Former President George W. Bush’s first post-presidency speech will take place on St. Patrick’s Day — March 17 — in Calgary, Alberta. Although organizers have declined to say if Bush will be paid, he once boasted that he hoped to make “ridiculous” money on the lecture circuit once he leaves office.
But instead of greeting Bush with open arms and (potentially) wads of cash, activists and human rights lawyers in Canada are hoping their government will greet him with handcuffs — or at the very least — bar him entry in to the country. In fact, Vancouver Lawyer Gail Davidson said the government has an obligation under the law to ban Bush from entering Canada because of his role in supporting torture:
Davidson says that because Bush has been “credibly accused” of supporting torture in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Canada has a legal obligation to deny him entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The law says foreign nationals who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, including torture, are “inadmissible” to Canada. “The test isn’t whether the person’s been convicted, but whether there’s reasonable grounds to think that they have been involved,” says Davidson.
Davidson is correct; Bush has been “credibly accused” of supporting torture. Earlier this year, Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, urged the U.S. to pursue Bush and Donald Rumsfeld on charges that they authorized torture and other harsh interrogation techniques. Indeed, Bush himself said last year that he was aware of his advisers’ discussions on torture and recently admitted that he personally authorized waterboarding Khalid Sheik Muhammad.
Davidson sent Prime Minister Stephen Harper a letter last month asking that the government “either bar Bush from Canada, prosecute him once he arrives, or have the federal attorney general consent to a private prosecution” but she has yet to receive a response.
If (or when) Bush is granted entry, Calgary activists will be waiting. “We want to give him the welcome that he deserves — which is we want him to go back to the States, or we want him arrested,” says organizer Collette Lemieux. “It’s very important that we keep the pressure up. …We have to make it clear that there’s accountability,” she said.
Davidson’s law firm sought to bring torture charges against Bush during his visit to Vancouver in 2004 but the Canadian government “used a claim of diplomatic immunity” to block them. Nonetheless, Davidson is determined to bring Bush to justice. “It’s now a matter of public record that Bush was in charge of setting up a regime of torture that spanned several parts of the globe and resulted in horrendous injuries and even death. Canada has a duty,” she said.