Ronald Allen Smith, Montana, Lethal injection

Harper floats return of death penalty

By —— Bio and Archives--November 13, 2007

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Last month the Conservative government reversed a long standing policy of requesting clemency for Canadians who are sentenced to death in other countries. Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day, announced that Canada would not be seeking clemency for Ronald Allen Smith, a 50-year-old Albertan who is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Montana. Smith was convicted in 1982 for the cold blooded killing of two young men in that state. According to the evidence, Smith said that he killed them just to see what it would be like.


Harper’s reasoning in the reversal of this policy is that seeking clemency sends the wrong message to Canadians about violent crime. If that was the real or only reason for the change, there was a much less controversial way to go about it. The government could have gone through the motions of asking for a commutation of Smith’s sentence while privately urging the governor of Montana to put Smith to death. The execution of a Canadian south of the border would have made the news in Canada and sent what Harper considers to be the right message about violent crime.

There is really only one logical rationale for the policy change. The government is testing the waters regarding the return of the death penalty in Canada that was abolished in the late 1970s. Although there is very little certainty in the political world, as sure as night follows day when something like this happens, it is inevitably followed by opinion polls.

A Harris-Decima survey, prepared for the Canadian Press and released yesterday, showed that half of the respondents opposed the government’s decision not to seek clemency for Smith while 43 per cent were in favour of the government’s change in policy. Not surprisingly, 58 per cent of those who supported the government’s position described themselves as Conservatives. The survey also revealed, again to no surprise, that young, female urban voters opposed the decision in greater numbers.

The commutation of Smith’s sentence would be an embarrassment to this country if he were returned to Canada to serve his “life sentence”. He’s already been in jail for 25 years and would immediately be eligible to apply for parole. And, on the chance that Ronald Allen Smith is correct; that the 50-year-old man is not now the danger that he was 25 years ago, he could end up walking the streets of Alberta. The chance of this happening should really have nothing to do with seeking a reprieve of the ultimate penalty that has been handed down to a Canadian citizen.

A downside to this change in policy is that it is going to focus attention on Omar Khadr who is currently residing in Guantanamo Bay. He is one Canadian citizen who has received absolutely no help from the Canadian government. What distinguishes Khadr from others is that he received no help from the previous bleeding-heart Liberal government either. And for very good reason—no one cares. The government’s current position is bound to focus more attention on Khadr and win some sympathy for him. They should have left well enough alone.

There seems to be no logical reason for this change of policy other than the


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Arthur Weinreb -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Arthur Weinreb is an author, columnist and Associate Editor of Canada Free Press. Arthur’s latest book, Ford Nation: Why hundreds of thousands of Torontonians supported their conservative crack-smoking mayor is available at Amazon. Racism and the Death of Trayvon Martin is also available at Smashwords. His work has appeared on Newsmax.com,  Drudge Report, Foxnews.com.

Older articles (2007) by Arthur Weinreb

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