.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said his government will not plead for the life of Alberta-born Ronald Allen Smith, who faces lethal injection in Montana for the 1982 murder of two men.

"We will not actively pursue bringing back to Canada murderers who have been tried in a democratic country that supports the rule of law," Day told the House of Commons on Thursday.

"It would send a wrong message. We want to preserve public safety here in Canada."

Canada has not had a state-sanctioned execution since 1962, and the federal government has habitually opposed the death penalty abroad in cases involving Canadians.

Having simply assumed that Canada's policy would continue, employees at Foreign Affairs indicated last week that they would seek to have Smith's sentence commuted.

But they were publicly corrected by their new political bosses on Thursday.

The Conservative benches erupted in catcalls when the issue was raised in the Commons, with a handful of Tory MPs shouting "Murderer!" and "He's a murderer!" at the Liberals when they raised Smith's case.

The government repeated several times that it has no plans to reopen the capital punishment debate in Canada.

But Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said the Tories' actions speak louder than words. He called their sudden reversal of a three-decade-old Canadian policy extremely troubling.

"The fact that this government doesn't even want to try (asking for clemency) shows me what this government would try doing to Canada if they had a majority," Dion said.

"We could see the return of the capital-punishment debate in Canada."

Canada-U.S. differences on capital punishment became a political flashpoint with the case of Stanley Faulder.

The Alberta man was executed in 1999, despite the Chretien administration's multiple attempts to change the mind of then-Texas governor George W. Bush.

On Thursday, the Liberals pointed out several inherent contradictions and potential problems with the new Tory policy:

-Canada was among 72 countries that urged the United Nations to call for an international moratorium on the death penalty Thursday - the same day the Commons heard Smith would be left to die.

-Canadian law prohibits the extradition of an American citizen back to the U.S. when facing the death penalty. But even as it protects Americans from the death penalty, the government will remain silent while Canadians are executed south of the border.

-In Day's words, Canada will refrain from opposing executions of Canadian citizens only in stable "democratic countries that support the rule of law."

That means that every time a Canadian faces the death penalty abroad, the Canadian government will now need to pass public judgment on whether that country is a stable democracy - which opens the door to bitter diplomatic disputes.

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler - a former justice minister and human-rights lawyer - says he was shocked by the Conservative announcement.

"We're not asking that (Smith) be returned to Canada," Cotler said.

"We're not saying he didn't get a fair trial. We are saying that on the issue of capital punishment, this country has a law, this country has a policy, this country has a principle domestically and internationally. We will not support capital punishment. Fini.

"What I heard from the Conservative benches was: 'You support murderers.' Frankly, that is scandalous and shocking."

Liberal MP Dan McTeague accused the Tories of giving tacit approval to capital punishment because they believe in it.

"Foreign policy is always a mirror of our domestic values," McTeague said. "Here's the ideologues in the Conservative party trying to do indirectly that which they cannot do directly - which is capital punishment by proxy.

"(We must) expose for Canadians the ideological bent of this party, which is an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth mentality. That's completely inconsistent with where Canadians have been on this issue."

The NDP and Bloc Quebecois also blasted the reversal of policy.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the death penalty is not only abhorrent, but cast the government position as a diplomatic disaster-in-waiting.

"At one point they're going to need to ask another country where there's the death penalty - to tell them they're not a democratic country," Duceppe said.

"I can't wait to see what that does to international relations. Imagine, telling another country, 'From you, we want (our prisoner back), because you're not a democratic country.' "

Smith, who killed two men during a road trip south of the border in 1982, is the only Canadian currently on death row in the U.S. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has said he is undecided about whether to commute his sentence.

The Red Deer, Alta., man was sentenced to death in March 1983. Seven months earlier, he killed two aboriginal men who offered him a ride while hitchhiking.

He marched cousins Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods by the highway and shot them both in the head with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle.

Relatives of the men have pleaded with the governor not to commute Smith's sentence. They say the victims were kind men with bright futures, and that their killings had a devastating effect on the Blackfeet Reservation.

But Smith's lawyer has argued that his client is a changed man, and that he wants the opportunity to meet with the victims' families and tell them how sorry he is.

