Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Conservatives and the Death Penalty

I'm confused.

Is the Conservative government for seeking clemency in cases involving the death penalty, or not?

I was going to ask the question if the Conservative government was going to seek clemency in the case of Mohamed Kohail, who was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia [CTV, Montrealer sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia]:
Friends of a Canadian jailed in Saudi Arabia on murder charges lashed out at Saudi justice and demanded help from the Canadian government Monday upon learning that he was convicted and sentenced to a public beheading.
I was going to ask, but then my Google search turned up this tidbit [Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa wins no-execution guarantee for American murder suspect]:
Despite its controversial refusal to seek clemency for a Canadian murderer on death row in Montana, the Conservative government has won a no-execution guarantee from U.S. authorities for an alleged American killer facing deportation from Quebec to South Carolina, Canwest News Service has learned.
Contrast this with the government's public position of no longer seeking clemency for Canadians being sentenced to death.

Supporters will argue, that the Conservative government can still seek clemency because its position is that it will simply not automatically seek clemency.

What, then, is the criteria the Conservatives are using to decide when to seek clemency? I know - polls.

On November 5, the Toronto Star reported that the Conservatives found little support for the death penalty, with the strongest support in Alberta and the weakest in Newfoundland & Labrador.

Ronald Allen Smith was born in Alberta and Roger Eugene Shephard fled to Quebec. I could connect the dots, but I won't.

Either way, the Conservative government needs to explain to Canadians - supporters and non-supporters alike - what their consistent "principled" Conservative viewpoint of the death penalty is.

Updated: Thanks to Scott Tribe in the comments for explaining it further.

It seems that the government must seek assurances that the death penalty will not be used on persons being extradited to a country where the death penalty is a possibility.

If, however, you are already there, there is no requirement for the government to seek similar assurances.

Updated x 2: Ronald Smith is fighting the government's new policy [CBC, Canada's reversal of death row policy called unconstitutional]:
Lawyers for an Albertan on death row in Montana are asking the Federal Court to force the Canadian government to continue seeking clemency for him.

An application to the court says the federal government acted unconstitutionally when it reversed a long-standing tradition of lobbying foreign governments to show mercy on Canadian citizens facing death sentences.

3 comments:

Scott Tribe said...

My understanding, Jim, is that the Conservatives in the latter case you mentioned have no choice in the matter but to ask US Authorities to guarantee no death penalty, because they are bound by a Canadian Supreme Court decision that ruled extradition of individual to their country who had the death penalty and faced death would be considered cruel punishment or a violation of their rights etc.

That's slightly different from declaring they would no longer ask foreign governments for clemency involving Canadian citizens who faced the death penalty in foreign countries considered to have "fair rule of law" justice systems.

Jim said...

That could be it.

Jim said...

So, I've been poking around a little bit more.

It seems "extradition" is the key here.

There was another case, where two 18 year old Canadians were going to be charged with a crime in Washington and the then-Liberal government wanted them extradited without the assurances.

The government got slapped.

In the case of Smith, he was never extradited.

So, cruel and unusual punishment is "okay" as long as no one comes to Canada to get you.