My wife Jodie went to Canada’s Parliament in Ottawa on Tuesday, October 29th to hold a press conference alongside three Members of Parliament, asking Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney to approve my treaty transfer application so I can serve out the remainder of my sentence in the Canadian prison system.
My application for transfer is made under the bilateral US-Canada treaty called the International Transfer of Offenders Act (ITOA). The director of international prisoner transfer for the US Department of Justice, Paula Wolff, approved my transfer application in July of this year, while Judge Martinez at my 2010 sentencing recommended I be transferred to Canada at the earliest possible date. The prosecutor of my case, Todd Greenburg, had no objection either.
The Correctional Service of Canada received my application to the Canadian government in February 2013. They completed their investigation in May, and recommended the Minister approve my transfer. On June 30th, the US Department of Justice issued a Removal Order, giving me Expedited Deportation pending Canadian government approval. And since July 9th, when my transfer was approved by Paula Wolff of the DoJ, all that has been required is the signature of the Canadian Public Safety Minister on one piece of paper, and I would be transferred to a prison in Abbotsford, BC, then likely to Ferndale minimum security federal prison nearby.
When the Liberal Party was in power up to 2006, Canadian prisoners abroad were automatically transferred back to Canada, as The Charter of rights (the Canadian Constitution) guarantees. If the Liberals were still the governing party now, I would have been immediately released upon my arrival in Canada, since I long ago (July 7, 2013) fulfilled the two-thirds sentence served requirement for all Canadian prisoners to get statutory release. But since the Conservatives have been in office (March 2006 to present), they have ignored or refused more transfer requests, and changed the law to extend the time a transferred prisoner has to serve in the Canadian prison system.
So, whereas under the Liberal regime I would have been transferred immediately back to Canada in July or August of this year, and released upon arrival, if I am now transferred back to Canada under the new Conservative rules, I will be in prison till mid-next June, only a few weeks short of my US release date (July 9th, 2014, which is 85% of the five-year sentence, early release for “good behaviour”).
Despite US federal government approval, my full qualification under the ITOA treaty, and my Charter rights, the Public Safety Minister has ignored my application for over four months now, and shows no intention of approving it or taking it seriously, even though he has personally signed numerous letters to my supporters acknowledging their endorsement of my transfer.
I would first like to say I am very grateful that three Opposition parties in Parliament support my return to Canada, a level of support no other transfer applicant has ever had before. The New Democratic Party (31% of the last election vote), The Liberal Party (19%) and the Green Party (4%) received the votes of 54% of Canadians in the last federal election in 2011. Due to Canada’s electoral system, the Conservative Party governs Canada with a majority of seats, even though it received only 40% of the vote in that election.
The leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, along with the Deputy Leader of the NDP, Libby Davies, and the former Public Safety Minister and current Public Safety Critic of the Liberal Party, Wayne Easter, all joined Jodie at her press conference in Parliament to urge my speedy return to serve my remaining time in a Canadian prison near my home in Vancouver. Such support for Jodie and I is dearly appreciated. The complete ten-minute press conference is available online to view (click here or watch below).
Here are some quotes from the press conference by Jodie Emery and MP’s May, Easter, and Davies. To hear the entire conference (these are just partial excerpts) please watch the video.
Jodie Emery: “I’m here today calling upon the Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney to please approve the transfer request application of my husband. My husband Marc Emery is currently incarcerated in Mississippi state, where he is serving a five-year sentence for selling seeds through the mail from Canada. The United States government has agreed that Marc is eligible for transfer to Canada, they’ve reviewed his application and they’ve said that he is able to come home; unfortunately, I’m just waiting on the Canadian government to agree as well. … I’m showing a picture of my husband and I, at his prison. I have to travel all the way down to Mississippi to see him, and it causes a lot of suffering, expense and hardship for me to have to go so far to see my husband. I am simply asking the Public Safety Minister Blaney to approve Marc’s transfer request to come home to Canada, recognizing there is enormous public and political support for Marc’s transfer over the years asking that he be able to finish his sentence in Canada. … I am honoured to be joined by members of the Opposition who are here to represent many of the Canadians who feel Marc Emery should be transferred home, and I’m grateful for their support in advocating for a Canadian citizen who has never harmed anyone, for him to be able to return to his home country.”
