Saturday, December 22, 2012

Vic Toews’ shows a ‘closed mind,’ judge says in ruling

The public safety’s minister staunch refusal to accept the transfer of a Canadian prisoner in the U.S. back to this country lacks reason, suggests a “closed mind,” and ignores “clear evidence” in support of such a move, a judge has ruled.
In a rare and harshly worded decision, Federal Court Judge Luc Martineau gave Vic Toews 45 days to accept the transfer request and ensure “all reasonable steps have been taken for (the inmate’s) prompt transfer” back to Canada.
Julie Carmichael, a spokeswoman for Toews, said in an email Friday that the decision is being reviewed and that it would be “inappropriate to comment further.”
Yves LeBon has been serving time in a low-security institution in Pennsylvania. In August 2007 he was stopped by an Illinois state trooper for a traffic violation and found to have 119 kilograms of cocaine in his vehicle. He pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute and sentenced in July 2008 to 10 years in prison.
Later that same year, he applied for a transfer back to Canada under the International Transfer of Offenders Act, which was created to help with the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into society.
But in August 2010, contrary to a recommendation by the Correctional Service of Canada and despite the prisoner’s strong family ties in Canada, the minister declined the transfer request.
The minister said it was likely that LeBon was involved in “serious criminal organization activity.” He cited the large quantity of cocaine seized as being “destructive to society.”
LeBon also did not cooperate with police in identifying his accomplices, Toews said.
The matter went to the Federal Court of Canada and then to the Federal Court of Appeal. While the appeal court acknowledged that the minister was not required to follow the advice of corrections officials, it found that the minister’s reasoning was not “justified, transparent and intelligible.”
It sent the matter back to the minister for re-consideration.
The minister refused to budge, resulting in the matter being brought before the Federal Court a second time.
In his ruling this week, Martineau, the federal judge, said the minister only “paid lip service” to the reasons and directions given by the federal appeal court.
“I have examined the Minister’s first and second decisions in this file very closely. I agree with the applicant that although the second decision is longer, it is essentially a rewording of the Minister’s first decision.”
The judge noted that the minister was provided with updated assessments from the correctional service, RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service favouring LeBon’s transfer, yet he still refused to follow their advice.
“It is not possible to understand on what rational basis the Minister disagreed with the expert opinions,” the judge said.
“A reasonably informed person would have the clear impression that the Minister, in denying the applicant’s transfer request, simply wanted to punish him because he was caught transporting a large quantity of drugs and did not provide the names of his accomplices.
“This illustrates an intransigency which is symptomatic of a closed mind and leads to the conclusion that a reasonable apprehension of bias existed on the part of the Minister.”
The judge noted that this was LeBon’s first offence and that he has demonstrated good behaviour in prison.
He added that the minister has previously agreed to the transfer of other convicted drug offenders.

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