Louise Arbour made a statement yesterday criticising a change in Canada's foreign policy with respect to capital punishment. Recently, Canada indicated that it would not campaign against the death penalty when it is imposed on Canadian nationals in, for example, the United States. Several years ago, Texas executed a Canadian national - Stanley Faulder - who had not been informed of his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, in violation of the treaty (as the International Court of Justice has confirmed in the LaGrand and Avena cases). At the time, Canada's government worked hard to prevent the execution. But Ottawa has changed. To add to this, the Canadian government has decided not to co-sponsor the resolution on capital punishment now working its way through the General Assembly. Louise Arbour also took issue with that shift in Canadian policy. See her statement: http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=c67cdd9d-7ac5-402b-ace9-edb4111fe8ca&k=32349.
Fortunately, even if some of the neo-cons in Ottawa are nostalgic for the noose, it will be pretty hard for them to set the clock back. In November 2005, Irwin Cotler, who was then Minister of Justice, pushed through Canadian accession to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Canada is bound, as a matter of international law, not to impose the death penalty, and not to reinstate it, and not to cooperate in its imposition in any way. As far as domestic law is concerned, the Supreme Court of Canada made it very clear in the Burns and Rafay case, in 2001, that the Canadian constitution forbids capital punishment (http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2001/2001scc7/2001scc7.html). Irwin Cotler and I were counsel for Amnesty International in that case. We submitted an amicus curiae brief. And guess who was one of the members of the Supreme Court of Canada when it issued the important ruling: Louise Arbour. She resigned from the Court in 2003 to take up her current job as High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Bravo Louise. Bravo Irwin. Shame on Canada.