Posts Tagged ‘Death penalty’


March 6, 2009

In 1982 Alberta-born Ronald Smith killed two residents of Montana in a drunken rage.  Smith was caught, convicted and sentenced to death.

Smith has now been on death row for nearly 26 years.  During those years it has been generally the policy of Canadian governments to try to shield Canadian citizens in foreign countries from the death penalty.  The Harper government has dropped that policy and so dropped its efforts to save Mr. Smith from execution.

Yesterday Mr. Justice Robert Barnes of the Federal Court of Canada ordered the government to revert to the earlier policy and to resume diplomatic efforts to spare the life of Mr. Smith and pave the way for his possible transfer to a prison in Canada.

Canada banned capital punishment in 1976.  It seems clear to me the Canadian government should try to extend that ban to Canadian citizens condemned to death in other countries.   Sadly the United States is one of  the very few western countries that still uses capital punishment.  It is ironic that so civilized a country maintains the so uncivilized  policy as the death penalty.

Do you agree that the Canadian government should use every diplomatic and legal effort to save Mr. Smith?


September 11, 2008

Ever since this country abolished capital punishment in the mid-seventies, Canada’s governments have tried to obtain clemency for Canadians facing capital punishment in other countries. The latest example was the effort to commute the death sentence of an Albert-born killer, named Ronal Smith, held in a prison in Montana.

No longer. Last fall, almost in the dead of night, the Harper government revealed that it was halting all efforts to save Smith. Further the Harper government would no longer seek clemency for any Canadian facing execution in “democratic” countries, such as the U.S. which have “fair trials” and the “rule of law”.

This new “hands off” policy will apply to two young Canadians sentenced to death by beheading in Saudi Arabia. The two brothers insist they are innocent. And how will Harper determine which is or which is not a “democratic country”?

Opposition to Harper’s change of policy has arisen from human rights groups, Canadian editorial writers and both the Anglican and Catholic churches.

Now Ronald Smith and his team of high-profile defence lawyers are suing the Canadian government over its death penalty about-face. The judicial review sparked by Smith’s legal challenge is scheduled to begin on September 29 at the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto – midway through this election campaign.

Canada’s traditional policy of seeking clemency for all its citizens, no matter whose jurisdiction they are in gave Canada’s intervention a moral consistency. We were acting out of a conviction that capital punishment is wrong, no matter where it is carried out. In my view we should get back to that.

Do you believe Harper should be helping U.S. authorities to execute Canadians?

Or should we go back to trying to save Canadians from the death penalty imposed by other countries?

Personal Note:  Tony, we are all missing you on the blog.  I hope there is no problem and that you will be back soon.     Neil