Brenda Martin and Canadians detained abroad
March 24, 2008 · By Charles Anthony
There seems to be a dash of useful commentary buried amid the chaotic ravings against the Conservative government for doing nothing to help Canadians who get shafted in foreign judicial systems. StÃ©phane Dion said:
“How, then, can he say that Canada will intervene with Saudi Arabia to spare the life of Mr. Kohail? How is it also possible for Canada to have legal assistance treaties with other countries â€” including Mexico?” Dion said.
The first problem that I have (and I would hope this should be obvious) is that the government can not rescue every single Canadian throughout the whole wide world who may be suffering obvious injustice. It is just impossible. Therefore, it seems unfair for the government to play favorites. [The irony is that governments always play favorites. Every time a government acts, it plays favorites. I wonder if the Liberals understand that.] Although, I am sure Dion only meant to ask a rhetorical question to highlight a double standard in state intervention but if that is the only way we can get intelligent commentary from the leader of the federal Liberals, so be it. On second thought, it would not surprise me if Dion’s political strategy involves the advocacy of saving every single Canadian throughout the whole wide world — I have yet to hear anything more mature come from his mouth in either official language.
[In other news, an RCMP search-and-rescue team take a few Griffon helicopters out to save a British adventurer trapped in her vain solo ski trek to the North Pole. Who pays that bill?]
Secondly, I am not too certain I want the Canadian government to have legal assistance treaties with other countries. The cynic in me fears that it is just a front for giving nation states political bargaining power for issues that have nothing to do with justice. Marc Emery is facing extradition to the U.S. for a non-crime in Canada.
I see no reason to trust a state that imprisons foreigners when they have the option of deporting and banishing them from their country. Incarceration is generally a bizarre state construct and this fact becomes more evident when we examine such inter-state or cross-jurisdictional cases. Brenda Martin said something very powerful, in my opinion:
“Right now there is so much negative publicity for Mexico, and for what? For a 51-year-old woman who allegedly received $26,000 illegally? [Someone] has to put this in perspective and simply let me go.”
She is right — unless they want something from her.
Maybe they think she can provide information to lead to further arrests. I do not know. Maybe the Mexican prosecutors just want to look tough to local Mexicans. Prosecutors love looking tough — it helps further their political careers. Maybe, like most bureaucrats, the more work they create for themselves, the more they get paid! Whatever the reason, the Mexicans can simply deport Brenda Martin to Canada and bar her from ever entering Mexico again.
Why would the Mexican authorities waste their time, effort and money on Brenda Martin? The actual fraudster, Alyn Waage, is already convicted and serving time. He insists that Brenda Martin is innocent and that they are holding her as collateral for a $500,000 bribe he was supposed to pay in exchange for his release. Sadly, that sort of corruption does not surprise me and it makes the most sense.
I have a lot of sympathy for Brenda Martin and her plight. However, I have no proof of what Brenda Martin was doing in Mexico. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is an innocent woman. A friend of mine, spent a few years in North African and Spanish jails after being set up on trumped up smuggling charges. Generally, I distrust most legal systems and my distrust is greater for foreign ones.
Canadians travel to Mexico all of the time. Some get scape-goated for crimes but most have a peaceful vacation or business trip. One thing I do know for certain is that I have never been to Mexico and I can not afford to go there. Maybe one day, I will.
Why should my taxes go to pay for one person’s legal debacle in a country I can not afford to visit???? That certainly does not seem fair. Even if it is fair, it certainly is no way to run a country without going bankrupt.