Smith himself requested the death penalty after pleading guilty to two counts of murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping. He later sought a life sentence and has since exhausted nearly all of his appeals.

In Canada, a 1967 bill placed a moratorium on the death penalty, except in cases involving the murder of a law-enforcement officer.

A bill to officially ban the death penalty passed in a free vote in 1976.

A free vote on reinstating the death penalty was held in the House of Commons in 1987. MPs agreed by a 21-vote margin to maintain the abolition of capital punishment.

http://canadianpress.google.com/article

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Since it is policy rather than law' date=' I don't think the other parties have to agree anyway. Still a disgusting policy, though.[/quote']

oh. thanks hamilton. something like whether someone will live or die seems like it might be law-worthy, eh?

In the words of David Byrne, "Stop making sense!"

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two weeks ago, harper ousted the federal conservative candidate for guelph and gave no reason. the local riding association is outraged, as is the candidate.

seems we have our own little dictator setting up shop in ottawa. these are dark days, folks.

He also ousted a guy in Toronto, allegedly because he (the candidate) was too interested in addressing the plight of the poor and other big-city-related issues.

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seems we have our own little dictator setting up shop in ottawa. these are dark days, folks.

Please! :) I have a hard time imagining this, knowing to what little degree I do of other goings on in the world. Think about those living in Pakistan under a state of emergency if you think the firing of a government official implies dark days.

This one's a tough one. Do you look within and find the strength to stick up for the rights of a convicted murderer because of how you feel about punishment, or do you let it go and think he's a man with some degree of reason who committed a crime in a place where the penalty for that is more severe? I'm leaning a little to the latter and i'm the furthest thing from being in favour of capital punishment... maybe just because he's a murderer. I can't help think of that one dude who got caned over in Asia years back for chewing gum or something like that... I'd fight for him. I guess i just don't like people who kill other people.

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All I know, is that with the number of botched jobs the judicial system has made over the years that having just ONE innocent person executed is too many. We all know that many have been executed ... even those with mental retardation and Downs Syndrome!

What I want to know is that our government would be willing to fight to bring a convicted Canadian home to serve their time here. I'd hate to have a friend/loved one/myself wrongly arrested, tried, and convicted and have my government let me rot or be killed.

We are a better society for not endorsing the killing of fellow humans via our justice system. It's proven to not be a deterrent to crime anyway.

If we don't extradite people from here to countries where they are certain to face a death penalty then we MUST do everything we can to bring Canadians home from those countries if they are facing that fate.

I'd rather save a human being than kill one.

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I hear you. But i also don't think that sentencing a person to live in a 8x8 cell for the rest of his or her life is 'saving'. Although it does give the judicial system a chance to right a wrong should such a person be found not guilty after all.

I hear you.

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seems we have our own little dictator setting up shop in ottawa. these are dark days' date=' folks.[/quote']

Please! :) I have a hard time imagining this ...

hard time imagining what? that we have a PM who routinely ignores the will of the people, threatens those who oppose his mandate, blindly follows an american president in establishing our national foreign policy, dismisses charter rights, arrogantly governs in secrecy, destroys the environment ... :P

oh the evil he could do if he had a majority ...

dark days are relative.

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o. m. g.

;)

i respect your dramatization for debate purposes (hey, i'm all about it), but C'MON!

How does Harper 'routinely ignore the will of the people'? I can see you personally not agreeing with some policy issues, but i wouldn't say he's ignoring the will of the people. If he was, where's the leader of the opposition who should be protecting that will of yours? If i was of your mindframe where i thought these things (which i really, really don't) i'd be more pissed that the leader of the opposition didn't have the balls to stand up and say something... no? Even worse, should Stephan Dion agree with you and truly think Harper's ignoring the will of the people, he's an even bigger schmuck in letting it all side while waiting out the best possible time for an election. If he really thinks Harpers policy making *that* detrimental to Canada and for Canadians, shouldn't he be doing something about it now? I'd think so. I'd hope so. But he isn't, and are you okay with that?