MP Libby Davies (deputy leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, the NDP): “I’ve known Jodie and Marc for many years … I totally agree there is tremendous public support to bring Marc home … This is a Canadian citizen who never posed any harm to any Canadian or US citizen and has had to go through this incredible process of extradition and serving this sentence. I’ve written to many ministers over the years to prevent the extradition, and now about trying to ensure Marc is returned to Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence in Canada. I was very distressed to see comments from the Minister’s spokesperson on Monday who basically took pot shots at MPs, saying, ‘well you know the opposition parties want to make the drug trade a priority’ … This press conference is not about the drug trade. It is about a Canadian who has gone through due process in the US to be returned to Canada and approved by the US Justice Department. … I would also like to say that the NDP Public Safety Critic, Randall Garrison, who is in Toronto today, very much supports Jodie and this application to the Canadian Minister.”
MP Wayne Easter (Public Safety Critic, and former Public Safety Minister, the Liberal Party): “I, too, want to congratulate Jodie on her campaign to bring Marc home, it is the right thing to do. I’m a former Solicitor-General, what is now called the Minister of Public Safety, and I’ve considerable experience with the International Transfer of Offenders Act. In fact, I signed quite a number of transfers as Solicitor-General. I think it is important to mention that the purpose of the act is, signed with most countries, to allow for the transfer of offenders between those countries, in this case the USA. Simply put, if there is a mutual treaty between countries, and they believe in a rehabilitative system, and you don’t believe in punishing the family of the offender who is involved… to bring the person that was charged closer to home so they can be with their family, so the family isn’t suffering. Until Vic Toews came along as minister, it was standard procedure for the Public Safety Minister to sign those transfers when there was an agreement from the sentencing country. I think we ought to make a determination; if the prison system is about vindictiveness and punishment, or if it about rehabilitation and not punishing the other family members. Marc’s transfer has been approved by the US Department of Justice, his prosecutor, and his sentencing judge, and he meets the Canadian criteria, that is, he is not a threat to the public safety or a member of organized crime. What does Canadian citizenship mean?… I believe Canada has an obligation to sign this transfer and allow Marc to come back to Canada.”
MP Elizabeth May (Green Party leader): “I am adding my words of support as the Member of Parliament From Saanich-Gulf Islands, and the leader of the Green Party. It is clear the distance to travel for to Mississippi is extraordinary, and the cost to the Emery family is huge to visit Marc. (Speaking French) I’ll add a bit of French because Minister Blaney is francophone, and has the opportunity to do something different than previous Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. This is not a request to ignore the offense, although it is clear that this was more a political offense than a criminal offense – though that is another debate – but it is clear the US federal government has the intent to transfer Marc Emery to Canada, consistent with the treaty. Mr. Emery is near the end of his sentence, and the purpose of this transfer is to be closer to his wife. It is clear this is a matter of justice, that Mr. Emery poses no threat to anyone, and all of us here all calling on Minister Blaney to endorse the transfer.”
There was widespread coverage of the press conference in all major media, including television networks, all newspaper chains, and national radio as well as local Vancouver radio, TV, and newspapers. (See all media stories here and here, as well as Jodie’s TV and radio interviews embedded below.) Pretty impressive, eh? Unprecedented too, as no Canadian prisoner incarcerated abroad has ever had such support, whether in opinion polls, or in signatures on petitions, or the support of elected officials, or in the media.
Here is what the Public Safety Minister’s spokesperson said to the media about my treaty transfer application, as reported verbatim from the Toronto Sun newspaper, in response to Jodie’s press conference: “Individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes should face the full force of the law. And unlike the opposition parties whose primary focus is the drug trade, our government will continue putting the rights of victims first.”
This statement from Blaney is spectacular in its ignorance and shameful in its politics. First of all, there are no victims of my ‘crime’, and secondly, my application for transfer is indeed “facing the full force of law.” I was never convicted of any crime in Canada. I was convicted of one count of “manufacturing marijuana” (for the sale of seeds to Americans) by the US federal government, despite not having been to the USA, and although one might consider that a trivial ‘crime’ since numerous US state governments are now actually operating gigantic legal marijuana production and sale regimes in their states, I have served nearly my full sentence already.
Consider this: the chief law enforcement agents – the federal court judge, the federal prosecutor, and the head of the Department of Justice overseeing foreign prisoners – have, in fact, “the full force of the law” to administer, and they have already ordered me deported pending what should be a Canadian government formality. I have been subject to “the full force of US law” and they want me sent back to Canada!
