OTTAWA – Two Canadian drug dealers serving sentences in the United States are taking Canada’s Public Safety Minister to court, arguing that denying their transfers to domestic prisons violates a recent ruling that reined in his propensity to block repatriation. Vancouver lawyer John Conroy accused Stockwell Day of “contempt of court” for refusing to transfer Winnie Lam and Steve Czinege from California prisons.
The two British Columbians are the latest Canadians imprisoned abroad who have been turned down for serving their sentences in Canada — a trend since the Conservatives came to power in 2006. “Before, most of the time people would be approved here and the problem was in the U. S., but now the problem is here,” said Mr. Conroy.
In separate applications filed in the Federal Court, Lam and Czinege are seeking a reversal of Mr. Day’s refusal on grounds that they would “constitute a threat to the security of Canada.” In late August, Federal Court Justice Michael Kelen criticized Mr. Day for using the reason too liberally in denying transfers. But in mid-September, the Minister rejected Lam and Czinege’s applications for the same reason, even though the United States has already approved both transfers.
Lam is serving a seven-year sentence for drug smuggling after she was caught at the Seattle airport with 1,000 ecstasy pills. Czinege, a Surrey, B. C., trucker, was convicted after he was caught trying to smuggle more than 112 kilograms of cocaine into Canada in the fuel tanks of a truck in 2006. According to a news report, the drugs were hidden in three duffle bags and they had an estimated value of $1.8-million.
The International Transfer of Offenders Act gives the Public Safety Minister discretion to reject applicants if they threaten national security — an exception that Justice Kelen said should be reserved for “threats of general terrorism and warfare against Canada or threats to the security of Canadians en masse.”
In his decision, the judge ordered the Minister to reconsider his “wholly unreasonable” decision to block convicted child molester Arend Getkate’s request to return from a Georgia prison. The government did not appeal the ruling before the late September deadline. “When they decided not to appeal, why didn’t they say, OK, what other ones are out there, we need to reconsider them?” asked Mr. Conroy, who was also Getkate’s lawyer.
Mr. Day’s spokesman, John Brent, would not comment on the Lam and Czinege cases, citing privacy reasons. “Our government’s first priority is protecting the safety and security of all Canadians,” Mr. Brent said in an e-mail. “Be assured, that Minister Day will continue to make the protection of Canadians his highest priority as he considers the requests of offenders to return to Canada.”
In refusing Lam’s transfer on Sept. 11, Mr. Day relied on his discretion to declare her a threat to national security, based on evidence she had ties to a criminal organization and “that there is no reason to believe that her criminal activity would not continue upon transfer to Canada.” He gave similar reasons for denying Czinege’s transfer on Sept. 8.
– Article from National Post, October 20th 2008