Maybe we could call Van Loan's proposed legislation to abandon as many Canadians imprisoned abroad as possible the Conrad's Revenge Bill. (You will recall that Lord Black cannot take advantage of current law on international prisoner transfers because of that little matter of thumbing his nose at his Canadian citizenship on his way to the House of Lords.)
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the current law on transfers is tilted toward the right of criminals to return home. He said recent court rulings have made it difficult to block transfers except in cases where prisoners are deemed a threat to national security.
"Right now, the law emphasizes the interests of the criminal," Van Loan said.
"We are rebalancing that law to take into account the interests of Canadian society."
You have to wonder, though, why Van Loan would suddenly be worried about what the law "emphasizes," much less what it actually says. According to NDP justice critic Joe Comartin, the Harper government has already blocked up to 80 per cent of transfer applications, in open violation of the law and treaty obligations, and the proposed changes are an attempt to legalize their current practices retroactively:
[Comartin] pointed out that transferred prisoners are put behind bars in Canada and, therefore, can't be considered a threat to public safety. Moreover, if they've been convicted of a crime abroad, their victims are unlikely to be in Canada.
"It's a complete masquerade," he said. "I mean, that's just outright falsehood on their part. This has got nothing to do with public security at all.
"It is straight ideological on their part. They promised that they would do this to their hard-core, right-wing supporters."
Liberal consular affairs critic Dan McTeague expressed concern that the changes could allow the government to ignore human rights abuses against Canadians jailed in countries with notoriously harsh justice and prison systems.
Moreover, he said part of the rationale for returning prisoners to Canada is to ensure they get rehabilitation that will help reintegrate them into Canadian society upon release.
What? Human-rights abuses in the notoriously harsh -- maybe even unjust -- justice and prison systems of other countries? Peter Van Loan or any of his colleagues is going to give a fig about such sissy concerns after the nose-thumbing they've given domestic and international human-rights law these past few weeks? Especially when one of those other countries now running a notoriously harsh and unjust prison system just happens to be the U.S. of GTMO, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and countless other sites to be named later, much later, far too late for all kinds of people:
Van Loan said the proposed changes don't relate to Omar Khadr, because he has not been convicted of anything yet ...
"In the case of Mr. Khadr, obviously, he is facing a trial," Van Loan said. "He has not been found guilty at this time."
But he faces "very serious charges," the minister no doubt wishes us all to remember. And the minister's boss is not for giving in to any law that "emphasizes" the interests of the
criminal person who faces "very serious charges." Not that that person has been found guilty ... at this time ... of course.
And with that, the minister licked his chops and headed off for dinner.