The Conservative government has been rebuked by Canadian federal court judges in numerous court cases for its failure to uphold the ITOA treaty regarding the transfer of Canadians back to Canada. So Minister Blaney’s concern is not with doing his job, it is not with obeying Canadian law, and it is not with obeying a bi-lateral treaty; it is, in fact, about simply using me as a pawn in some cheap, sleazy political gamesmanship between his Conservative government and honourable opposition parties.
That was made very clear when, on October 31st in the House of Commons, Vancouver South Conservative MP Wai Young presented a ‘question’ about my transfer request, slandering MPs Libby Davies and Wayne Easter for their support of my treaty application:
Ms. Wai Young (Vancouver South, CPC): “Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Liberal member for Malpeque and the NDP member for Vancouver East met to support convicted drug dealer Marc Emery. This individual is serving a serious sentence in the United States for selling drugs online where anyone can access them. Criminal acts like these put our children at risk, yet the opposition members cannot stop their support for the drug trade. Can the government tell this House what has been done to keep Canada safe from criminals?”
Hon. Tim Uppal (Minister of State (Multiculturalism), CPC): “Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for that question and her work to make our communities safer. Our Conservative government has increased sentences for serious drug crimes, such as selling drugs near schools. We have been clear that drug dealers will face the full force of the law. We are unlike the leader of the Liberal Party, whose only policy is supporting the drug trade. We will focus our efforts on standing up for victims and keeping our streets and communities safe.”
This exchange is outrageous. The Conservatives, in their support of prohibition, are the ones supporting the illegal “drug trade” and all its dangerous threats to the public safety. The Conservatives are the political party determined to maintain the gangs, the cartels, the illicit profits, the militarized police and the surveillance state that is made necessary by the war on drugs. The Greens, Liberals, and NDP in varying degrees offer political policies that diminish the illicit drug trade and the negative impact that it can have for the safety of Canadians.
(Update on November 9th: Additionally, another Conservative MP made a comment about me in the House of Commons during the Statements By Members on November 7th:
Mr. Wladyslaw Lizon (Mississauga East—Cooksville, CPC): “Mr. Speaker, last week the Liberal soft on crime spokesman from Malpeque and the NDP member for Vancouver East met to support convicted drug dealer Marc Emery. This individual is serving a serious sentence in the United States for selling drugs online, where anyone can access them. Criminal acts like these put our children at risk. On this side of the House we have been clear that drug dealers will face the full force of the law. Other parties are only concerned with how they can help the drug trade. In fact, the member for Vancouver East said selling drugs never posed any “…harm to any Canadian or U.S. citizen”. Convicted drug dealer Marc Emery sums it up best. He said: “If the Liberals were still the governing party now…[he]would have been immediately released upon…arrival in Canada…”. Rather than worrying about the victims of crime, all the Liberals and NDP are concerned with is making things easier for convicted criminals. Our Conservative government will always stand up against the shameful policies put forward by the other side.”)
In castigating me, Canada’s chief advocate for drug legalization, and the opposition party spokespersons who support Jodie and I in this transfer matter, the Minister – and in effect, the entire Conservative caucus – is trying to deflect his responsibility for the existence of drug crime in Canada onto those who genuinely wish to solve the “drug problem” affecting all prohibitionist-governed societies.
Despite the discouraging response so far, Jodie is not giving up and will be collecting signatures from politicians for an official letter to Public Safety Minister Blaney, again urging my repatriation with the endorsements of elected officials from Canada’s local, provincial, and federal governments, including the Senate and House of Commons. If you have a politician in mind who might be willing to include their name on the letter, please email [email protected] with your suggestion.
Right now, I ask you, my dear readers and fellow Canadians (where applicable) to put pressure on Conservative MPs, who will then hopefully put pressure on Mr. Blaney. Go visit or call their constituency offices. Make your voice heard! If the Conservative government won’t transfer me home, that reluctance in face of my wide range of supporters will only help illustrate the cruelty they direct towards peaceful political advocates and their loved ones.
As of Friday, November 1st, I have 250 days to serve in this US prison. If no transfer occurs, and I am still here on July 9th, 2014, the end of my sentence, I will picked by US immigration, at which point I will have to be in their custody for four to six weeks while awaiting deportation to a Canadian border point. So if I don’t get transferred home by Blaney, I would expect to get home in the last week of August next year – finally.