:crazy:

I don't know where to start with the rest of your post! :)

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Stephen HArper has ignored the will of the people many times in his tyrannical Bush-like reign.

A recent example is how he has flat out refused to help out the Toronto, Mississauga and many other urban centers with funds to update their aging infrastructure. This is incomprehensible especially given the 13 billion budget surplus.

The people in the cities need help with infrastructure an affordable housing to name a few things and Harper continues to give Toronto the big FUCK YOU.

No wonder the Conservatives haven't won a seat in metro since 1988.

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I will sympathize with you, but I can't say denying a city infrastructure money in a budget is tyrannical behaviour. I can't help but imagine the response of a person who is *actually* living under such oppression hear of Canadians complaining about money-allocation issues as tyrannical... i imagine they'd either be seriously pissed or laugh their faces off.

I agree most cities in Canada are in need of major infrastructure upgrades, but the lack of funding isn't 'incomprehensible'. It's far, far more important considering the nature of the global economy in these uncertain days to focus our attention on making good payments on the federal debt, improving trade relationships (!! now that our dollar is at all time record high) and decreasing our dependency on oil. I'd rather have a strong economy secure enough to focus on improvements, rather than a weak and volatile one with good city infrastructure. By then it may not even matter as most Canadian citizens could be out of work and/or not able to afford a car to drive down a super highway. In the meantime, for me at least, it comes down to the old adage, 'short term pain, for long term gain'.

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My personal feelings on capital punishment are far too messy to let it dictate my feelings on this topic, but I think my biggest issue with all this is more due to my lack of faith in the US judicial system and the words "fair trial"

I don't have much feelings for cold blooded murderers, but I'd rather see someone in jail for life then someone get the chair for a crime they didn't commit. I know its rare, but like Kevin mentioned, "one innocent person executed is too many"

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Including self-defense?

Sure. If you break in to my house to do me harm and I can stop you or get away without killing you, I reckon that's a better course of action that putting a bullet in your brain. I'm certainly not suggesting that we treat those who kill in self-defence as murderers, I'm just saying that whenever there is a choice we ought to try to preserve life.

The Conservatives' new policy flies in the face of Canadian values, for what? To save making a few phone calls and sending a few letters on behalf of a doomed person? Is this supposed to improve Canadian-American relations in some way? Or are Harper and the gang testing the waters of public reaction in advance of bringing forward socially conservative legislation?

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It seems like every socially conservative move the Harper government makes is construed as an aim to improve relations with the US. As if conservative thought never existed before the days of GW. It kind of makes me think we don't value ourselves as Canadians and view our existence only in comparison to our neighbours to the south. I find this kind of irritating... and sorry for taking things off topic, just rereading this thread.

Edited by Guest
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Is this supposed to improve Canadian-American relations in some way?

That was a rhetorical question. To be clear -- I was suggesting that this was not the motivation for Harper's decision to change this policy. I reckon it was done to test public reaction to social conservative policy while throwing a bone to the party faithful. Now they get to thumb their noses at the opposition for getting away with changing an ideologically charged policy without submitting to a vote on the issue. Three birds -- one stone.

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It seems like every socially conservative move the Harper government makes is construed as an aim to improve relations with the US. As if conservative thought never existed before the days of GW. It kind of makes me think we don't value ourselves as Canadians and view our existence only in comparison to our neighbours to the south. I find this kind of irritating... and sorry for taking things off topic, just rereading this thread.

YOu are right because every socially conservative thing he does, does in fact bring him more in line with the US. That is how it works.

And yes social conservatism was around before George W. It has been championed by the republicans and the moral right for years prior..see Nixon, Reagan etc...

In Canada in the past Brian Mulroney was the one trying to bring us back to the 50's and father knows best and now Harper has taken up the torch..

This fucker has to go, he is making Canada worse by the day, assassinating our reputation world wide and regressing us socially.

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In Canada in the past Brian Mulroney was the one trying to bring us back to the 50's and father knows best and now Harper has taken up the torch..

One of the greatest quotes about Mulroney's run is that he was "dragging Canada kicking and screaming into the 21st century".

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