Harper Government Faces Sovereignty Test Monday
May 9, 2010 by Paul McKeever
Canada’s federal Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson, has until 4:00 PM on Monday, May 10, 2010, to decide whether or not to grant an American request that Canadian individual freedom activist and publisher Marc Emery be extradited to the USA. Emery has been on bail since November of 2009, while awaiting a decision by the Justice Minister. Because Nicholson still has made no decision, Emery will attend court again tomorrow at 9:00 AM will request an extension of his bail unless Nicholson has made a decision by 4:00 PM. The Justice Minister’s lawyers may also attend court tomorrow to request an extension of the time he is permitted (by Canada’s Extradition Act) to make the decision. If extradited, Emery faces 5 years hard time in a US federal prison, a sentence that – by Canadian standards – would be a cruel and unusual punishment.
The investigation of Marc Emery’s seed campaign commenced years after it had already acquired international recognition and fame. The Vancouver police force, and the governments of Canada, of British Columbia, and of Vancouver all knew Emery was selling cannabis seeds. In fact, it was also known world-wide that Emery paid the Canadian Revenue Agency hundreds of thousands of dollars in income taxes each year, and identified himself, in his tax returns, as a cannabis seed seller. And, through countless profiles and quotations in A-list media, including the Wall Street Journal (1995 – front page), National Enquirer (1996), CBC (1996, 1998, 2003), CNN (1997), CBS (1998), Time Magazine (2000), Mclean’s Magazine (2001), the police, all governments, and the rest of the world’s population were inundated with descriptions of Emery’s motive and twofold method: (a) to raise money for anti-prohibition ballot initiatives in the USA, for political parties and candidates the world over, for court challenges, and for the publication of his anti-prohibition magazine, Cannabis Culture (by 2005, he had given such efforts millions of dollars generated by the sale of cannabis seeds), and (b) “plant the seeds of freedom, overgrow the government” by facilitating the continent-wide growth of so much marijuana that the government would finally realize it fiscally infeasible to destroy it all. Emery has described it as a “peaceful revolution” involving not guns, but “botany”.
However, in 2002, Emery ran for Mayor of Vancouver. His campaign focused on alleged corruption within the Vancouver Police Department at a time when that force was being heavily criticized for its failure to have successfully investigated the murder of numerous prostitutes in the area. Emery promised to “squeeze the nuts” of the Vancouver Chief of Police for getting involved in proposing policy instead of focusing on the job of enforcing the law. He promised to “expose corruption”, called the VPD “dirty” and, ultimately, called it “evil”. He promised to take out full-page ads in Vancouver newspapers concerning the police, which he called “the worst police force” in Canada.
During that mayoral campaign, Canada’s Senate issued a report recommending the legalization of marijuana – not just for medical purposes, but for recreational purposes as well. It thoroughly debunked the numerous false allegations made by cannabis prohibitionists. Canada’s House of Commons was scheduled to release its report months later. On November 20th, 2002, just after the mayoral race had ended, and before the House of Commons could issue its report, America’s then drug czar John Walters was invited by the Vancouver Board of trade to give a speech. Emery bought a table-for-10 for the event. There were also 6 tables of police officers present. As Walters launched into a range of half-truths – all of which had been debunked by Canada’ senate – Emery and the guests at his table called out “lies” and otherwise heckled the drug czar whenever he made a misrepresentation about cannabis. The police in attendance were angered, telling Emery and his guests to shut up. Walters was humiliated and incensed, and media the world over caught it all on film…film that was aired around the globe that evening.
Later that evening, a Vancouver police officer in its drug squad escorted Walters to Emery’s so-called “pot block” where Emery’s “Cannabis Culture Headquarters” store and “BC Marijuana Party Headquarters” are located, right next door to the New Amsterdam Cafe, where patrons openly smoke cannabis without being harassed by police. One of its patrons puffed a cloud of hash smoke into Walters’ face while he looked on.
