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Canada’s Own ZPF: The Police?

15-Jul-08 10:13 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

The party known as "Zanu PF" which ‘triumphed’ in Zimbabwe’s recent presidential election, led by 4-term incumbent president Robert Mugabe, marred by extreme incidents of brutal violence and condemned by the international community, is apparently a model for political discourse in Canada (of all places).  Depending on which side of the issue you stand, activism aimed at reforming Canada’s drug laws could see you locked up in jail for 20 years.  Although there are some differences – at least if you’re on the wrong side in Zimbabwe, you’ll be detained in one of the nation’s own jails, and on the pretense of violating Zimbabwe’s own laws which Mugabe himself is, more than less, above.  In Canada, the laws wouldn’t see you jailed here at all; rather the police will outsource your imprisonment to the United States on the pretense or enforcing either Canadian or perhaps American justice – or both.

Marc Emery the so-called "king of pot", a Canadian drug policy activist has found that out first-hand.  Okay, in fact American law was violated in his case, and there are other differences.  But even so, Emery faces a 20-year jail term for, it’s alleged, mailing marijuana plant seeds to the United States.  In defending himself in a television interview back in January 2008, aired on CBC Sunday, Emery called the border "an imaginary line" across which he shouldn’t be prevented from peddling any substance he liked to consenting adults.  It is this kind of statement which has really helped worsen his public image because, of course, most of us (myself included) don’t see either the concept of nation states or the international boundaries which delimit them as being at all imaginary.  Ironically, it isn’t this fact which should serve to weaken his case.  On the contrary, it is precisely because of the nation state concept and, more precisely, the sovereignty which partially constitutes it that Emery should not be extradited.

Regardless of these more desperate-sounding of his arguments, his opponents argue his extradition is not a political matter at all; merely that he’s imply violated American law and that this should be the only relevant detail which counts in the matter of his being compelled to face an American court.  There is no political issue here, says the DEA.  Of course, Zanu PF thugs harassing members of the opposition parties and accredited foreign journalists through detention on trumped-up charges during Zimbabwe’s election campaign were not reported to be announcing to their victims that they were be mistreated because of the political situation either.  So how do we know if the motives of American law enforcement are, as they say, apolitical in Emery’s case?

U.S. politicians have commented in the past about Canada’s willingness to consider decriminalizing certain drugs and they’re generally unfavourable.  The American justice system equates possession of even modest amounts of a number of drugs as being penally equivalent to the most serious violent crimes, such as manslaughter.  In legalizing pot, the American position would likely be one of seeing Canada has having legalized something like infanticide, manslaughter or rape.  They may decide that our passports are virtually worthless, because in decriminalizing pot those convicted of possession would still be able to get proper travel documents, have access to employment as high officials in the government, be able to gain military security clearances, etc.  For the Americans, it’s a real problem and so there’s plenty of incentive to discourage and make an example of Emery.

Of course, none of this makes a very solid case for permitting the Americans to brush aside Canadian sovereignty nor should we be willing to toss Emery to the wolves.  He could be more legitimately charged with mailing banned or controlled substances and be fined or receive an appropriate, lesser penalty. Indeed, it’s puzzling that he has not been so charged – that the Americans are attempting to lay only the most serious charges, which only serves to give Emery the very platform he wants to promote his un-American heresy.  And this is why it would be naive to suggest it’s unlikely that real goal of the DEA is to make Emery a political prisoner.  A Canadian citizen who resides in Canada and has committed no offence that would warrant serious jail time here faced with such harsh sentences in a foreign jail could be called nothing else.

It is an ongoing question of liberty whether we in Canada should reconsider whether to penalize people for what substances they ingest of their own accord.  And the Americans in taking this action against Emery are really trying to destroy such possible freedom, but (much more importantly) even the freedom for us as Canadians to choose what freedoms we recognize for ourselves.

Categories: News and politics
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