Bush Heads to Canada, Canadians Amass Shoes

Human Rights

Amy Goodman: Former President George W. Bush, on this St. Patrick's Day, is making his first trip abroad since leaving the White House. He's expected to receive a six-figure fee to speak at a private event in the Canadian city of Calgary. Organizers say Bush will address an invite-only crowd on, quote, "eight momentous years in the Oval Office" and, quote, "the challenges facing the world in the 21st century."

Protests are underway in the week leading up to the appearance. A group calling itself People Versus Bush has organized a series of events, culminating in a rally outside the lecture site later today.

Meanwhile, a group of Canadian lawyers are trying to block Bush's entry into their country. Lawyers Against the War says Bush should be either barred or detained for condoning the use of torture. If Canadian officials won't deny Bush entry, the lawyers say Bush should be arrested and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Under Canadian law, foreign nationals who have committed war crimes are "inadmissible" to Canada.

Well, the Canadian government has so far ignored the request. But we're joined now by attorney Gail Davidson, a spokesperson for Lawyers Against the War. She's joining us from Vancouver, Canada, via internet web stream.

Gail Davidson, welcome to Democracy Now! What are your demands on this St. Patrick's Day?

Gail Davidson: Good morning, Amy.

We've demanded, first of all, that the Canadian government bar Bush from Canada as a person suspected of torture and other war crimes and crimes against humanity. We have focused our attention on torture. And secondly, we've advised the Canadian government that if they do let Mr. Bush into Canada, once he crosses the border, that triggers Canadian legal responsibility to investigate Mr. Bush for torture and, if there are grounds, then to either prosecute him in Canada or to extradite him to another country that is willing and able to do so.

Having received absolutely no response whatsoever from the prime minister or any of the responsible ministers that we addressed our communications to, we then made a complaint to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, asking them to advise the appropriate government official of Mr. Bush's inadmissibility to Canada and to commence an investigation into allegations of torture.

AG: And what happened?

GD: Absolutely nothing. We've received no response whatsoever. However, from the RCMP or the government officials, that doesn't surprise me. I'm confident we will receive a response, that we'll receive a response after Mr. Bush has come and gone. And although we haven't succeeded in educating our political leaders about what Canadian law is and what Canada's responsibility to international humanitarian law is, we are confident that eventually we will succeed.

Now, although we haven't received a response from the Canadian government or the RCMP, we've received responses from all over the world, many, many, many, many responses from the United States, from Canada and from other countries saying yes, basically echoing the words of Martin Scheinin, the UN special rapporteur for human rights and counterterrorism, who said recently, "Now that the witch hunt for alleged terrorists is over, it's time for the law to step in." And that seems to be the overwhelming response of many, many people.

AG: Tomorrow, Gail Davidson, we're going to have the journalist Mark Danner on, who has gotten his hands on the Red Cross report, the International Committee of the Red Cross concluding in a secret report two years ago that the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners constituted torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions. How does that weigh in?

GD: That certainly is a factor that we'll be using, because once Mr. Bush leaves, we'll continue to pursue the matter legally in Canada. And I'm very glad that that 2007 ICRC report has been leaked. But I have to say, Amy, that the -- when we took -- tried to prosecute Mr. Bush in November of 2004, we had the February 2004 ICRC leaked portions of that report that said exactly the same thing.

AG: Finally, the protests that are happening today in Calgary and around Canada, can you just lay them out, Gail Davidson?

GD: Yes. In Calgary, there's people amassing there to indicate their opposition to the fact that the Canadian government has allowed Mr. Bush into Canada, incredibly to talk about his years in the Oval Office and the important things that he did and so on. And they have -- they're doing a number of things. I understand there's a shoe collection, for instance, and I understand that by amassing shoes, they're wanting to send a double message: send a message to the Canadian government that they think it's time that the law stepped in and also to send a message to everybody that they would like to give Mr. Bush the boot, I guess, from Canada.

AG: Gail Davidson, I want to thank you very much for being with us, attorney in Vancouver, speaking to us via DN! video stream, spokesperson for Lawyers Against the War, on this St. Patrick's Day, calling for the arrest or the barring of President George W. Bush from entering Canada.

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