Canadian Government Won’t Save Smith

By Beacon Staff

Montana’s top news story Thursday morning was the tearful, impassioned pleas made to Gov. Brian Schweitzer by the families of two Blackfeet men murdered in 1982 by Ronald A. Smith, of Red Deer, Alberta. The families met with Schweitzer after he revealed last week that he has been under pressure from the Canadian government to commute the sentence of Smith – who is currently on death row – and extradite him to Canada.

In the latest development, over the last few days, the Canadian media has reported that the federal government there has undergone a complete U-turn in its policy of campaigning for the extradition of Canadian nationals on death row in foreign countries. Though it is hard to tell how this will affect Schweitzer’s decision, it seems clear he is no longer under pressure from Canadian officials to return Smith.

In Thursday’s Edmonton Journal, Randy Boswell of CanWest News Service reports that last Friday a statement by Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, regarding the Smith case, said “there is no death penalty in Canada and the government of Canada does not support the death penalty.”

According to the report, the statement also said, “”It is the policy of the government of Canada to seek clemency, on humanitarian grounds, for Canadians sentenced to death in foreign countries.”

Then, just two days later, on Monday a spokeswoman for the public safety minister said “there are no ongoing efforts by our government to seek a commutation of the death penalty for Mr. Smith.”

Two days later, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that it will no longer seek to save Smith’s life.

“We are not going to seek clemency in cases in democratic countries, like the United States, where there has been a fair trial,” Boswell quoted a Foreign Affairs spokesperson as stating.

The change comes at a time when Smith’s lawyer has said Canadian extradition was the best chance of avoiding execution.

The story makes clear what the implication’s of the government’s policy reversal will be for Smith: “The decision is likely to seal the fate of Alberta-born Ronald Allen Smith, the only Canadian on death row in the United States, who faces lethal injection in Montana for killing two men in 1982.”

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