Dr. Dawg

No untouchable US cops on Canadian soil

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Want the notoriously violent US border police operating in Canada outside Canadian law? Stephen Harper might.

The US wants its border cops to be immune from prosecution for crimes committed on Canadian soil. Extraterritoriality is the name of this game. And imperial America has lots of experience imposing it.

China was a key example, pillaged by the Western powers after the Opium Wars in the mid-nineteenth century. Forced at gunpoint to sign the so-called Unequal Treaties, China’s veins were opened. The US Unequal Treaty was signed in 1844, and included an extraterritoriality clause.

Extraterritoriality has rightly been called “colonialism without colonies.” Law professor Teemu Ruskola notes that this Western imposition was commonplace until fairly recently:

As a matter of historical fact, extraterritorial jurisdiction was the rule for much of the world outside Europe prior to the post-World War II decolonization movements. To the extent that this history of extraterritorial jurisdiction is recognized, it is invariably presented as “exceptional.” Yet characterizing it as an exception within the overall international legal architecture amounts effectively to bracketing most of the globe from consideration. Viewed from outside the United States, the jurisprudence of the United States Court for China stands out as one notable example of the standard extraterritorial application of the laws of Euro-American states in “barbaric” and “semi-civilized” countries outside the metropolitan West.

The US was able to get away with this until 1943. But old imperial habits, it seems, die hard. Their cops would be subject to US, not Canadian, law. And we can be sure that, as made painfully evident in the case of Canadian author Peter Watts, there will be Judge Beans aplenty to back up uniformed US ruffians wherever they’re operating.

Harper has always had a thinly-disguised contempt for Canada, and a deep love of all things American. “[Y]our country [the USA], and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world,” he said in 1997. “Canada,” on the other hand, “appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status ….” (National Post op-ed in 2000). But his disinterest in Canada is probably best summed up in this quotation from a speech in 1994:

Whether Canada ends up as one national government, or two national governments, or several national governments or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion.

In that context, it’s perhaps not surprising that our comprador Prime Minister is willing to consider American extraterritoriality here. Heck, it’s hardly the first time he’s swung that way.

US troops were even permitted to help shut down an academic conference here in Canada six years ago:

The Council of Canadians says it has been banned from holding a meeting near next month’s summit of North American leaders in Montebello, Que.

The council was going to rent a community centre in nearby Papineauville, Que., for a public forum on the eve of Aug. 20-21 meetings between Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

But the municipality has told the council it will not be allowed to rent the hall, about 6 kilometres from Montebello.

The RCMP, the Sûreté du Québec and the U.S. Army will not allow the municipality to rent the Centre Communautaire de Papineauville for the Aug. 19 forum. [emphasis added]

Now, I know very well that Canadian cops operate in Canada with near-impunity (G20, Robert Dziekanski, etc., etc.). But there is at least a chance, however remote, that individual wrongdoers will be held accountable by our courts. The current US proposal closes off that possibility entirely. In effect, the Americans want US border enforcement officials to be free to commit crimes in Canada completely outside Canadian law.

And they may have an ally in Stephen Harper.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on August 4, 2013 12:14 PM.

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