something should be done just because it's right, and not because it
will be successful or popular.
On a grand scale,
perhaps that could apply to Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Some feel the
right thing to do is remove him by force. Those who don't believe in
force think the opposite.
On a lesser scale,
a private member's bill tabled in the House of Commons last week by
NDP justice critic Bill Blaikie urged Parliament to "condemn as
unacceptable" how Leonard Peltier was extradited from Canada in
1976, and for the government to demand his return.
This isn't going
to happen, but it's the right thing to do. What the bill does is
raise, once again, Canada's complicity in ongoing outrages against
Peltier - a Sioux-Ojibwa Indian sentenced to two consecutive life
sentences for the 1975 killing of two FBI agents during a range war
on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reserve, near Wounded Knee.
Soon, Peltier will
have spent more time in prison than Nelson Mandela - with far less
justification. Mandela was never an Amnesty International prisoner of
conscience, as Peltier is; during his whole incarceration, Mandela
never disavowed violence as a means of achieving his goal.
Peltier was, is
and forever will be a fall guy - extradited from Canada on the basis
of a fraudulent affidavit by Myrtle Poor Bear, that the FBI concocted
and fabricated. Poor Bear's affidavits were contradictory, but
accepted as genuine by a B.C. court.
affidavit said she was Peltier's girlfriend and that she saw him kill
the agents - a fiction orchestrated by the FBI. It later turned out
Poor Bear had never met Peltier, was nowhere in the vicinity at the
time of the shooting.
extradition was examined by retired Justice Fred Kaufman of the
Quebec Court of Appeal at a special hearing in 2000, it became
embarrassingly clear the whole extradition was phony.
findings were delivered to then-justice minister Anne McClellan, she
rejected them and said other evidence at the 1976 hearing was
sufficient to extradite Peltier. The flaw in that argument is that
there was no other evidence - only the fraudulent Poor Bear
affidavit. McClellan was not being candid.
Of course, Peltier
is not going to be returned to Canada. But a Canadian protest might
help free him before he dies in prison. Arguably, he is the most
flagrant example of FBI revenge and American injustice gone awry. An
Indian as fall guy.
Blaikie's bill is
significant in that it is adamantly supported by the Canadian
Alliance's John Reynolds, who argued on behalf of Peltier to Bill
Clinton when he was president, and continues with George Bush.
Not only is the
Alliance onside with Blaikie's bill, but so is the Bloc Quebecois
under Gilles Duceppe.
And, it seems,
Peter McKay of the Tories.
fought the injustice perpetrated against Peltier suffered a grievous
blow when Clinton reneged on an executive pardon when he left office.
It was widely
believed that Peltier was in line to be pardoned by Clinton who, when
he was campaigning for the Democratic nomination, hinted that freeing
Peltier was one of his priorities. On leaving office he chose to
pardon one who was on the FBI's most wanted list; he pardoned his
deadbeat brother, suspect drug dealers, and assorted campaign donors
and unworthy people. But not Peltier.
Was it because
Peltier wasn't a campaign donor? Maybe Clinton feared FBI wrath? The
aging generation of bitter FBI agents and those who manipulated
evidence against Peltier are periodically summoned to smear and
distort the case.
One hopeful sign
is that the case has been reviewed by one U.S. appeal judge, Gerald
Heaney, who earlier damned the FBI evidence and urged the president
to forgive Peltier. Judge Heaney must decide whether Peltier's
"consecutive" life sentences can be made
"concurrent," thereby enabling Peltier to apply immediately
corrupted itself (false evidence, a mythical bullet, altered
testimony, etc.), the FBI will fight adamantly to keep Peltier in
jail. It dare not face its own perjury.
There is no
logical or humane reason for Peltier not to be paroled, even if one
considers him guilty of shooting when everyone else was also shooting.
Even a token
gesture by the Canadian government might tip the scales in the U.S.
But only opposition MPs seem to have the integrity and courage to do
what's right. For shame.
Letters to the
editor should be sent to [email protected]
From: Frank Dreaver
To: [email protected]