Months later, in the summer of 2003, the Vancouver police brought the results of their investigation to Crown prosecutors. However, in January of 2003, an Ontario court held that Canada had no law against the possession of 30g or less of marijuana, because the federal government had failed to correct a statute that violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms (because it unconstitutionally prevented medical patients from obtaining and using cannabis). The Crown refused to prosecute Emery. The Vancouver police force having been shown the door by Canada’s prosecutors, the Vancouver police decided to share their Emery file with American authorities, including the DEA. The DEA, with the assistance of Canadian police in Vancouver, continued to investigate Emery on Canadian turf. In July of 2005, US authorities requested Emery’s extradition to the USA
At that time, Canada was governed by the Liberal Party of Canada, then led by Paul Martin. Under Canada’s Extradition Act, a person cannot be arrested for extradition purposes without Canada’s Justice Minister first granting an “authority to proceed”. At the time, Canada’s Justice Minister was Irwin Cotler, a human rights lawyer who is currently the Liberal Member of Parliament for the riding of Mount Royal. As is apparently normal – though still ridiculously unacceptable – the matter of issuing an authority to proceed is delegated to government lawyers in the International Assistance Group, which makes such decisions on behalf of Justice Ministers. That said, Cotler had the power – and, I would argue, the moral obligation – of declining to issue an authority to proceed.
In January of 2006, Canada’s Liberal Party deservedly fell both from grace and from power, creating a power vacuum just strong enough to give the Conservative Party of Canada enough seats to form the smallest minority government in Canadian history. And, with that change, the Emery file got dropped in the lap of the Conservative Justice Minister who replaced Cotler, Vic Toews (now Rob Nicholson, Member of Parliament for Niagara Falls).
By late 2005, the clamor to have Emery shipped to the USA appeared largely to have died down, owing perhaps to America’s then focus on the November 2006 election. Since that time, Emery’s case has been largely in limbo, as the parties have attempted to come to terms of settlement. Emery’s lawyers and U.S. authorities came to a tentative deal in January of 2008, whereby Emery would serve a 5 year sentence in Canada. The deal required the approval of Canada’s federal conservative government. Without explanation, the conservatives refused to approve the deal. Accordingly, Emery was forced to agree to 5 years imprisonment in a US facility, where he will have relatively limited contact with any Canadian audience. The conservatives having launched their “anti-drug strategy” in 2007, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper having declared that the enemy was a permissive “culture”, the refusal to allow Emery to serve his time in Canada appears designed to please spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child conservatives, and to silence Emery during his prison stay: Emery in the past has continued to publish from prison, using his imprisonment to stoke the fires of political outrage against prohibitionists.
Canada’s Conservative government has taken care to build a reputation for being pro-federalist, and for being strong on national sovereignty. In the context of defending Canada’s oil and gas reserves under the arctic sea bed, Prime Minister Harper has stated that: “Protecting national sovereignty – the integrity of our borders – is the first and foremost responsibility of a national government.” The long, dark and smelly history of Emery’s investigation and arrest is rightly one with which the Liberal party should be saddled: it all happened under their watch. For the Conservatives now to surrender Emery for extradition to the USA would destroy any hope they have of appearing credible on national sovereignty, and would needlessly leave them wearing the mess that the Liberals created.
Almost 8 years have passed since Canada’s Crown refused to prosecute Emery for selling cannabis. Almost 5 years has passed since the Liberal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler allowed this farce to take root. This mess was not created by Canada’s Conservatives, and until Emery’s committal in September of 2009 (the second, judicial phase of Canada’s extradition process), Justice Minister Rob Nicholson could do little but wait. Indeed, Emery’s lawyer having fallen ill for several months, a decision by Nicholson could not feasibly be made before January 8, 2010, when Emery’s lawyer made his submissions about Emery’s extradition. But enough time has passed. The right move for Nicholson, for the Conservative Party, for respect for administration of justice in Canada, and for Canadians as a whole, is to announce – tomorrow – that the request to surrender Marc Emery to the USA is refused. It would be a mistake, and a needless tragedy, to prolong this Liberal-sponsored abuse of the legal system in Canada.
Closing Note: The complete history of Marc Emery’s numerous (most not marijuana-related) political campaigns can be watched for free on Paul McKeever’s youtube channel: www.youtube.com/paulmckeever. Part 1 of “The Principle of Pot” covers Emery’s the period 1975 through 1990, a period in which none of Emery’s campaigns related to cannabis. Part 2 of “The Principle of Pot covers the period 1990 to present. The final segment of Part 2 provides in-depth analysis of the political dynamics involved in Justice Minister Nicholson’s decision regarding Emery’s extradition.