National Post (Latest Edition)

Prisoner transfers scaled back

Requests to serve time in Canada being denied

- BY RICHARD FOOT

O T TAWA • The Conservati­ve government has become the first in a decade to deny Canadian citizens imprisoned in the United States the chance to serve out their sentences in Canada.

Documents from the Correction­al Service of Canada, the agency that deals with internatio­nal prisoner transfers, show that from 1997 to 2005, Ottawa approved every applicatio­n to transfer a convict from a U.S. to a Canadian prison.

In 2006, the year the federal Conservati­ves took power, five transfer requests were denied, even though U.S. authoritie­s had approved the transfers.

This year, as of June, 12 transfer requests already approved by the U.S. had been turned down by Canada, while only two were approved.

In the five years before the Conservati­ves took charge of the agency, the government approved an average of 38 transfers from U.S. prisons each year.

The new stand appears to reflect the views of Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who is responsibl­e for transfers.

In a column published last November in the Penticton Western News, a newspaper in his British Columbia riding, Mr. Day wrote of his disgust with prison transfers for convicted drug dealers.

“B.C. dope dealers busted in the U.S. are demanding to be transferre­d back to cozier Canadian jails and reduced prison times,” he wrote.

“Memo to drug dealer: I’m no dope ... Enjoy the U.S.”

John Conroy, a B.C. defence lawyer who represents several Canadian convicts whose transfers have been turned down by the government, blames Mr. Day directly for the policy.

“Is Mr. Day acting in the public interest or because of a peculiar attitude he has toward various offences?” Mr. Conroy asks.

Mr. Day declined a request for an interview, but his spokeswoma­n said the new government policy is part of the Conservati­ves’ hard line on crime, some- thing the party campaigned on in the last election.

“[The annual transfer numbers] show that the previous Liberal government put criminals’ rights first,” Melisa Leclerc said. “We do not. Canada’s new government will always put the security of Canadians and their communitie­s first.”

However, federal documents show that the correction­s agency believes that transfer programs actually contribute to public security.

A 2005 internal report on t he agency ’s internatio­nal transfer of offenders program said convicts who are transferre­d home f all under the watch of Canadian authoritie­s, who can monitor their behaviour in prison and assess their risk to society.

“The alternativ­e is that the offender is deported to Canada (at the completion of his or her U.S. sentence) without correction­al supervisio­n/jurisdicti­on and without the benefit of programmin­g and a gradual structured release into the community,” the report says.

Canada’s Internatio­nal Transfer of Offenders Act says the minister has discretion to refuse transfers if the applicants are a threat to the “security of Canada,” if they have abandoned Canada as their place of permanent residence, or if they lack family or social ties in this country. The minister must also consider whether the foreign prison system is a threat to the offenders’ human rights.

Since 2006, Mr. Day has denied transfers to at least two Canadians on security grounds, including Arend Getkate, a 24year-old Ontario man serving a 30-year sentence in Georgia for child molestatio­n. Both U.S. and Canadian correction­s officials had approved his request, but Mr. Day overrode it.

Canadian Sacha Bond, 22, who reportedly has bipolar disorder, is serving a 20-year sentence in Florida for attempted murder. He has also been denied a transfer on national security grounds, a provision of the transfer laws that is intended to keep terrorists or organized crime figures out of the country.

Another Canadian, Plamen Kozarov, 52, is serving a five-year, 10-month sentence in Florida for drug dealing. Mr. Kozarov’s applicatio­ns for transfer have twice been refused by Mr. Day’s office, on the grounds that Mr. Kozarov abandoned Canada for a life in the U.S.

Mr. Kozarov’s transfer was refused despite a recommenda­tion by correction­al authoritie­s to allow it.

Mr. Conroy, who represents Mr. Kozarov, filed for judicial review of the government’s decision. He argued that Mr. Kozarov’s Canadian citizenshi­p and his constituti­onal mobility rights to enter and exit Canada are not extinguish­ed simply because he is a convicted criminal.

The Federal Court of Canada only partly agreed.

“Plamen Kozarov is a Canadian citizen; not a very good one, but a citizen neverthele­ss,” Justice Sean Harrington wrote in a decision last month.

But Judge Harrington ultimately sided with the government, saying a citizen isn’t free to exercise his mobility rights as long as he is in jail.

That decision muddied the law, because in 2004 the same court said the government could not delay the transfer of a convicted Canadian whom U.S. officials wanted moved to Canada.

“We now have not only confusion in the law,” says Conroy, “but a situation where citizens in prison outside the country don’t have the right to enter Canada, even when the country in which they did the crime is ready to send them back.

“Many of these people are convicted of bad offences. Nobody’s going to say we should ignore their offences.

“But citizens are still citizens, even after they’re convicted of a crime, and the government can’t just render its citizens stateless.”

 ?? CANWEST NEWS SERVICE ?? Stockwell Day’s office has turned down requests to transfer Canadians serving time in U.S. jails, despite support from Correction­s Canada to allow the moves.
CANWEST NEWS SERVICE Stockwell Day’s office has turned down requests to transfer Canadians serving time in U.S. jails, despite support from Correction­s Canada to allow the moves.

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