Canada should bar or prosecute Bush: lawyer

Foreign Affairs stays silent on upcoming Calgary visit
Mark Mushet

As George W. Bush’s St. Patrick’s Day visit to Calgary draws near, the federal government is facing pressure from activists and human rights lawyers to bar the former U.S. president from the country or prosecute him for war crimes and crimes against humanity once he steps on Canadian soil.

Bush is scheduled to speak at the Telus Convention Centre March 17, but Vancouver lawyer Gail 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, who’s with Lawyers Against the War (LAW). “…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.”

In February, Davidson sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other cabinet ministers asking the Canadian government to either bar Bush from Canada, prosecute him once he arrives, or have the federal attorney general consent to a private prosecution by LAW against the Texan. She hasn’t received a response, and concedes she’s fighting “an uphill battle” with “terrific challenges.” Davidson laid torture charges against Bush during his visit to Vancouver in 2004, but a judge quashed them within days.

The federal government is keeping silent on the upcoming visit. “We have no comments to offer on the visit of Mr. George W. Bush to Calgary,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Alain Cacchione in an e-mail to Fast Forward. When told about Davidson’s letter, a spokesperson with the Canadian Border Services Agency said “we wouldn’t comment on something like that.”

Davidson is one of many voices around the world calling for Bush’s prosecution. Earlier this year, Manfred Nowak, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture, said the U.S. has a “clear obligation” to prosecute Bush and former secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld for authorizing torture — a violation of the UN Convention on Torture. “Obviously the highest authorities in the United States were aware of this,” Nowak told a German TV station in January.

Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director for Human Rights Watch, says that while there’s legally “all the reason in the world” to prosecute decision-makers in the Bush administration, “it’s a different story” politically. “The Obama administration certainly has not given much in the way of encouraging signals for such a prosecution,” says Mariner, who’s based in New York. “Obama has consistently said that he wants to look forward.” Mariner says that while a U.S. justice department investigation is unlikely, a congressional investigation is more probable — and “that could lead to recommendations for prosecution.”

Mariner’s not expecting a Canadian prosecution against Bush. “Obviously the Canadian government would have to be in favour of it, and that seems rather unlikely,” she says.

Calgary activists, meanwhile, are organizing a number of events for the week of Bush’s visit, culminating in a noontime rally outside the Telus Convention Centre during Bush’s speech. “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. Activist Julie Hrdlicka, who visited Iraq twice during the American occupation, agrees. “We need to send a clear message to him that he’s not welcome,” she says.

Lemieux is hopeful that Bush will eventually be prosecuted. “Do I think that it’s going to happen very soon? No,” she says. “But I think that it’s very important that we keep the pressure up…. We have to make it clear that there’s accountability.”

The Plaza Theatre, meanwhile, is screening three Bush-themed documentaries for a “Bush Bash Film Fest” the night of the visit. Half the box office proceeds will go to the United Way.


Comments: 12

fang wrote:

How can we (North America) impose our form of democracy onto developing countries when we refuse to hold our leaders to the same standards we expect those same countries to follow.

It disgusts me. I'll be embarrassed to be American until they take a stand and prosecute those responsible for the blatant disregard for human rights that were perpetrated by the last administration.


on Mar 5th, 2009 at 7:52am Report Abuse

eddieo wrote:

The best thing that we could do for our friends to the South is to help them do what they don't have the strength or courage to do: uphold the law. They are obliged by international law to prosecute these crimes and aren't. We Canadians are obliged by national and international law to arrest any suspected war criminals - will we have he courage to do it? If we do not arrest him, would it not make us complicit in his crimes?

on Mar 5th, 2009 at 9:01am Report Abuse

fang wrote:

It may not make us complicit, but it definitely makes us cowardly and two faced.

What kind of evidence do they need?

Why are we so afraid to of facing up to it?

Is our government afraid that evidence will surface that they are also culpable?

on Mar 5th, 2009 at 2:34pm Report Abuse

tavisford wrote:

Help out or just come and participate in the events. Everyone is welcome.

on Mar 5th, 2009 at 9:11pm Report Abuse

Peggy wrote:

As an American I can tell you that I would cheer at the news of Bush being arrested or barred from entering Canada. He is a dog and should be treated as such. The U.S. Congress didn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to him. They have let the country and all its citizens down by standing by while Bush and Cheney gutted the constitution, supported torture and ran our country into the ground with the war in Iraq. As far as I'm concerned the situation started looking up when the Bush Administration left office. Goodbye and good riddens!

on Mar 8th, 2009 at 1:24pm Report Abuse

protestbushdotcom wrote:

Anyone objecting to Bush's visit, there's opportunities to coordinate at and . Have tickets to the event? Please contact if you'd be willing to donate them or participate in our inside-the-convention-center fun.

on Mar 8th, 2009 at 10:52pm Report Abuse

Jeremy Klaszus wrote:

And what kind of "inside-the-convention-centre" fun is this? We want to keep on top of this story. It would be great if you could e-mail me at and let me know what's planned for that day...

on Mar 9th, 2009 at 2:04pm Report Abuse

fang wrote:

It probably involves a bunch of shoes?

on Mar 9th, 2009 at 3:31pm Report Abuse

tinker295 wrote:

I encourage Calgary Canadians to do the right thing and arrest Bush or at least not allow him into Calgary to speak. And if none of those solutions work, bring lots and lots of old shoes and leave them in suitable places to express the wishes of free people in a free society.

I sincerely hope we can successfully prosecute Bush, Cheney and others for their crimes. America is working on this while Pres. Obama works on other abuses left from the Bush administration.

Show him how you feel.

Berkely, CA

on Mar 12th, 2009 at 12:07pm Report Abuse

Tom wrote:

Both Bush AND Cheney need to be prosecuted for thier involvement in the 9-11 cover-up. Just read Barrie Zwicker's book "Towers of Deception." Also check out Scholars For 911 Truth at

The whole Bush administration should be convicted of high treason and appropriately punished. A good start would be to deny them the freedom to travel just like they have done to many Americans.

on Mar 13th, 2009 at 9:25am Report Abuse

johnhkennedy wrote:

To Americans viewing this:

We Must have a Special Prosecutor appointed to run the investigation, indictment and prosecution of Bush, Cheney, and co-conspirators.

WE Cannot Wait For The National Media or a savior o Do This For Us.

It is up to us as individuals.


SIGN THE PETITION.... Pass it on.

Sign The Petition To Prosecute those in the Bush Administration that violated Federal Laws. Have your organization pass this url to members with a recommendation to sign.

Endorse the
Joint Letter To Attorney General Holder asking him to appoint a Special Prosecutor for Bush, Cheney and appointees who approved TORTURE and violated other Federal Laws

SIGN THE PETITION.... Pass it on.

AND our Thanks to the Canadian Lawyers for their concern and efforts.


on Mar 13th, 2009 at 10:09am Report Abuse

ladybroadoak wrote:

Late, but noteworthy !!!

If you are in Toronto, show up at DUNDAS SQUARE, noon and into the afternoon to show that Torontonians don't want BuZh in Canada, too.

Write your papers and make sure our voices are heard. The majority of Canadians ABHOR torture.

I went to the Andover war crimes conference and had trouble getting a town hall organized here; but there is MUCH interest in having our voices heard on this issue, too

on Mar 16th, 2009 at 1:28am Report Abuse

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