Tories' Reputation in Tatters - Embassy Editorial
The recent ruling by a Federal Court judge that the government must do everything within its power to repatriate Abousfian Abdelrazik represents the third strike against the Conservatives in almost as many months when it comes to protecting Canadians abroad.
It all started on March 4 when Federal Court Justice Robert Barnes dealt a blow to the government's efforts to define a new policy on seeking clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty abroad.
For more than 20 years, successive Canadian governments had lobbied the governor of Montana to commute the death sentence of Ronald Smith, who was sentenced to die for murdering two men in the U.S. state in 1982. The government's support for Mr. Smith was part of a longstanding policy to seek clemency for Canadians sentenced to death abroad following Canada's abolishment of capital punishment.
However, the Conservative government revealed in late 2007 that it would not be supporting Mr. Smith's bid for clemency as part of a new policy that would instead see the government intervene on a case-by-case basis.
Justice Barnes overturned that, ruling: "The decision by the government of Canada to withdraw support for Mr. Smith was made in breach of the duty of fairness, is unlawful and is set aside." He went on to write that in Mr. Smith's case, the government would have "to continue to apply the former policy of supporting clemency on behalf of Canadians facing the death penalty in any foreign state."
Then on April 23, Federal Court Justice James O'Reilly ruled that the Canadian government must press for Omar Khadr's repatriation from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held since 2002.
"The ongoing refusal of Canada to request Mr. Khadr's repatriation to Canada offends a principle of fundamental justice and violates Mr. Khadr's rights" under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Justice O'Reilly's decision read. "To mitigate the effect of that violation, Canada must present a request to the United States for Mr. Khadr's repatriation to Canada as soon as practicable."
The hat-trick of Federal Court decisions on Conservative treatment of Canadians abroad was completed Thursday when Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn ruled that the Harper government had violated Mr. Abdelrazik's rights and that it must fly him home from Khartoum immediately. In particular, Justice Zinn slammed Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's handling of the case, noting he had asked to the court and Canadians to just "trust me."
The Sudanese-Canadian has been trapped in his home country for nearly six years. Most recently, the Conservative government has refused to grant him travel documents, charging he is a threat to Canada's national security, despite the fact it has not produced any evidence against him, and both the RCMP and CSIS have cleared him of suspicion.
The Conservative government's reputation as a defender of human rights that will stand up for Canadians is in tatters, and instead we see that it will arbitrarily pick and choose who it will defend and help based on its own whims and interests.