Thursday, July 30, 2009

Citizenship and extradition

Today's post is a response to a series of exchanges over twitter regarding the Diab case. For those not familiar with the case here is a link to the National Post Editorial about it yesterday. In essence a Lebanese-born Canadian citizen has been accused of being involved in a bombing in France 29 years ago.

Here is the bulk of an exchange:

@dominionpundit Why are people so eager to strip citizenship, especially before trials? If he is convicted let him serve his sentance.

@theRoundhouse good pt. but, Canadians need to be vigilant to ensure govt enable our country to be a safe haven for terrorists.

@dominionpundit I would agree, but why not wait and see if there is actually any reason to discuss it first?

@theRoundhouse not comfortable w terrorists landing here,get citizenship,leave to terrorize under my flag, tarnishing my citizenship brand.

@dominionpundit Diab case, if sustained, relates to an event in 1980, so nothing to do with 'your flag' & all citizens must be equal to govt

@theRoundhouse I should say, even natural born Canadians should not expect AUTOMATIC clemency req from our govt when arrested for terror

@theRoundhouse re Diab.event was before he was granted Cdn cit.if convicted,means he lied on imm app.hence,loss of Cdn cit.

@theroundhouse If we have extradition treaties,Cdn cit(born here or not) shld be extradited for trial(pedo in Thailand, terrorism elsewhere)

@theRoundhouse Cdn cit shld not b getoutof-international jail free card if ur sought for crimes abroad. (assuming legal system is fair) no?

There are several issues in play during this exchange, and I want to deal with them separately, The first is citizenship. Citizenship to me is both a legal state and a principle. If you are a Canadian then you enjoy the rights and privileges thereof, as well as the obligations. I do not recognize any distinction between 'natural born' and naturalized citizens - either you are a Canadian or you are not. To think otherwise is to invite the creation of a caste system, in which some are more equal than others. The last thing any Canadian wants is for the government to be able to decide whether or not they are, in fact, a Canadian and thus worthy of access to those rights and privileges.

In recent years, starting under the Martin government and worsening under the Harper government, there has been a devaluation of Canadian citizenship. Among the chattering classes this has become a popular topic for conversation, and you see it regularly in the blogoshpere. Another person discussing this today:

The second issue is that of extradition. In this @domionpundit and I are in complete agreement - where Canada has an extradition treaty we are obligated to give up any citizen charged with a crime. In cases where there is no treaty we are not so obligated, and such cases need to be examined individually to determine if there is both reasonable cause for extradition and reasonable expectation of a fair trial.

The third issue is the idea that terrorism is somehow a crime sui generis. Organized terrorism is closest, in organizational terms, to organized crime, and needs to be tackled in the same manner; combining efficient enforcement with the elimination of its root causes. Terrorism is also not new, despite some of the rhetoric in circulation these days. Even Western Europe & North America have historical experience: during the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th anarchists assassinated a President of the United States, a King of Italy, a President of France and a Premier of Spain within a few years of one another, among many other bombings and attacks. No constitutions were suspended or Patriot Acts passed, and the threat was dealt with within the existing laws.

Finally there is the question of government responsibility. The Canadian government is responsible for the protection of all Canadian citizens, regardless of their identity or the date of their citizenship. That doesn't mean that Canadians should be protected from foreign prosecution, of course. It also doesn't mean that Canadians abroad should expect to be rescued when they travel abroad - in the other countries of the world Canadians are aliens, though hopefully legal ones! In the event of a foreign country arresting a Canadian our government should represent us, and ensure that we are given due process and protected from violations of the law as it stands in that country and internationally.

In situations such as Mr. Diab's that means that he is free on bail while awaiting his extradition hearing for a trial in France sometime next year. Should he be convicted he will serve his sentence, and upon his release be free to return to Canada. In the case of Mr. Abdelrazik it means that the Canadian government should have been pushing for his return years ago, and certainly that he should have been brought home to Ottawa as soon as he set foot in the Canadian Embassy in Sudan 2 years ago. In the case of Omar Khadr, held in Guantanamo Bay, it means that our government should be pushing tirelessly to see him either released or charged with a crime and tried in a legal civilian court.

The idea that the government gets to choose which citizens to help is profoundly frightening. It is perhaps less frightening to me, as a white anglo with a safe name, but it is frightening nonetheless. Either citizenship applies to us all or we accept the creation of a stratified society in which, as Orwell said, some are more equal than others.

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