The Record surprised me today with a fairly level-headed editorial on the controversy - Harsh realities for jailed woman:
...Nonetheless, there appears to be little more the Canadian government can do. There have been more than 100 contacts between federal government representatives and either Martin or Mexican officials. Canadian officials at the highest levels -- including Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, and possibly even Harper himself, have spoken to their counterparts about her case, urging fair and swift treatment. Other Canadians, including former prime minister Paul Martin, and several MPs, have visited her and telephoned. There is no doubt that Mexican officials, from President Felipe Calderon on down, are intensely aware of her case
But as Harper himself points out, Mexico is a sovereign country, and this case is one for the courts, which must be free of political intervention. There would be an uproar, and swift resignations, were Harper, or any other politician, to step in if they disagreed with a judge's rulings here.
We must remember, too, that unfortunately Martin's case is hardly unique. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, about 1,750 Canadians are today imprisoned in other countries and the Canadian government has the same responsibility to them that it has to Martin. The bulk of these prisoners are in the U.S., but others are in jails in countries as diverse as China, Australia, Thailand and Peru, mostly on drug, immigration or fraud charges.
Many doubtless are guilty as charged. Others have been dealt with in ways many Canadians will consider harsh. For example, Kitchener mother Loan Ngoc Bui is serving 40 years for drug trafficking after a police officer in Illinois stopped her car and found 3,710 ecstasy pills hidden in it. Her boyfriend, who was driving, says Bui knew nothing of the drugs.
But Americans take a different view of drugs than we do in Canada, and as a result, Bui is serving out a sentence harsher than a Canadian court would dole out even for a convicted murderer.
The federal government has lived up to its obligations to Martin, who has had the benefit of dozens of high-level interventions, something most Canadians imprisoned abroad never see. Ottawa must continue be vigilant, and ensure her case is dealt with swiftly and fairly, but beyond that, Martin's fate lies in the hands of a Mexican judge.
(Just when I was determined to cancel my subscription... Oh well.)
After reading that editorial, a couple of thoughts came to mind. First of all, as the Record noted, the Mexican government would probably like nothing better than to have Brenda Martin ejected from Mexico forthwith. By now her notorious case is undoubtedly an embarrassment and a drag to their tourist industry. So how will putting pressure on either the Canadian or Mexican government change anything people????
As Harper was quoted by the Record, "Mexico is a sovereign country, and this case is one for the courts, which must be free of political intervention."
O.K. I know that the Mexican legal system is reported to be corrupt, and there is a presumption of guilt until innocence is proven, but it is still a sovereign country. Brenda Martin left Canada and went there of her own volition to work. And yes, she has been in prison already for two years awaiting charges (which have now been laid) and trial, which has its own quaint little idiosyncrasies in the Mexican system. And yes, she has been imprisoned with already-convicted women.
However according to many sources, she has received special treatment in this high-profile case - certainly much better than many other Canadians in the same plight.
Which brings me to point number two. Isn't it interesting that anyone committing a crime seems to want to either return to Canada or stay in Canada when it comes time to pay the piper? I'm thinking about Schreiber, several Canadian pedophiles, and countless others who know that Canada is an easy mark when it comes to serving sentences and the comfort of that environment. And the Lefties were in shock that our Charter Rights didn't extend to Afghan detainees!
Could it be that our Canadian system is so lax to the point of creating a mentality of rights-entitlement that has undercut the fundamental need to be held accountable for our actions?
Just go where you want, do what you want and Canada will bail you out afterwards if you embarrass the government enough.
There must be a middle ground somewhere.
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Update: Tony's viewpoint: The other side to the Brenda Martin story.