Thursday, August 27, 2009

Liberals to oppose consular assistance legislation?

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar is drafting a bill that would make government and responsible ministers accountable when Canadian citizens like Suaad Hagi Mohamud are mistreated by Canadian officials abroad or by foreign governments. The proposed legislation would guarantee consular services to these citizens, rather than leaving it up to government to pick and choose whom they will help and whom they will abandon to their fate.

But the Liberals, headed by former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff, just aren't all that keen.

"It's already the law," Mohamud's MP Joe Volpe claims. "If (the government has) broken the first law, what's to prevent them from breaking the second law?"

Where has Volpe been--off on Planet X
all summer with his Leader? It is not "already the law." There is no law in place that forces the government to offer help to Canadians in a jam overseas. While a recent federal court decision (in the case of Abousfian Abdelrazik) has chipped away at the notion of Royal Prerogative invoked by Lawrence Cannon, that dealt narrowly with the issuance of a passport.

What happened to Mohamud and Abdihakim Mohamed goes well beyond that. Foreign Affairs officials toyed with them, and, in Mohamed's case, is still doing so after more than three years. Not only were they unhelpful--they took proactive measures to cause them harm.

What Dewar is calling for is already the law in Germany and in the US: there is a legal obligation on the part of those states to come to the aid of their citizens abroad. Not in Canada.
Obviously there should be: but the Liberals, addicted as they have always been to power and its perks, appear set to oppose Dewar's bill. They don't want their own hands tied if they form a government someday.

The cynicism in Volpe's statement is telling, but not surprising. There will almost certainly be more Abdelraziks, more Mohamuds and Mohameds, as ministers continue to wield arbitrary power and consular officials do likewise. But this time the Liberals, not the Conservatives, will be to blame.

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