Alberta-born Ronald Allen Smith was sentenced to the death penalty for the 1982 murder of two Native Americans, fuelled by drugs and alcohol. On death row for 25 years now, the inmate is said to have completely repented for his actions.
Canada, which abolished the death penalty in 1976, usually works with countries that sentence Canadian nationals to death, in order to have them serve their sentence in Canadian jails.
However, in this case, the position of the Canadian government is unclear. The Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, said last week that Canada had pressured him to grant clemency to Smith, and have him transferred to a Canadian jail.
The Department of Foreign Affairs reiterated last Friday that Canada "does not support the death penalty" and that Canadian policy is to "seek clemency, on humanitarian grounds, for Canadians sentenced to death in foreign countries."
But according to a CanWest report
, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day - who has authority to approve international prison transfers but has a record of denying such requests – said that "there are no ongoing efforts by our government to seek a commutation of the death penalty for Mr. Smith."
Schweitzer who is known as a supporter of the death penalty would like to grant justice to the families of the two native men. Members of both families have met with the governor Wednesday.
"Not each one of them has the same view," said Schweitzer's spokesman, Adam Pimley. "But across the board, it would be fair to say they want justice to be done. And the last thing that they would want is for (Smith) to be set free."
Last week, the Montana Governor admitted still being undecided about whether to commute Smith's sentence because of Canada's appeals. Schweitzer feels Smith would be "turned loose" under Canadian parole rules if transferred to Alberta to serve the remainder of a life sentence, a move which would not serve justice well.
"Ron has regretted what happened every day of his life," said Greg Jackson, Smith’s lawyer. "He has shown exemplary prison conduct, once he got the drugs and alcohol out of his system. He's become a normal guy - a bright, intelligent, compassionate man."