Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stephen Harper - Above the law, and beneath contempt

Do you believe in democracy and the rule of law? I do, and I hope the majority of Canadians feel the same. But one fact is clearly evident, our Prime Minister does not.

Canada's Federal Court ruled back in April of this year that the Canadian government must pursue repatriation for Omar Khadr. The decision was reached because not requesting his release from Guantanamo Bay's prison violates our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically the right to security of the person. The decision was appealed, but the original verdict has been upheld.

This is important stuff, very important...regardless of one's personal feelings on the accused's guilt or innocence.

It wasn't very long ago when a person in authority could imprison an individual and mete out any punishment deemed appropriate, including torture and execution, without the benefit of a trial. In fact it still happens in many corners of the globe. I'm talking about justice systems with no courts, no representation and little recourse for someone snatched up by the state's officials. Thankfully societies such as our's have developed to a point where individuals have rights and the ability to seek least in theory.

Stephen Harper wants to take Canadian society back hundreds of years, in fact he already has.

Here's what our Charter says at the very beginning:

"Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law".

In section 11 it says this:

Any person charged with an offence has the right

(a) to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence;

(b) to be tried within a reasonable time;

(c) not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;

(d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;

(e) not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause;

(f) except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;

(g) not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations;

So, how many violations of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms have occurred in the case of Mr. Khadr? The most obvious is his right to be tried within a reasonable time. Omar Khadr was imprisoned at the age of 15, he's now 22. That's almost one full third of his life spent in detention, in limbo, with no judgement having been made about his guilt or innocence.

Don't get hung up on subsection f, the one about military tribunals. All that means is that the accused doesn't have the right to be tried by a jury. If the U.S. had tried this man in a reasonably expedient fashion, and found him guilty, our Charter would not have been violated. Simply leaving him in a jail notorious for accusations of torture without ever bringing him to any form of trial does violate Canadian law.

But our government does nothing.

So you think Canada is a nation ruled by a constitution, and that citizens of this country have rights which are enforceable by our courts? Not in Stephen Harper's Canada. Our highest court makes a decision regarding the rights of a fellow citizen, and our Prime Minister simply ignores it.

If Omar Khadr's Charter rights can be abused by our Prime Minister, then so can your's and mine. I am aware that the accusations against this young man are very serious, that's all well and good. If serious accusations are all that is needed to deprive someone of their rights, then those rights and the Charter espousing them are being used by Stephen Harper as toilet paper. All that is needed for the state to deprive someone of their (sic) God given rights is heinous allegations with zero proof.

The rights enshrined in our Charter are implied at the beginning to have been endowed to us from God. Obviously Stephen Harper thinks his authority to be superior to that of the Almighty. He certainly governs in that fashion.

Bring Omar Khadr home to Canada and try him for his alleged offences. If found guilty, mete out punishment to the full extent of the law. If found innocent, let him go. Those are Mr. Khadr's rights, the same as any citizen of this country. If you think otherwise, then simply anoint Stephen Harper king and abolish our parliament, our courts, and all our democratic institutions.

We're told that part of the reason we're fighting in Afghanistan is to prevent the Taliban from denying Afghan citizens rights we as Canadians take for granted. We're setting a horrible example, Stephen Harper is ruling Canada in a manner the Taliban would be proud of.

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